US-China trade talks, Uber strike, intelligent wasps

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

US-China trade talks resume under the cloud of more tariffs. Chinese vice premier Liu He will travel to DC for negotiations with US officials (paywall), a few scant hours before new US tariffs against Chinese goods are scheduled to take effect. Beijing has vowed to retaliate, causing turmoil in global markets.

Thailand releases results from its contested election. The party backed by the country’s military junta will try to form a governing coalition (paywall), despite a better showing by the anti-junta Pheu Thai party, which was hamstrung by electoral rules that favored the military.

SoftBank posts quarterly results. The Japanese tech giant is expected to post a small increase in profit, but investors are also keen for more details about a possible IPO of its Saudi-backed Venture fund, which holds large stakes in companies like Uber and WeWork.

While you were sleeping

Uber drivers held a strike ahead of the company’s IPO. The drivers, joined by their counterparts from Lyft, demonstrated against unfair labor practices (paywall) in more than two dozen cities, picketing outside company offices and logging off the app during rush hour periods. It was unclear how many drivers took part; rides were still available in most of the targeted cities.

US lawmakers skirmished with Donald Trump. The White House told Congress it plans to invoke executive privilege to prevent access to the unredacted Mueller report, as a House committee voted to hold attorney general William Barr in contempt (paywall) for failing to produce the document. Separately, the Senate intelligence committee subpoenaed Donald Trump, Jr. to force him to answer questions about his previous testimony.

Mike Pompeo told the UK not to “go wobbly” on China, Iran, or Brexit. The US secretary of state rebuked the US ally (paywall) for considering Chinese telecom firm Huawei for its 5G network, and  complained that Britain’s protracted divorce from the European Union was delaying a US-UK trade deal.

Tesla raised $2.7 billion in debt and convertible notes. Elon Musk’s electric company said the offering was oversubscribed, giving it fresh cash to expand production as it struggles with bottlenecks and strained relations with Japanese battery supplier Panasonic.

North Korea’s new rocket is similar to an advanced Russian missile. The new guided weapon, tested by Pyongyang on May 4, appears to be “nearly identical” to Russia’s Iskander high-altitude, short-range missile, arms control experts told NPR. It’s not clear if the new North Korean weapon can carry nuclear warheads.


The world’s largest money market fund is only six years old. Ant Financial launched Yu’e Bao (“Leftover Treasure”) as part of its Alipay app, and now some 588 million Chinese use it. Its runaway success is a sign of China’s financial potential, as well as a deep and worrisome imbalance within its economy. Also, as part of this week’s field guide on Ant Financial, we profile its fiercest rival, Tencent, which is gunning for control of Chinese digital wallets just as aggressively as Alipay.

Quartz Obsession

Porta-potties: A true game of thrones. If you’re accustomed to indoor plumbing, using a porta-potty might not be high on your list of favorite activities. But the industry isn’t in the dumps—across the US portable toilets are a $2 billion business. As a result, the industry is ripe with competition, with some companies resorting to dirty tactics to stay ahead. Read more in today’s Quartz Obsession.

Matters of debate

Join the conversation with the new Quartz app!

Your mission statement isn’t fooling anyone. Companies shouldn’t waste time and resources pretending they have a greater purpose.

Privacy isn’t a joke. To win back users’ trust, Big Tech needs to treat privacy as a must-have feature.

Liberal millennials may create a generational conflict. Young people are far more liberal than their predecessors.

Surprising discoveries

The US is at war with Mexican tomatoes. Consumers will pay the price for tariffs on one of their favorite fruits.

Wasps are terrifyingly logical. They’re the first invertebrates to show evidence of transitive inference, a skill humans long thought was theirs alone.

Delta’s giving maternity leave to frequent flyers. The airline’s elite Medallion program now forgives three months of being grounded due to life events.

Time travel is going nowhere fast. A virtual model concluded that it’s just far too difficult to do more than send a single particle just a split second back in time (paywall).

A man crossed the Atlantic in a barrel. The 71-year-old Frenchman’s journey took four months within the orange capsule he built himself.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, barrel boats, and DeLoreans 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.