Taliban agreement, Idlib escalation, the biggest bang

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today and over the weekend

Slovakia goes to the polls. They will elect 150 members of parliament, and polls show the incumbent Socialist Democratic party in the lead. But the far-right  People’s Party-Our Slovakia, led by neofascist politician Marian Kotleba, is not far behind.

The US and the Taliban sign a deal after 18 years of war. If the weeklong reduction in violence holds, the two sides will sign an agreement tomorrow in Qatar that would lay the groundwork towards a more lasting peace.

Japan’s vice minister of justice heads to Lebanon. Hiroyuki Yoshiie will meet with his Lebanese counterpart tomorrow to make the case for ex-Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn’s return to Japan to face trial. Ghosn made a dramatic escape in  December from Tokyo, where he was under house arrest on charges of financial crime.

The South Carolina primary. The first state in the contest with a major black population, the election tomorrow will be a test of African American support for the Democratic presidential hopefuls. Polling shows former vice president Joe Biden in the lead.

While you were sleeping, the coronavirus was spreading

Nigeria confirmed its first case of Covid-19. It’s the first confirmed infection in sub-Saharan Africa following two cases in Egypt and Algeria, amid worries that African health systems may not be able to adequately respond to an outbreak. Meanwhile, China’s manufacturing sector is expected to have shrunk the most in February since 2009, amid massive disruption to Chinese industrial production as a result of the epidemic.

Hong Kong police arrested multiple opposition figures. Jimmy Lai, media mogul and founder of the pro-democracy newspaper Apply Daily, and two opposition politicians, were arrested for illegal assembly during an anti-government protest last August.

Jacinda Ardern rebuked Scott Morrison. At a joint press conference, the New Zealand prime minister lashed out at her Australian counterpart for Canberra’s policy of deporting Kiwi citizens if they commit a crime regardless of how long they had spent in Australia. Ardern said the policy was testing the two allies’ friendship.

A Syrian government air strike killed more than 30 Turkish soldiers. The attack in the northern province of Idlib marks a major escalation in the direct conflict between Turkish and Russia-backed Syrian forces. Ankara warned it is attacking “all known targets of the Syrian regime” in retaliation.

Quartz membership

TikTok is China’s first truly global app. With hundreds of millions of monthly users and burgeoning TikTok stars, ByteDance’s hit video app is here to stay. But “TikTok’s roots are a double-edged sword,” writes Quartz reporter Jane Li. This week’s field guide for members tells you why.

Quartz daily obsession

Why is raising one digit so rude? The use of the middle finger as a simple, crude, and highly effective form of expression dates back thousands of years. It’s also a truly international insult. So where does it come from, and what does it really mean? Put your finger on the pulse with the Quartz Daily Obsession.

Matters of debate

The WHO is too bureaucratic to call the coronavirus a pandemic. Conflicting incentives and roles within its sprawling hierarchy means hard decisions take too long to make—if at all.

Ride-hailing isn’t all that earth-friendly. It adds to congestion, hollows out public transport, and is more polluting than the transportation modes it displaces.

The flight attendant lifestyle has a dark side. Heavy drinking, anxiety, and sleeplessness are just some of unique pressures they contend with.

Surprising discoveries

A pet dog in Hong Kong tested positive for the coronavirus. The pooch didn’t display any symptoms, but will be quarantined for two weeks.

Vladimir Putin was offered a body double as a security precaution. The proposal was floated in the early 2000s, but the Russian president rejected the idea.

Astronomers observed the biggest explosion in the universe. The record-breaking blow up was caused by a black hole 390 million light years away from Earth.

Scientists discovered the first creature that doesn’t need oxygen to live. It’s changing the definition of what an animal can be.

A 15th century etiquette book warns against nose-picking. “Pyke notte thyne errys nothyr thy nostrellys,” it exhorts.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, body doubles, and quarantined puppies to hi@qz.com. 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 Mary Hui and edited by Isabella Steger.