Remembering Auschwitz, Kobe Bryant dies, youthful Scotch

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

China blocks tour groups from traveling overseas. The latest attempt to contain the Wuhan virus will come as a relief to countries gearing up to screen travelers from China, though it will also hurt tourism targets, including Japan’s goal of attracting 40 million visitors this year. China said travel on the first day of the Lunar New Year was down nearly 30% compared with a year ago.

Poland hosts a memorial for Auschwitz. Holocaust survivors, presidents, and prime ministers will mark 75 years since Soviet troops liberated the Nazi death camp, but more top world leaders chose to go to the memorial event Israel hosted last week. The somber date comes as Jews face renewed attacks.

Ireland’s leader meets the EU’s Brexit negotiator. Leo Varadkar will discuss the next phase of Brexit talks and Britain’s future relationship with Europe days ahead of Brexit on Jan. 31. The Dublin meeting comes as opinion polls show some doubt over Varadkar’s return to power in Ireland’s general elections on Feb. 8.

Over the weekend

China warned the Wuhan virus can spread during the incubation period. Infected people can spread the coronavirus even before they have symptoms—a key difference from the SARS outbreak in 2003—and the incubation period lasts up to 14 days. China has reported more than 2,700 confirmed cases, and 80 deaths, as president Xi Jinping warned the spread of the virus is accelerating.

John Bolton’s forthcoming book shook up the impeachment trial. The former national security adviser wrote in his draft that Donald Trump told him he wanted to keep military aid to Ukraine frozen until it opened an inquiry into the Bidens. The New York Times revelation followed a respectful performance on the part of Trump’s defense, a contrast to the president’s barrage of tweets attacking House prosecutors.

Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash. The NBA superstar, one of basketball’s all-time greats, perished Sunday when a private helicopter went down near Calabasas, California, along with others including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. Grammy Awards host Alicia Keys opened the Los Angeles event with a tribute to Bryant.

Matteo Salvini faced a setback in northern Italy. The leader of the right-wing League, who was sidelined last year when the populist Five Star Movement partnered with the center-left Democratic Party, had hoped a win in leftist stronghold Emilia-Romagna would help him make a return to power.

Peruvian voters elected a fractured congress. The new legislature chosen yesterday replaces one that was dissolved in September amid a long-running feud between the president and lawmakers over the former’s anti-corruption reforms.

Quartz membership

Batteries are on track to overtake fossil fuels as the primary way we power the world. But significant hurdles remain on the road to an all-electric future. Quartz’s latest presentation for members breaks down the history, science, and business behind batteries and takes you inside the race to replace Big Oil.

Quartz daily obsession

The year of the rat began on Jan. 25, 2020. Rats have been our steadfast companions for millennia, traveling the world at our sides, devouring our refuse, decimating us through disease, and giving their lives to advance scientific knowledge. And yet, we barely understand our closest neighbors. Burrow into your favorite abandoned mattress and let the Quartz Daily Obsession reacquaint you with our furry friends.

Matters of debate

If you care about the planet, send fewer emails. Your inbox is contributing to the ballooning growth of energy-intensive data storage.

Historic preservation rules are hurting cities. They stand in the way of useful change, such as putting solar panels on roofs.

Place is once again ascendant in British politics. Brexit was a rebellion by the “somewheres,” (paywall) against a class of cosmopolitan “anywheres.”

Surprising discoveries

The US Navy bought $2.7 million worth of nothing. A crooked officer conspired with a civilian friend to dole out phony contracts and pocket the proceeds.

Your aged Scotch collection might be full of frauds. Scientists used radioactive particles from old nuclear tests to determine the true age of 221 bottles—and 40% weren’t as old as advertised.

Classic Corvettes worth $1 million are trapped in a collapsed building. A warehouse explosion flattened a nearby auto shop that specializes in antique cars.

Lake Victoria could dry up in 500 years. The world’s second biggest freshwater lake could be on its way out thanks to climate change and gradual shifts in the planet’s axis.

Scotland’s freemasons embraced vegans. Masonic authorities have decreed it’s okay to wear a faux-lambskin apron during rituals.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, freed Corvettes, and cruelty-free rituals to Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our app on iOS or Android, and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was written by Tripti Lahiri and edited by Isabella Steger.