Aramco’s vast profits, Lyft IPO hangover, Trump’s avocado shortage

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What to watch for today

The music industry releases its annual report card. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, which recently named Drake as 2018’s artist of the year, has experienced a resurgence from streaming media that finally helped it shake off the post-Napster doldrums.

Australia pushes new policies and a fresh budget. The Coalition government is expected to forecast a rare surplus (paywall), with proposals including cash handouts, healthcare revamps, and infrastructure upgrades.

India’s Congress Party issues its manifesto. The nation’s opposition party is pledging substantial changes to India’s economy, starting with the fulfillment of 2.2 million jobs (paywall) left vacant by Narendra Modi’s government. Other parts of the manifesto will include universal healthcare, education reform, and aid for impoverished farmers.

While you were sleeping

Saudi Aramco revealed a staggering $111 billion annual profit. The secretive state-backed oil giant opened up its books for the first time in 75 years (paywall). A report by credit firm Moody’s confirms that Saudi Arabia’s main oil producer—which spent $69 billion to acquire chemical industries monolith SABIC—was more profitable than Apple, Google, and Facebook combined in 2018.

Lyft’s IPO hangover. Investors ditched the ride-share company en masse on Monday, sending the stock below its $72 per share IPO price. The dramatic decline may spell doom (paywall) for other unicorns.

Norway solved the electric-car riddle. After offering massive tax breaks and a laundry list of incentives, the Nordic nation expects EVs to make up more than 50% of its 2019 car sales. That’s a boon for companies like Tesla, which sold nearly 6,000 cars last month to nab a third of Norway’s EV market share.

The US launched a probe into Kia and Hyundai car fires. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating flaws that resulted in recalls for three million vehicles, with thousands of complaints over a decade citing injuries from “non-collision engine fires.”

Donald Trump approved “dozens” of rejected White House security clearances, a whistleblower said. Longtime security manager Tricia Newbold says the US president overruled concerns about “dozens” of passes after they were denied by federal security screeners.

Quartz Obsession

“Hmmm. Ugh. Ouch!” Vocal bursts—also called non-word utterances or non-verbal exclamations—can imply dozens of emotions across the spectrum of human language. They’re valuable tools for artists, entertainers, and advertisers—and can even help AI-centric technologies better parse the complexity of human speech. Clear your throat for today’s Quartz Obsession.


The complete guide to the battery revolution: The question isn’t whether battery-powered cars will outnumber gas-guzzlers, but when. Some startups have even begun looking to build small, battery-powered commercial planes. Quartz’s Akshat Rathi spent the last year traveling from Shenzhen to San Francisco to look under the hood of the most innovative startups and the world’s largest battery companies, to separate the pretenders from the contenders. Read more here.

Matters of debate

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The reaction to Jim Carrey’s Mussolini painting is a cautionary tale. The actor turned artist discovered that fascism is a resurgent virus in Italy and beyond.

The Matrix is a landmark of transgender art. The “red pill” metaphor that has been embraced by the alt-right was actually created by two trans women.

When it comes to climate change, cotton totes might be the worst. Plastic bag bans in places like New York state could do more harm than good.

Surprising discoveries

Brexit protesters stripped naked and glued themselves to the public gallery of parliament. Activists from the group Extinction Rebellion “enlivened the existential hell” of the endless debate.

Closing the US-Mexico border would cause a dire avocado shortage. Donald Trump’s threats to shut the border couldn’t come at a worse time for US guacamole lovers.

Burger King is testing a plant-based Impossible Whopper. Patties in restaurants around St. Louis, Missouri attempt to mimic the appearance, taste, and texture of beef.

Incendio! A group of Polish priests burned Harry Potter books in a bonfire. The SMS from Heaven Foundation cited a Bible verse to justify its actions.

Banksy is using a low-tech, highly secure method to authenticate his artwork. People who certify their prints receive a torn banknote with a hand-drawn ID number.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, anti-bonfire spells, and Banksy authentication banknotes to Join the next chapter of Quartz by downloading our app and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was written and edited by Adam Pasick and McKinley Noble.