Good morning, Quartz readers!
Here’s what you need to know
US wages keep rising. The continuous growth of private sector workers’ wages and salaries indicates that employers are still struggling to recruit staff.
Ukraine has started exporting food again. The first grain-carrying ship to leave Odessa since Russia’s invasion is set to ease global prices, but the crisis is far from over as the war continues.
Nancy Pelosi started her tour of Asia. Pelosi did not mention a visit to Taiwan, which she was warned against by both the Chinese government and US military officials.
Joe Biden has tested positive for covid again. The US president is experiencing a “rebound,” which may happen after completing a standard course of Paxlovid.
The McKinney wildfire burnt through 21,000 hectares in California. It’s the largest wildfire to spread in the state so far this year.
Blue Whale sold longstanding tech giants stocks. The fund is concerned about rising inflation.
Cuba’s capital canceled its carnival. Havana announced drastic measures to deal with a worsening energy crisis.
What to watch for
Activision Blizzard releases its second quarter financial results on Monday, ahead of its $68.7 billion acquisition by Microsoft, which is expected to close sometime in the first half of 2023.
Listen for updates on the UK government’s investigation into the deal (which has framed it as potentially anticompetitive) and the US government’s concerns about its impact on workers (specifically with regard to non-compete clauses and nondisclosure agreements). The union representing Activision Blizzard workers voted to approve the merger. That has made the deal’s completion appear more likely.
In November when staff walked out over the handling of sexual misconduct allegations at the company. There have now been five walkouts in the past year over various issues.
Microsoft’s purchase will be the biggest in gaming history. But even if the deal can clear regulatory scrutiny, the passionate, vocal, and active staff might not make integrating culture and day-to-day management easy.
Real awards for virtual performances
Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, BTS, Charli XCX, Blackpink, and Twenty One Pilots have been nominated for the first Best Metaverse Performance award at the MTV Video Music Awards.
These kinds of virtual performances that allow fans to attend remotely have been trickling onto the internet since before the pandemic, but the first major attention paid to metaverse performances happened in 2020 when Travis Scott performed in Fortnite. Since then, virtual concerts have rapidly become accepted as an additional way to reach and perform for fans.
And while virtual celebrities like Japan’s Hatsune Miku have been gaining popularity for years now, it’s in the gaming industry where virtual characters have evolved to become influencers alongside their human counterparts on social media. These characters, and the new-age puppeteers behind them, are guiding how human pop stars are entering the metaverse.
A different kind of social distancing pod
Outbreaks of monkeypox have been cropping up around the world, and now New York City has declared monkeypox a public health emergency. While much of the public messaging around monkeypox has been directed toward the LGBTQ+ community, it is not a “gay disease.”
Nevertheless, the WHO has asked gay and bisexual men to reduce the number of sexual partners they have, reconsider sex with new partners, and exchange contact information to enable follow-up.
Queer activists have a better idea than that: Sex pods.
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Workers should ditch their neckties to save energy. That’s part of the Spanish government’s plan to save energy this summer and reduce the need for Russian gas.
Canadian data privacy is worth a doughnut and coffee. Tim Hortons is trying to settle privacy lawsuits by deleting data that was surreptitiously collected and offering affected users a coupon for a hot beverage and a baked good.
Five decades later, he found his missing Matchbox car on eBay. Thinking of the toy he had painted and lost as a child, Tim Goodwin searched for a similar model on the auction site only to find the exact one that went missing.
Wikipedia has locked down editing “Recession.” The page about economic downturns was edited 180 times in the last week (compared to 88 times in all of 2021), so anonymous and new editors have been prevented from changing it.
Barrels of Japanese whiskey have gone back to school. The casks are spending up to 10 years aging and developing flavor in a closed Shiga Prefecture elementary school.
Our best wishes for a productive day. Send any news, comments, sex pod ideas, and recession edits to firstname.lastname@example.org. Reader support makes Quartz available to all—become a member. Today’s Daily Brief was brought to you by Sofia Lotto Persio, Samanth Subramanian, Annalisa Merelli, Adario Strange, and David Yanofsky.