Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
US government agencies reopen—for now. The first order of business as US agencies resume operations thanks to a temporary reprieve Friday will be getting checks to the 800,000 federal workers who didn’t get paid during the 35-day standoff. A group of 17 lawmakers has until Feb. 15 to work out a longer-term deal, with Donald Trump already signalling that he won’t back down (paywall) on his border-wall funding.
A Chinese trade delegation arrives in Washington, DC. China’s deputy commerce and finance ministers (paywall) will prepare for high-level talks later this week between a Chinese delegation led by vice premier Liu He and a US team led by trade representative Robert Lighthizer. The two sides will try to end the trade war before a March 1 deadline for the US to increase tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods.
Saudi Arabia shares details on a $425 billion infrastructure plan. The Middle East’s largest nation by area is seeking massive investments in railways, airports, and industrial projects as it tries to become less reliant on oil. About 70 deals could be announced (paywall).
Europe discusses how to bypass Trump’s Iran sanctions. According to a Bloomberg report (paywall), the UK, France, and Germany will propose creating a special entity so businesses that want to keep trading with Iran can avoid penalties re-imposed by the US (paywall) last year.
Over the weekend
Canada fired its China ambassador. A political furore erupted after John McCallum told Chinese reporters that Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, arrested last month in Vancouver on suspicion of violating US sanctions against Iran, could cite political interference to defend against extradition to the US. On Friday, he said it would be “great for Canada” if the US drops its extradition request. His resignation was announced Saturday.
The former CEO of Starbucks talked about his possible 2020 run. Howard Schultz said on CBS’ 60 Minutes he’s exploring running as a “centrist independent” since both the Democrats and the Republicans are focused on “revenge politics.” Democrats say a viable-seeming independent could help president Donald Trump win re-election by siphoning votes from their candidate.
China sentenced a prominent “709” lawyer to in prison. Wang Quanzhang, who defended members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for subversion of the state, after a brief trial the day after Christmas. Wang was detained in a crackdown on human rights defenders that started July 9, 2015—leading to the “709” moniker.
Brazil’s mining-dam tragedy worsened. At least 58 people were killed when a dam at a mining complex in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais burst on Friday. Rescue efforts resumed for hundreds of people still missing after being temporarily suspended Sunday over fears a second dam could collapse.
Nicolás Maduro rejected international calls for early elections.The Venezuelan president said on Sunday that “nobody can give us an ultimatum” after European nations threatened to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who last week declared himself interim president, unless new elections are announced. Venezuela’s top military envoy to the US declared his allegiance to Guaidó, who has Washington’s support.
Explosions at a Philippines cathedral left at least 20 dead. Two bombs went off Sunday at a Roman Catholic cathedral on the southern island of Jolo: One in or near the church during services, and the other as soldiers hurried to respond. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, which injured over 100 people.
Malaysia scrapped a $20 billion China-backed rail project. An economic affairs official said the cost of the East Coast Rail Link project was “beyond the government’s financial capability,” noting the high interest rates involved. The project was part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative—and, critics say, its “debt-trap diplomacy.” An official announcement is due this week.
More than 10,000 foulards rouges marched against the gilets jaunes in Paris. Sunday’s peaceful demonstration, led by a movement known as the “red scarves,” aimed to give voice to French citizens who are fed up with weeks of unrest and violence caused by the so-called “yellow vests” and want a return to normal life.
Quartz obsession interlude
Climate change could mean it’s all downhill from here for skiing. The forecast for the 21st century is grim: Some of the world’s most popular ski resorts may stop seeing snowfall altogether, while others see their seasons shrink significantly. Read more in the Quartz Obsession.
Matters of debate
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Doctors with nice bedside manners are more effective. Even a brief reassurance to a patient may relieve the patient’s symptoms faster.
The Super Bowl halftime show is no longer a cultural institution. The NFL has become too toxic to many social-justice-minded artists and their fans.
The era of “move fast and break things” is over for tech startups. “Minimum viable products” must be replaced by “minimum virtuous products” that consider social risks and address them.
NASA made airliners safer by blowing one up in 1984. A YouTube video shows the unique, fiery destruction of the decommissioned Boeing 720.
Researchers found 3,000-year-old quinoa seeds in Ontario. The discovery sheds new light on the vast trading system that existed in North America thousands of years ago.
Narendra Modi’s official app spreads fake news. Spurious political “information” is showing up in a user-generated feed on the Indian leader’s NaMo app.
Preschoolers already show signs of racial bias. They pick up on cues from the adults around them, research suggests.
The Tesla Model S is now a scary-looking police car. Police departments in Los Angeles and Denver have added it to their stable.
Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, ancient quinoa recipes, and nice doctors 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 Tripti Lahiri and edited by Isabella Steger.