South African election, trade war gloom, the spread of butter

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What to watch for today

South Africa holds parliamentary elections. The African National Congress is all but certain to win the most votes, securing another term for president Cyril Ramaphosa, but it’s unclear if the party’s shrinking margins will secure a sufficient mandate for him to enact his agenda.

Iran scales back its commitment to its 2015 nuclear deal. President Hassan Rouhani is expected to announce that Iran plans to resume research into centrifuges that could enrich uranium, in response to escalating US sanctions.

Uber and Lyft drivers go on strike. The work stoppage is scheduled for the 7am-9am rush hour in a number of US and UK cities, including New York, Los Angeles, London, and Glasgow, in protest of the companies’ labor practices, a day before the Uber IPO.

While you were sleeping

Trade war gloom led to more stock market carnage. Doubts that US-China talks later this week could avert a hike in US tariffs on Friday sent US stock indices down more than 2%. All 30 stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average posted declines, and European stocks closed at a five-week low.

Lyft’s inaugural results beat expectations despite massive losses. The company’s first quarterly earnings since its IPO showed a loss of $1.14 billion, largely due to stock-based compensation, as revenue nearly doubled to $776 million.

The White House doubled down on its resistance to congressional subpoenas. Trump administration lawyers instructed former White House counsel Don McGahn not to provide subpoenaed documents to the Democrat-controlled House judiciary committee. According to the Mueller report, Donald Trump told McGahn to fire Mueller because of non-existent conflicts of interest.

Disney shuffled its blockbuster lineup to delay “Avatar 2.” The dominant Hollywood studio, also home to Marvel and Star Wars, laid out a five-year plan for its tentpole movies. It won’t air the next installment of James Cameron’s burgeoning alien franchise until 2021, a year later than planned. After this year’s “The Rise of Skywalker,” there won’t be another Star Wars installment until 2022.

Google released a bargain-priced version of its flagship Pixel smartphone. The Pixel 3a is priced as low as $399 as the company seeks a wider market for its Android devices. It also dropped an exclusive distribution deal with Verizon to sell its hardware more widely.


Alipay is a Chinese behemoth with more than 100 services rolled into one. In one a membership exclusive, Echo Huang gives a tour of the all-encompassing app as part of our field guide on Alipay parent Ant Financial. Over in Private Key, Matthew De Silva looks at the wrinkles in pricing for cryptocurrencies in funds versus exchanges. And Sangeeta Singh-Kurtz investigates the growing strength of the immortality movement as it enters the mainstream.

Quartz Obsession

Butter: For a good chunk of the late 20th century, it was in the dietary doghouse. Now, butter back at the big kid’s table, thanks to celebrity chefs, a backlash against processed foods, and new nutrition advice. Take a look at how butter spread around the world in today’s Quartz Obsession.

Matters of debate

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Taxing targeted ad revenue could curtail Big Tech. Google and Facebook should be pressured to make significant changes to their business models.

Who should be accountable when robot investors fail. When algorithms show bad judgement, humans on the back end could be held liable.

Apple stores have lost their way. Employees who once put the customer first are now charged with prioritizing brand identity.

Surprising discoveries

A tiny bug is ravaging Sweden’s forests. The European spruce beetle has caused an estimated $635 million in damage last year (paywall).

Avoid raw rodent meat if you don’t want bubonic plague. A Mongolian couple died of the age-old disease after eating uncooked marmot.

The UK went five days without coal power. It was the longest stretch since the Industrial Revolution.

Random stock picks are better than expert ones. The Wall Street Journal’s randomly chosen investments beat those selected by the best professional investors.

Sunscreen chemicals hang out in your body. The active ingredients show up in the bloodstream at unnervingly high levels for several days.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, safe sunscreens, and plague-free marmots 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 Susan Howson.