Virgin Atlantic job losses, the real Mulan, #freeBritney

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Here’s what you need to know

Despite a $1.6 billion rescue deal, Virgin Atlantic is still cutting 1,000 jobs. The struggling airline is set to announce the latest job losses, adding to the 3,150 former staff who were already shown the door this year. The recovery of air travel has been slower than expected.

A major midwestern university wants students out of frat houses because of Covid-19 spikes. Administrators at Indiana University, which has a student population of more than 40,000, said infection rates are above 50% in some of the privately-owned fraternity and sorority premises, over which the school has no legal authority.

The English Premier League faces a shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars. The world’s most popular soccer league is expecting to lose $720 million just from the lack of spectators in stadiums, the Financial Times reports (paywall), and has also canceled a broadcast deal worth $700 million over three years with a Chinese TV company.

Federal agents killed an activist suspected of shooting a Trump supporter dead in Portland. Michael Forest Reinoehl’s alleged victim was part of a convoy driving through the city in support of US president Donald Trump amidst antiracism protests.

Joe Biden visited Kenosha. The Democratic US presidential candidate also spoke on the phone with Jacob Blake, the Black man shot by police in the Wisconsin city, sparking widespread protests. Meanwhile, seven police officers were suspended in New York state over the death in March of Daniel Prude, another unarmed Black man.

Obsession interlude: Future of Finance

What the SPAC?! There’s a lot of chatter these days about alternatives to the traditional IPO. One is a so-called “blank check,” via special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), an approach favored by Virgin Galactic. The other is a direct listing, a strategy successfully executed by Spotify and Slack, and now planned by Peter Thiel’s company Palantir. The direct-listing bandwagon has the potential to shake up the IPO market long-term.

Why are founders and early investors looking for a different way to go public? In part because of old hangups about fees and regulations. But also, according to University of Florida professor Jay Ritter, because public offerings this year are leaving too much money on the table.

New listings in 2020 have jumped by an average of about 40% on their first day of trading, the biggest pop of any year since the dot-com bubble two decades ago. That first-day pop signals that the shares could have been priced higher, which would have put more money in the pockets of pre-IPO shareholders.

A chart showing the first-day returns of stocks post-IPO.

Pop into our Future of Finance obsession here.


arrives. But who’s the real Mulan?

After much delay, the live-action version of the animated classic finally makes its debut on Friday, streaming via Disney+ for $30 a pop. Hong Kong protesters, however, have vowed to boycott the film. Mulan, they say, is most definitely not embodied by Liu Yifei, the Chinese-American actress who plays the swashbuckling heroine who disguises as a man to fight a war.

Instead, as Disney was promoting Liu’s depiction of the character based on an ancient Chinese legend, Hong Kong protesters began circulating tributes and Mulan memes about a different figure: the 21st-century, 23-year-old democracy activist Agnes Chow.

Photo of protesters holding up #boycottMulan signs
Image: Simon Shin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Last month, Chow was arrested under Hong Kong’s draconian national security law and accused of colluding with foreign forces, a crime that could see her locked away for life if convicted. Protesters last year had already pilloried Liu after she expressed support for the Hong Kong police on Chinese social media.

Charting India’s reliance on China

India is staging a trade war of sorts against China. On Wednesday, the Modi government banned 118 mobile applications on the grounds of being “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India.”  Some experts believe these moves are nothing more than knee-jerk reactions. And there are concerns that these policy changes are hurting industries that rely on China.

Image for article titled Virgin Atlantic job losses, the real Mulan, #freeBritney

In 2018-19, India imported bulk drugs and drug supplies from China worth $2.4 billion, or around 70% of total bulk drugs imports. In recent months, India’s dependence on China has only increased. India’s overall imports from China stood at $5.6 billion in July, up from $4.8 billion in June. Given this reality, India’s ambitions seem impractical at best.

Quartz Presents: What China has to gain from Africa

Image for article titled Virgin Atlantic job losses, the real Mulan, #freeBritney

Our latest presentation explores the symbiotic relationship between China and Africa, covering business, economics, technology, and culture.

Covid-19 has deepened the relationship in some ways. Alibaba founder Jack Ma donated medical supplies to African countries, furthering China’s soft-power strategy toward the continent. But allegations of discrimination and racism against Africans living in China have sparked criticism and censure. Meanwhile, the pandemic-induced global slowdown is putting pressure on African governments with high levels of debt.

See all 16 shareable slides explaining what China has to gain from Africa right here.

✦ Not yet a member? To access this exclusive presentation and gain a paywall-free experience, join Quartz for 50% off with code “SUMMERSALE.”

You asked about noses

Continually, I see people wearing their masks below their nose. I am no medical professional, but the last time I looked, I did breathe through my nose. What are these people thinking?

You’re right, reader! We do indeed breathe through our noses, and viral particles can gain access through our nose, mouth, or eyes after we touch our face or breathe while in close contact with someone who is contagious. That’s why masks are effective, and most effective when worn correctly: covering both the nose and mouth, with as few gaps as possible. As for what the chincompoops are thinking, we couldn’t tell you. We can tell you what they’re not thinking, which is, “How might I do right by my fellow citizens today?”

Surprising discoveries

A French philosopher disowned his son over a book. Jean-Paul Enthoven cut ties with Raphaël, also a philosopher, who just published an autobiographical novel detailing their private lives.

Britney Spears showed support for the #FreeBritney movement. In a court filing, she gave a shout out to her fans and urged greater public scrutiny of her father’s control of life and finances.

Brad Pitt is selling $400 rosé champagne. The veteran vintner has been working on it for five years.

The latest Mario Kart uses real (miniature) cars. The Nintendo Switch game combines augmented reality and remote-controlled toys.

A Nebraska man asked his city council to rename “boneless chicken wings.” He argued that the label is inaccurate because the so-called wings have nothing to do with a chicken’s wings.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, contentious novels, and A-list bubbly 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, Liz Webber, and Max Lockie.