🌏 Public dissent in China

Plus: US taxpayers’ gift to Amazon
🌏 Public dissent in China

Good morning, Quartz readers!

Here’s what you need to know

Protestors called on China’s president Xi Jinping to step down over strict covid measures. Such open dissent toward the country’s communist party and its leaders, who severely underestimated opposition to the latest round of pandemic restrictions, is rare in China.

Twitter is hiring. After dramatically reducing headcount at the social media site, leader Elon Musk tweeted slides indicating recruitment efforts are underway.

Millions of Ukranians had power outages amid heavy snow and cold temperatures. The country’s grid operator said it could only meet three-fourths of energy demands and blackouts would occur.

Taiwan’s president stepped down as her party’s leader. Tsai Ing-wen won’t head the island’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party after it lost several mayoral races in Saturday’s elections.

India’s Adani Group faced protests over its $900 million Vizhinjam port. A fishing community has blocked work on the project, arguing that construction is contributing to coastal erosion.

British Airways planned to double its flights out of Gatwick Airport. The airline isn’t happy with Heathrow’s passenger caps this summer, and wants to expand at the airport’s Sussex rival instead.

Austrian rail workers readied a strike. A dispute over pay was unresolved Sunday after a fifth round of talks, and travel disruptions are expected across the country today.

Barbados may force a Tory member of parliament to pay reparations. Wealthy conservative Richard Drax could face legal penalties for his ancestor’s role in slavery if he doesn’t reach an agreement with the country’s government.

What to watch for

Avatar: The Way of Water is set to hit theaters in China on Dec. 16. After the blockbuster success of James Cameron’s 2009 film Avatar—the highest-grossing film of all time—Disney is hoping Chinese moviegoers can help it score a round two win at the box office. But another victory is not guaranteed.

Disney has cleared at least one hurdle, with Beijing giving Avatar 2 a greenlight while a spate of other films have been banned in recent years. But now a surge in daily covid cases, which have reached a record high of nearly 40,000, could be a major stumbling block. China has recently dropped to the second-largest theatrical market in the world, behind North America, due to pandemic lockdowns. Box office earnings have also taken a dive, falling from nearly $9 billion in 2019 to just $831 million so far this year.

Disney will still need the Chinese market to meet or surpass Avatar’s previous record, but covid restrictions could mean The Way of Water is more likely to sink than make a splash.

US taxpayers’ gift to Amazon

Amazon has received over $5 billion in US-based subsidies—about a sixth of the $30 billion in estimated tax breaks and incentives US entities use to attract business.

An illustration showing where state and local tax subsidies for Amazon go.
Illustration: Amanda Shendruk

Thirty-eight states have doled out breaks for the corporation, with Virginia leading the pack at $824 million. Just over half of Amazon’s US subsidies—or $2.7 billion—were for distribution centers, while 31% were for offices, and 11% went toward data centers.

The data comes from Good Jobs First, a nonprofit that tracks agreements between Amazon and state and local governments, as part of the Make Amazon Pay campaign. The movement aims to draw attention to the company’s poor record on worker’s rights, climate change, and tax avoidance.

The US is not alone in offering Amazon significant tax breaks and incentives. But global data is also hard to find. So far, Good Jobs First has counted half a billion dollars (pdf) in other countries.

Africa is thirsty for World Cup goals

The Qatar World Cup didn’t start off amazingly for the five African teams that qualified for it. In the first matches, Morocco and Tunisia fought hard for goalless draws, while Senegal, Cameroon, and Ghana lost—despite the latter being the first African team to score a goal in Qatar. To reach the knockout round, the five will have to get better at shooting goals.

Quartz’s west Africa correspondent Alexander Onukwue explained in the latest Africa Weekly newsletter that, in a World Cup first, each participating African team is led by an indigenous coach, a welcome break from the habit of hiring foreign coaches. But after an average first round, the continent’s tacticians need to show that they can match their European and South American rivals.

✦ Sign up today for the Quartz Africa Weekly. And while you’re at it, grab a Quartz membership—we’ll even knock 50% off our usual price.

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Surprising discoveries

A trove of Aztec artifacts was found under Mexico City. Archaeologists said the discovery, which includes more than 165 starfish, offers more clues about the group’s rituals.

Further south in Peru, students rediscovered an ancient mural. The depiction of warriors surrounding a deity hasn’t been seen in a century.

The US Food and Drug Administration approved the world’s priciest drug. It costs $3.5 million a dose and treats a rare blood-clotting disease.

Scientists detected exactly when ketchup shifts from smoothly coming out of a bottle to splattering everywhere. Oxford researchers insist it’s an important finding.

Next time you need an exterminator, call these school kids in New Zealand instead. As part of a competition, children at a small school in the country’s south have caught more than 600 rats in 100 days.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Send any news, comments, ketchup splatter art, and rat obituaries to hi@qz.com. Reader support makes Quartz available to all—become a member. Today’s Daily Brief was brought to you by Adario Strange, Amanda Shendruk, Sofia Lotto Persio, Julia Malleck, and Morgan Haefner.