Eastern Med crisis, Messi’s move, Biggie’s crown

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The eastern Mediterranean crisis deepens. France, Italy, Greece, and Cyprus will take part in three-day air and sea exercises off the Cypriot coast amid deepening Greece-Turkey tensions drilling rights. Germany’s foreign minister, who is attempting to mediate, warned that a “spark could lead to a disaster.”

Belarus’s Nobel laureate testifies before authorities. Author Svetlana Alexievich will be questioned as part of a criminal investigation into the country’s opposition Coordination Council, of which she is a member. Authorities have in recent days arrested members of the group, as strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko shows no willingness to relinquish power.

Lionel Messi wants out. The Argentine soccer star faxed a transfer request to Barcelona that he wishes to leave for free immediately. A legal battle is expected to ensue, as the contractual clause in question allowing Messi to leave had expired in June, but he will likely argue that it should be extended due to the disrupted soccer season.

Mike Pompeo’s RNC speech caused a stir. US House Democrats say they are investigating his decision to deliver a pre-recorded speech to the Republican National Convention from Jerusalem, which violates state department guidance that sitting secretaries of state should avoid partisan politics. On the second night of the event, Republicans sought to paint the president as a defender of religious freedom, while first lady Melania Trump showed sympathy to victims of Covid-19.

Obsession Interlude: Fixing capitalism

In the world’s most populated countries, the very highest earners are getting an increasingly bigger piece of the pie. Between 1980 and 2015, the share of pre-tax income going to the top 1% more than doubled in China and India, and grew by 80% in the US.

A line chart showing the Share of pre-tax income going to the top 1% of earners in China, the US, and India.

This rise in inequality is largely the result of the highest-educated workers making a lot more money. Automation, computing power, and globalization made knowledge workers more valuable. At the same time, power for the working class dissipated as unions became weaker. If income is to be distributed more equally, it either means broadening access to educational opportunities or pushing laws, like the minimum wage or promoting unions, to force employers to give the poorest a raise.

Keep tabs on the Fixing Capitalism obsession here.

Charting Ant Group’s rise

Ant Group, the Chinese fintech giant owned by Alibaba, aims to achieve a market value of more than $200 billion when it goes public. Its IPO documents, filed in Hong Kong and Shanghai yesterday, are finally giving the world a look at the numbers behind that goal.

A bar chart showing the value of Ant Group compared to other financial copmanies.

Apart from its enormous size, Ant’s money-making ability is also due to the benefits that come from being part of the Alibaba ecosystem, since it is the default payment option on Alibaba’s e-commerce and food delivery platforms. Still, its earnings from payment transactions are giving way to those from selling technology services to other financial institutions, which now make up more than 60% of its revenues.

What makes higher ed valuable?

We asked Quartz members this question in a recent email, and here’s how they responded:

A bar graph showing responses to the question What's the most valuable aspect of higher education? The responses were Critical thinking skills 72%, Prepare for adulthood 10%, Friends and connections 14%, and Job prospects 3%

History may look back at this year as the turning point when online education began its transition from a niche product to an essential element of the college experience. In some cases, universities—seizing an opportunity to cut expenses in facilities and instruction—will embrace a hybrid model, where students attend classes both online and in person. In other cases, new, revenue-generating programs will expand the university to students who never step on campus. And in some instances, completely new forms of education will develop and gain traction.

In a sector that dates to the 1600s, change moves slowly, but the investments by universities in technology and training—and the growing acceptance of online learning—will permanently reshape higher education. As international universities look to the US as a model, the impact will eventually be felt globally. Read more in our field guide to higher ed going remote.

✦ Even if your student days are behind you, reading Quartz’s global news coverage ensures you’ll keep learning every day. Get 50% off your first year as a member by using code “SUMMERSALE.”

You asked about droplets

If corona infection is spread through inhaling droplets expelled by infected people, how is it possible to get infected by asymptomatic carriers (who presumably are not coughing/sneezing)?

When you think “droplet,” you’re probably imagining big, gloopy glops of sneezes and coughs, chock-full of virus. You’re not wrong: We know for sure that those close-range viral missiles, the ones bigger than 5 μm across by the WHO’s definition, can carry enough virus to infect others.

But this coronavirus can also survive and remain infectious in much smaller particles, which public health researchers sometimes call aerosols or droplet nuclei. Those particles can be exhaled when someone is simply breathing or talking, and they’re also light enough to float around in the air for a while. Big, gloopy droplets are more likely than aerosols to carry enough virus to get others sick, but transmission via those smaller particles is also possible, particularly indoors where air can’t circulate. So just because someone isn’t coughing doesn’t mean they’re not infectious.

Surprising discoveries

Cover carousel.
Cover carousel.
Image: New Power Party

Taiwan’s new passport might have bubble tea on the cover. A design contest has produced a slew of quirky submissions.

Louis Vuitton made a skate shoe. Professional skateboarder Lucien Clarke designed the sneaker, which will be first advertised in skater magazine Thrasher.

KFC now thinks licking your fingers is not the best idea. It’s temporarily retiring its long-running “finger-lickin’ good” slogan due to Covid-19.

Raps biggest rivals are reuniting… at an auction. Sotheby’s is selling love letters written by a teenage Tupac, and the crown worn by Notorious B.I.G. three days before he was shot.

Crocodile tears could be useful. Scientists are looking into the under-explored world of animal tears to see how it can help address vision problems in humans.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, gloves for eating chicken, and sk8 couture to hi@qz.com. 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 Isabella Steger, Mary Hui, Susan Howson, and Liz Webber.