Coronavirus latest, South Carolina primary, handshake ban

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today and over the weekend

Coronavirus continues to hit the financial markets. Europe and Asia have already taken a further hammering today, with the US certain to follow suit after trading opens. Investors’ lack of confidence is a major factor; across different markets, they have been selling off anything they consider risky.

China releases key economic data. Analysts are expecting a significant, coronavirus-related falloff when the Chinese government announces its most recent PMI survey results tomorrow.

South Carolina holds a crucial Democratic primary. It’s the first state in the contest that has a large black population, with Joe Biden leading polls and possibly slowing Bernie Sanders’ momentum. It’s the last vote until Super Tuesday (Mar. 3), when the candidates compete across 15 states in a single day.

The US and the Taliban are set to sign a peace deal. If the current “reduction in violence” holds till tomorrow, the two sides will sign an agreement in Qatar to start talks for a permanent ceasefire. The war has lasted more than 18 years.

While you were sleeping, the coronavirus was spreading

Airlines have struggled because of virus-related restrictions. IAG, the owner of British Airways, along with budget carrier EasyJet and Malaysia’s Air Asia X have complained today about the financial problems of having far fewer travellers.

Even the world’s (or at least, Japan’s) happiest place now wears a frown. Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea have closed until the middle of March, its operator said, which means all the company’s Asian locations are currently shut.

But for every cloud, there’s an antiseptic lining. Sales of domestic hygiene products have risen, with Lysol and Dettol, owned by UK-based Reckitt Benckiser, doing especially well as cleanliness, if not godliness, becomes an even bigger priority.

Police in Delhi arrested more than 500 people after sectarian violence. The government has come under international criticism for not protecting Muslims from Hindu mobs, and has now deployed troops outside mosques ahead of Friday prayers. The death toll from riots in the capital is at least 35.

At least 33 Turkish soldiers died in a Syrian airstrike. It’s the largest number of casualties in a single day for Turkey since it intervened in the Syrian war in 2016. It could provoke an escalation, with NATO holding emergency talks today to try to defuse the situation.

Quartz membership

TikTok is China’s first truly global app. With hundreds of millions of monthly users and star users, ByteDance’s hit video app is here to stay. But its roots are “a double-edged sword,” according to 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 global 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

Paper ballots are truly state of the art. Just look at the Iowa caucus mess: there is no winner.

Crypto will become the UN’s currency. Unicef’s adoption of bitcoin could lead to greater independence for the organization.

A robot will be your next boss. As people worry about machines taking their jobs, evidence suggests that they may actually run the company first.  

Surprising discoveries

Astronomers observed the biggest explosion in the universe. Not that one, but a pretty big one nonetheless, caused by a black hole 390 million light years away.

And two commercial satellites docked in outer space. It’s the first time any craft pulled off the feat.

A soccer team has banned handshakes. Newcastle United players and staff usually greet each other warmly before training, but coronavirus fears have ended the ritual.

The mighty ducks come to the rescue. China is considering deploying hundreds of thousands of ducks to combat locust swarms in Pakistan.

People who get lost in the woods make strangely similar mistakes. Researchers in Canada are studying ways to increase the chances of finding lost kids and adults.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, GPS locations, and regular duck sightings 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 Adam Rasmi and Hasit Shah.