🌎 Balloon blows

Plus: Latin America is holding all the lithium cards
🌎 Balloon blows

Good morning, Quartz readers!

Here’s what you need to know

China confirmed another one of its balloons is flying over Latin America. Beijing claimed that device too is being used for civilian purposes. Meanwhile, the US is looking for the wreckage of the one it shot down off the South Carolina coast.

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Turkey. More than 1,000 people in Turkey and Syria have died after the area’s most powerful quake in decades.

Chinese retailers offered a discount on Apple’s iPhone 14 models. The price slash of as much as 10% reflects sluggish demand for smartphones.

Tesla’s Model Y got more expensive. The electric vehicle’s cost rose after the US lifted the price ceiling for which EV buyers can access tax credits from $55,000 to $80,000.

Dell announced mass layoffs. The elimination of 6,650 jobs will bring the tech company’s workforce back to 2017 levels.

A wildfire has killed at least 23 people in Chile. Record-high temperatures have fanned a deadly blaze that prompted a state of emergency declaration in three states.

Beyoncé set a new record for Grammy wins. The superstar missed out on the top accolade Album of the Year, but her other four wins guaranteed her a spot in music history. 

What to watch for

Activision Blizzard is due to post its fourth-quarter earnings today (Feb. 6). The antitrust scrutiny surrounding Microsoft’s $69 billion bid to buy the video game developer provided enough reason to pay attention to the results, but a fine imposed by US federal regulators for neglecting employee complaints added some spice to the mix.

Activision Blizzard agreed to pay a $35 million fee to settle an extensive probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission that stems from claims of sexual harassment and gender discrimination. Regulators found the company failed to create the structure to address misconduct complaints, and that it put undue pressure on employees who were cooperating in the probe.

Today’s earnings report is expected to provide a bright spot, buoyed by the success of expansion to titles such as Call of Duty… if only management heeded a similar call at the time of the misconduct complaints.

Latin America is holding all the lithium cards

German chancellor Olaf Scholz flew to Latin America last week for one enticing, silvery reason: lithium. He’s not the only world leader looking to tap the region’s reserves.

Argentina, Chile, and Brazil, the world’s so-called lithium triangle, hold vast deposits of the sought-after metal used to power everything from our phones to electric vehicles. With lithium prices soaring, and the world scrambling to secure mining contracts, Latin America’s leaders are looking to leverage their natural advantage.

In Chile, president Gabriel Boric wants to pass new mining regulations, and intends to create a state-run lithium company that will partner with private firms. Meanwhile, Bolivian president Luis Arce signed a billion-dollar deal with China last month to develop a domestic battery manufacturing sector.

Both leftist presidents aim to convert the natural resource into national wealth, but that can be a lengthy process. The question is if they can still cash in while demand is hot.

The YouTube strike is sending a signal about remote work

Tech companies were some of the first to shutter their offices and allow employees to work from home when the pandemic arrived in the US. But a recent strike among YouTube contractors, who protested a return to the office, shows just how much things have changed since those first months of Zoom calls from the kitchen table.

As Quartz’s Michelle Cheng explains, what’s playing out now is a philosophical argument—pitting the idea that workers are at their best when they have agency over their time versus the common belief among CEOs that the best ideas happen when there are spontaneous collisions between employees seeing each other in the hallway or chatting over coffee (a model that Steve Jobs believed in).

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Surprising discoveries

There’s an invisible mark 62 miles above Earth where space begins. It’s called the Kármán line, but it’s more of a physics thing than anything else.

Conveyor belt sushi may come with a side of spit. Stocks of some iconic restaurants in Japan fell after videos on TikTok and Twitter showed customers licking items as they passed by.

Florida has more jobs than New York for the first time. The sunny US state isn’t just for retirees.

Quolls are taking the motto “you can sleep when you’re dead” to heart. Males of the endangered marsupial species aren’t resting and instead mating themselves to death.

Don’t trust a hungry 6-year-old with a food delivery app. They might just order $1,000 worth of noms.

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