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EU foreign ministers hold emergency talks on Belarus. Amid a violent crackdown on protesters, including widespread allegations of torture, the bloc will discuss imposing sanctions on Minsk. Though a final decision is not expected today, German foreign minister Heiko Maas said he hoped ministers could reach a joint position.
Epic Games sued Apple and Google. The video game maker filed lawsuits against the two tech giants after they removed Fortnite from their app stores, in response to the game’s attempt to skirt fees. Both suits allege that the two app stores constitute monopolies in their control of software distribution to phones, and over payment systems within that software.
The US and China discuss their trade deal. Negotiators will meet tomorrow to assess phase one of the agreement signed earlier this year. Beijing had pledged to buy an additional $200 billion of US products over two years, and while purchases have been lagging, the US has signalled that it’s satisfied with China’s progress.
Michael Cohen released the foreword of his tell-all book. The former personal attorney to US president Donald Trump, who is currently serving a prison sentence at home after pleading guilty to multiple crimes, will publish a memoir next month that he claims will be a “devastating business and horror story.”
Our new Obsessions
Halfway through 2020, with coronavirus upending, well, everything, we decided it was time to update our Obsessions, the framework around which we organize our journalism. Each one is a set of questions we’re fascinated by and hypotheses we’re testing. Together, they keep our newsroom focused on the future: on how and why the world is changing, and the challenges and opportunities that come with every major shift in technology, society, and the economy.
Over the next nine weeks, we’ll introduce each Obsession—why it’s important, who the key players are, and perhaps even the song that best represents it. You’ll just have to stay tuned.
Charting the hemp boom and bust
Eight short months ago, hemp was the fastest growing crop in US agriculture. As of August, US farmers have reported slashing the planted acreage of the crop by 67%, from 137,000 acres (554 sq km) in 2019 to 45,000 acres. This drop follows four consecutive years of US farmers more than doubling their hemp acreage annually.
“We saw CBD production explode in 2019,” says Erica Stark, the executive director of the National Hemp Association. “The demand didn’t increase at the same pace…There’s still a lot of farmers who are still looking to find buyers for their 2019 crop.”
So, what went wrong? Blame the CBD boom.
What is presenteeism?
Presenteeism /prɛznˈtiːɪzəm/ (noun)
— the practice of being present at one’s place of work for more hours than is required, especially as a manifestation of insecurity about one’s job.
Coronavirus has cast presenteeism in a new light, forcing workers and their employers to ask: What are we willing to risk in order to maintain a culture which, many were already pointing out, neither benefited most employees nor, perhaps, provided an accurate measure either of productivity or engagement? Learn more about the ways companies are reimagining the office, from their design to making sure presenteeism doesn’t manifest during work-from-home, in our latest field guide.
✦ After all that work why not give a present to yourself. We suggest a Quartz membership, now available at a 40% discount.
This week, a massive formation of thunderstorms known as a “derecho” passed over the central United States, with severe weather knocking out power and damaging homes. Using data from Earth-observing satellites that track cloud cover and lightning activity, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was able to produce this terrifying image of the derecho moving from Iowa and Wisconsin into Illinois and on to Indiana:
For more coverage of what’s going on up above—like how SpaceX is caught in a $500 million dispute in Central Asia (and not saying much about its big new contract)—sign up for the Space Business newsletter.
You asked about flu shots
Will the rush to create and stockpile Covid-19 vaccines affect regular annual flu shots?
Public health professionals have one clear message: Get your flu vaccine, and get it early. This year, the US CDC estimates that vaccine manufacturers will supply the country with 194 million doses of the flu shot, compared to 175 million doses last year. They’re expecting an increased demand for flu vaccines because of the pandemic.
Both diseases impact the respiratory tract, so a person who contracts a relatively mild case of Covid-19 could then wind up in the hospital if they catch the flu shortly after, even if normally they’d be able to fight off the flu at home. Getting your flu shot early also helps vaccine administrators avoid bottlenecks of high demand for the flu vaccine while they’re also giving Covid-19 vaccines when they become available—which is realistically some time next year at the earliest.
Lobster pot buoy to the rescue. Two Irish paddle-boarders survived a night cast adrift at sea by clinging to the floating tool, which usually help lobstermen locate their traps.
Archaeologists found the world’s oldest camp bedding. Plant remains in a South African cave suggest human inhabitants used grass bedding some 200,000 years ago.
A billionaire is commissioning a diamond-studded mask. The art collector is paying $1.5 million for the face covering, which will feature 3,600 diamonds and an N99 filter.
Africa is splitting into two, with a new ocean in the middle. OK, so it’s happening very slowly.
Russell Crowe donated $5,000 to a Beirut cafe. At first, other donors weren’t sure if it was him, but the Oscar winner later confirmed it.
Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, lobster buoys, and flashy masks to firstname.lastname@example.org. Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our app on iOS and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was brought to you by Mary Hui, Isabella Steger, Jackie Bischof, Liz Webber, and Max Lockie.