Hurricane Laura lands, supermarket obsession, bros in brokinis

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Here’s what you need to know

A huge storm hit Louisiana. Hurricane Laura made landfall on the Gulf coast around midnight and an “unsurvivable” storm surge is expected as it moves inland with wind speeds of up to 240kmh. Half a million people have been told to leave parts of Texas and Louisiana.

Star athletes refused to play in the US. Tennis player Naomi Osaka pulled out of today’s Western and Southern Open semi-final while the NBA also postponed several games after a Black man was shot by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last week. A white teen is being held over the deaths of two people at subsequent protests.

TikTok’s American CEO lasted less than three months in the job. The fight between the US and China over the video app was too much for Disney veteran Kevin Mayer, who had taken over on June 1 as part of the company’s attempts to downplay its Chinese roots.

An extreme-right mass murderer will die in prison in New Zealand. Sentencing hearings this week allowed survivors and relatives of victims to confront the Australian gunman who killed 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch last year. Brenton Tarrant got life without parole, the most severe punishment available.

The UK will pay poor people to self-isolate. The government is stepping in to address longstanding concerns that people are forced to prioritize incomes over health, and will give $170 to welfare recipients who have tested positive for coronavirus and must isolate for the recommended 10 days.

Obsession Interlude: Fixing capitalism

Should we be worried about a stock bubble? It seems odd to discuss irrational exuberance when the economy is anything but exuberant, but these are unlikely times.

To help answer this question, consider Boom and Bust: A Global History of Financial Bubbles, a new book by William Quinn and John Turner. Their research suggests there are three necessary ingredients for a financial firestorm: speculation, marketability (how easy it is to buy an asset—think innovation in stock trading apps, or the brainiacs who brought us mortgage-backed securities), and credit.

Chart showing the year-to-date gains in stock prices of Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft.

Quinn and Turner find that asset booms are happening more frequently, and that government policy—meant to make housing more affordable, or shed unsustainable debts, for example—is often the spark that lights the financial fire. If ultra-low interest rates and the boom in brokerage apps like Robinhood are any indications, a bubble in equities could be inflating as we speak.

Pop in here to see what else we’re covering in our new Fixing Capitalism obsession.

Charting the US pandemic pump

The demand for home exercise equipment skyrocketed as a result of US stay-at-home orders. Google searches for “home workout” reached their peak on March 22, the same month that Chinese exercise equipment exports to the US dipped to their lowest point in more than 15 years.

The lion’s share of imported exercise equipment in the US comes from China—some 65% last year—where factories were shutting down at the beginning of 2020 due to Covid-19. But imports have since bounced back, nearing $250 million in June. Still, many of those dumbbells are already spoken for, so those who didn’t successfully pillage their local gyms may still face delays on orders for new weights.

A chart showing significant 2020 growth in US exercise equipment imports from China


An illustration of a woman in a cap and gown
Image: Illustration by Sergiy Maidukov

👍 Pros: Online education expands opportunities to students for whom a college degree was previously impossible: working adults, single parents, the disabled, full-time caregivers, and students who couldn’t afford the rapidly rising tuition.

👎 Cons: The organic process of learning from peers is replaced by a regimented experience, and that eliminates the campus atmosphere designed to foster critical thinking. Or worse still, online education is just a credentialing service that doesn’t leave room for actual learning.

🤔 The debate: Is college about economic advancement and social mobility, and preparing millions of high school graduates for well-paying careers? Or is it about building character and citizens, and training minds to think critically and with skepticism about the world?

Still on the fence? Read more in our field guide to higher ed going remote.

✦ Even if your student days are behind you, a Quartz membership ensures you’ll keep learning every day. Get 50% off your first year with code “SUMMERSALE.”

We’re obsessed with supermarkets

Image: Giphy

Our pandemic paradise. They’re sprawling, they’re crowded, they’re overwhelming, and they’re notorious for tricking you into buying beyond your shopping list. But the pandemic has proven how these cold, giant warehouses of excess can still be essential. From initial panic buys to weekly trips that served as our only exposure to the outside world, supermarkets may have bought themselves more time. The Quartz Weekly Obsession needs a price check at register three.

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Surprising discoveries

Music piracy site Napster still exists. And it was just sold to a virtual reality events company.

Rich Nigerians are buying citizenship in the Caribbean. The island nations have fewer foreign visa restrictions than their home country.

Scots Wikipedia was largely the work of one American teen. For years, they edited thousands of articles with little oversight.

Borat beach fashion is back. There’s a new one-shouldered men’s swimsuit called the “brokini.”

Scientists built a teeny-tiny robot army. The nanobots could be used to study the insides of the human body.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, spare passports, and any weights you might have lying around to 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 Hasit Shah, Jenni Avins, Jackie Bischof, Liz Webber, and Max Lockie.