Huawei charges, German slowdown, engine rats

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What to watch for today and over the weekend

Boris Johnson’s reshuffled cabinet holds its first meeting. The UK prime minister’s new team is off to a rocky start following the surprise resignation yesterday of finance minister Sajid Javid, who resented demands to fire his political advisers.

Germany flirts with recession. All eyes are on today’s fourth-quarter GDP numbers following last week’s release of the worst industrial production figures since 2009. Recent data is painting a bleak picture of the euro-zone economy.

The last direct flight to China leaves from San Francisco. It’ll be at least until the end of March before flights resume from SFO, which usually has the most departures to China of any US airport. Silicon Valley and the Bay Area are gripped with coronavirus fears.

While you were sleeping

The US hit Huawei with new criminal charges. The Justice Department accused the Chinese tech giant and its subsidiaries of racketeering and conspiring to steal trade secrets from American rivals. It also detailed the firm’s alleged illegal behavior in Iran and North Korea.

The IMF weighed in on China’s economy. While delivering a generally upbeat outlook on the country’s long-term prospects, it warned of near-term risk due to the coronavirus outbreak—potentially leading to a brief V-shaped economic downturn.

A court halted Microsoft’s $10 billion Pentagon contract. The move follows Amazon alleging that Donald Trump improperly interfered in the bidding process for a key cloud computing network. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s Washington Post has repeatedly irritated the US president.

The US Senate voted to limit Trump’s war powers against Iran. The bipartisan resolution would curb the president’s authority to attack Iran without congressional approval. It fell short, however, of the two-thirds majority necessary to overcome a likely veto from the White House.

Russia fined Facebook and Twitter over data storage. A Moscow court ruled the companies must each pay about $63,000 for not storing the personal data of Russian users within the country. The fines could top $283,000 if the firms don’t comply.

Quartz membership

Direct-to-consumer brands could be the next chapter of ecommerce. From Dollar Shave Club to Warby Parker, new brands rely on strong brand identity and customer loyalty to drive sales, Quartz contributor Lawrence Ingrassia reports. But is that enough to beat Amazon?

Quartz daily obsession

Espresso proves good things come in small packages. Though it comes in a receptacle barely larger than a thimble, espresso is chemically quite complicated. Brewing the perfect cup requires a delicate science of temperature, pressure, and time. The Quartz Daily Obsession spills the beans.

Matters of debate

The internet isn’t really killing malls. Instead, it’s a mix of big box stores, income inequality, and other emerging socioeconomic behaviors and patterns.

Start your workday with a poem. Because even an elevator pitch is a form of poetry if you think about it.

Chief risk officer is the C-Suite job to watch. RBL Bank’s Rajeev Ahuja told Quartz that fast-moving regulatory changes will elevate the role in the finance and consulting industries. Read more predictions on the future of jobs in India.

Surprising discoveries

Nazi bombs battered Big Ben’s tower more than previously thought. And the structure’s refurbishment costs are going up by £18.6 million ($24 million).

Modern cars are catnip for rats. They love to gnaw on the wires and hoses—which can be costly and dangerous for vehicle owners.

Wikipedia editors could get help from AI. One day algorithms may be able to edit outdated text without input from humans.

Prehistoric turtles did battle with horned shells. The South American beasts were the size of cars.

Scientists seek new signs of alien technology. They’re looking for shifts in temperature and climate on planets beyond our solar system.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, AI editors, and mall obituaries to Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our app on iOS or Android, and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was brought to you by Steve Mollman, Max Lockie, and Liz Webber.