Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
The US Senate votes on two bills meant to end the government shutdown. Both the Republican and Democratic measures are expected to fall short of the votes needed to pass, likely continuing the deadlock over government funding. Trump agreed Wednesday night to delay a State of the Union address until the shutdown is over.
European judges rule on Amanda Knox. The European Court of Human Rights will give its decision on Knox’s remaining conviction in the 2007 death of her British flatmate Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy. Knox has already been exonerated of murder, but her lawyers have appealed the defamation conviction, arguing that she was not given legal assistance when first interviewed by police.
Europe’s monetary policymakers meet. The European Central Bank is unlikely to announce any policy changes, but is expected to acknowledge a sharp slowdown in the bloc’s economic growth. The IMF earlier this week cited Europe’s weak performance as one of the reasons it was downgrading its global growth forecasts for a second time.
Venezuela heads into uncharted political waters. At least seven protesters are thought to have been killed in clashes between anti-government groups and supporters of embattled Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro. Opposition leader Juan Guaidó, head of the country’s National Assembly, declared himself interim president on Wednesday, quickly receiving backing from the US and Canada.
The Democratic Republic of Congo swears in its new president. Felix Tshisekedi becomes the DR Congo’s new leader following a disputed vote, in what was intended to be the country’s first democratic transfer of power since it won independence. He has yet to address allegations that he was able to win by striking a secret backroom deal with outgoing president Joseph Kabila.
Earnings hit the runway. American Airlines, JetBlue, Southwest, and Alaska Air all post quarterly results today, with investors looking for the impact of fuel price hikes (paywall) on profits. Meanwhile, Starbucks is expected to post a bump in first-quarter sales off the back of its popular holiday beverages, and provide an update on how the coffee giant is doing in China, its fastest growing market.
While you were sleeping
Ghosn stepped down from Renault. The French carmaker head submitted his resignation (paywall) from jail in Tokyo, where he has been held on charges of financial misconduct since Nov. 19. He is expected to be replaced as CEO by Thierry Bolloré, who has been running the company since his arrest, and as chairman by Michelin CEO Jean-Dominique Senard.
China blocked Bing. Microsoft confirmed that Bing, the last major foreign search engine still available in China, is currently inaccessible in the country. The Financial Times reported (paywall) that the block was ordered by the Chinese government, which is in the midst of an online crackdown (paywall) that has resulted in hundreds of websites and thousands of apps being shut down.
No-deal Brexit anxieties mounted. With just nine weeks to go until the Brexit deadline, concerns that the UK might crash out of the EU without a deal are reaching a fever pitch. Airbus today warned it would have to make “potentially very harmful decisions for the UK,” if the country couldn’t agree on a Brexit deal, while former prime minister Tony Blair urged a second vote on the issue. Ireland will also release contingency plans today for a no-deal scenario.
Malaysia elected a new king. Sultan Abdullah of Panang succeeds the previous king, who surprised the nation by abdicating earlier this month after only two years in office. The country has a constitutional monarchy in which the king’s role is largely ceremonial and rotates between nine hereditary state rulers.
Australia’s record heatwave hit new highs. Temperatures in Adelaide hit 46.6°C (119°F) Thursday, the hottest temperature recorded in the country since records began 80 years ago. The country’s intense heatwave has seen animals dying of thirst, including scores of wild horses.
Quartz obsession interlude
Small talk: Anthropologists believe that the urge to engage in low-stakes conversation is rooted in our deepest natures as social creatures. Small talk is the conversational glue that holds societies together. So, how about that local sports team? Read more in today’s obsession.
Our complete guide to Crispr explores how disruptive gene editing tools are triggering explosive innovation—and investment—in every industry that involves living things. Plus: Crispr might even cure our hangovers.
Matters of debate
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Retraining US workers displaced by robots could cost an estimated $34 billion. Taxpayers will bear most of the cost.
Regulations won’t stop the advent of “designer babies.” A Crispr crackdown won’t hold back a technique that’s already being used.
Makeup is the new workout gear. The beauty industry is taking a cue from the athleisure boom.
Boeing successfully tested a flying car. The first flight of the autonomous Passenger Aerial Vehicle (paywall) will accelerate the race to build air taxis and delivery drones.
Bangkok is fighting air pollution with water-spraying drones. The government said the drones help reduce the concentration of fine particulate matter in the air.
Competitive farming is big in e-sports. “Farming Simulator,” a PC game where players grow crops, breed livestock, and sell their produce, is getting its own competitive league in Europe.
Amazon is rolling out delivery robots in a Seattle suburb. The deliveries will be only available to affluent consumers who live in the company’s backyard for now.
Scientists are using facial recognition to fight chimpanzee trafficking. The “ChimpFace” algorithm searches social-media posts for the faces of stolen apes.
Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, small talk tips, and pollution-fighting drones to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join the next chapter of Quartz by downloading our app and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was written by Cassie Werber and edited by Jackie Bischof.