Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today and over the weekend
Paul Manafort goes to court. Donald Trump’s former campaign manager will respond to allegations that he lied to the special counsel’s office, violating his plea deal. Manafort, who has been in jail since mid-June, will be allowed to wear his infamously expensive suits rather than a prison uniform.
Bank of China sells the first-ever perpetual bonds from a Chinese lender. The capital instruments, which offer interest payments with no maturity date, are designed to replenish the bank’s tier 1 capital reserves (paywall). Smaller banks including Harbin Bank and Shengjing Bank are preparing similar offerings.
Greece holds a controversial vote on Macedonia’s name change. Parliament is expected to ratify a UN-brokered deal (paywall) that would change the Balkan country’s name to North Macedonia, to avoid confusion with the identically named Greek province. Many Greeks oppose the deal, which has led to a decades-long standoff that delayed Macedonia’s entry into the EU and NATO.
While you were sleeping
Two bills to reopen the US government failed in the Senate… A Republican measure that would have allocated $5.7 billion for Donald Trump’s proposed border wall and a Democrat measure to re-open the government without wall funding both failed to reach the 60-vote threshold needed to pass. The record-setting shutdown, now in its second month, is taking an increasing toll on government agencies and approximately 800,000 workers who are not being paid.
…As the US commerce secretary advised furloughed federal workers to take out loans. Wilbur Ross, who made billions in the private equity industry, said he did not understand why thousands are being forced to use food banks; many others are working as Uber drivers to make ends meet. (Ross also said that the US and China are “miles and miles” from reaching a trade deal.)
Venezuela’s military pledged its loyalty to Nicolás Maduro. The country’s defense minister and eight regional commanders appeared on live television to denounce Juan Guaidó, the head of the national assembly, who has declared himself interim president with backing from the US and Canada.
Apple hired a senior Samsung battery executive. Soonho Ahn, who was in charge of lithium battery packs and “next-generation” technology, joined the iPhone maker from Samsung’s SDI unit. Apple, like many smartphone makers, buys many of its batteries from Samsung but is looking to reduce reliance on third-party suppliers.
Gold-trading scammers stole HK$580 million (US$74 million) from an elderly Hong Kong man. Police arrested 14 people in Hong Kong’s biggest-ever bullion fraud, which victimized seven investors over the course of two years, including ethnic Chinese citizens of Hong Kong, Taiwan, the United States, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.
Quartz obsession interlude
Business class is worth it—to airlines at least. Luxury tiers of premium travel—including the more recent trend of subdivided economy classes—are becoming an ever more potent symbol of class polarization in the friendly skies. Take a peek behind the curtain in our latest Quartz Obsession.
Our latest deep dive on the science behind Crispr includes a sit-down session with Josiah Zayner, chief executive of DIY gene-modifying kit supplier The ODIN. Plus: Quartz’s Youyou Zhou outlines the complex history of how Crispr went from a laboratory breakthrough to an industry disruptor.
Matters of debate
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America needs a wealth tax. Presidential hopefuls are campaigning on the idea of making millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share.
Earth’s dysfunctional politics shouldn’t extend to space. Davos attendees worry that international conflicts could become a major hurdle in orbit and beyond.
Journalists should never tweet. Recent events make clear that Twitter is the world’s most damaging social network for reporters and editors alike.
The White House is photoshopping Donald Trump. Not-so-subtle alterations are slimming the US president’s bulk and lengthening his fingers.
2019 is the year of the bendable phones. Samsung, Motorola, and Xiaomi are already touting their next-gen prototypes.
An app in China detects deadbeats near you. In Hebei province, the WeChat app sends an alert if anyone within 500 meters has unpaid debts.
The US government spent over $200,000 arming itself against defenseless migrants. Roughly $100,000 was spent on bullets alone in November.
A German man is suing over women-only parking spots. The Bavarian town of Eichstätt designated well-lit and accessible spaces for women after a sexual assault.
Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, bendable prototypes, and wealth tax proposals to email@example.com. Join the next chapter of Quartz by downloading our app and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was written and edited by McKinley Noble and Adam Pasick.