National anthem law, vaccine risk assessments, prescription LSD

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Hong Kong marked the Tiananmen Square anniversary with a pro-Beijing censorship law. As thousands of residents were met with police pepper spray over holding unsanctioned demonstrations, the city’s legislature passed a controversial bill that punishes mocking of the Chinese national anthem with stiff fines and potential jail time. Meanwhile, a retired soccer star called for the removal of China’s ruling Communist Party.

China backtracked on foreign flights. In the first major policy change since March, China has agreed to allow 95 foreign airlines to resume modified service to the country. The decision comes one day after the US threatened to bar Chinese flights from accessing US airports. The US Department of Transportation quickly announced that it would revise that policy in response.

Hong Kong’s stock exchange prepares for “returnees.” The CEO of the exchange said that he expects many US-listed Chinese companies to launch secondary listings in Hong Kong due to heightened tensions with the US. Back stateside, the IPO of ZoomInfo, the first major tech listing of the coronavirus era, saw its share price soar 60% in its debut on Thursday. Slack’s quarterly earnings did not go as well.

Governments continued to spend their way out of the coronavirus hole. Beijing is joining other provinces in handing out $1.7 billion worth of shopping vouchers in a targeted effort to boost retail sales. In Frankfurt, the European Central Bank expanded its program of government debt purchases by 600 billion euros ($679 million) and 500 km away in Berlin, German chancellor Angela Merkel announced 130 billion euros ($146 billion) in new stimulus funding.

A banner day for Las Vegas, less so for Sheldon Adelson. The politically connected billionaire’s Singapore casino is under investigation over allegations of money laundering. Back in Las Vegas, casinos reopened for the first time since March to an enthusiastic return of gamblers.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef saw unprecedented damage. February’s record heat led to the most extensive coral bleaching to date with experts saying a rejuvenation of the reef is now highly unlikely due to climate change.

Maintaining perspective on vaccine trials

How likely are Covid-19 vaccines to succeed? Check the SEC filings. Publicly-traded US companies are required to submit paperwork to the Securities and Exchange Commission whenever something exceedingly positive—or negative—happens within the company. While the purpose of these risk assessments is to avoid getting sued by shareholders, everyone would do well to heed these words of caution.

Here are just some of the risks pharma companies have laid out in recent filings:

  • Moderna warned that the US Food and Drug Administration has never approved a product using the technology its vaccine is based on, and no one knows yet if it’s safe.
  • Novavax similarly noted that the ingredients in its vaccine might be “ineffective or unsafe,” and even if they are it might not be possible to manufacture them at scale.
  • Inovio said its planned timeline for production could change (PDF) if it can’t find enough contractors to manufacture the vaccine.

Charting US unemployment rates by race

Even before Covid-19, black Americans were more likely to be unemployed than whites. In Minneapolis, for example, between 2000 and 2018 unemployment rose from 6.8% to 8% among black people, while it dropped from 2.5% to 1.9% among whites. In many other US cities where protests have erupted in recent days, the pre-pandemic racial gap in unemployment is striking:

A chart showing the unemployment rates for blacks and whites in major US cities in 2018.

Now, with the backdrop of a pandemic during which one in four US workers has filed for unemployment, black people continue to face a harsher reality in the job market. In April, the unemployment rate for white Americans stood at 14.2%; for black Americans, it was 16.7%.

For Quartz members: An impending crisis for African startups

If you look at reports tracking funding in African tech ecosystems this year, you wouldn’t be able to tell that a damaging pandemic has laid siege to the global economy.

A chart showing annual investment in African startups. Investment was $2 billion in 2019 but is forecast to drop to $1.2 billion in 2020.

After a decade characterized by rapid growth, several startups on the continent now face their first major crisis. A slowdown in funding is imminent, and investors are expected to shift their focus to businesses tackling basic problems, like healthcare and food. Read more in this week’s field guide on Africa after Covid-19.

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You asked about reopening universities

How are colleges and universities dealing with potentially opening in September? If they’re opening, how will they protect students, faculty, and staff from infection? —Nancy

Institutions of higher learning around the world are handling reopening pretty differently. Chinese universities in Beijing and even hard-hit Wuhan will allow at least some students to come back within the next few days, provided they meet conditions like testing negative for Covid-19 or passing an antibody test. Some schools in the United Kingdom will house students studying the same subjects together to limit the number of people each comes into contact with.

In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for safely reopening colleges that include recommendations on cleaning and sanitation, mask wearing, and limiting the number of people allowed in shared spaces. University officials who testified at a Senate hearing on the subject on Thursday said more testing and contact tracing is needed, even as some have already begun planning for students’ return.

While California State University schools have said most classes will be held online in the fall (although football might still happen), many colleges desperately need the money that on-campus students provide. Of course, whether students can afford to continue their studies is another question entirely.

✉️ Do you have a burning question about how coronavirus is changing the world?

Surprising discoveries

Jaffa Cakes now come in booze form. The chocolate and orange treat has been transformed into gin.

This cellphone has a rotary dial. A some-assembly-required starter kit is now available, or hold out for the ready-build device.

K-pop fans drowned out a racist hashtag. They bombarded #WhiteLivesMatter with music video clips to keep racist tweets from surfacing.

MindMed wants to be the first to use LSD in a commercial drug trial. But it still needs permission from the US Food and Drug Administration.

Post offices used to poke holes in the mail. It was done to expose the contents to fumigation as a sanitation measure.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, snack food-infused alcohol, and steampunk communication devices 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 Katherine Ellen Foley, Michelle Cheng, Max Lockie, and Liz Webber.