UK vaccine rolls out, big pharma’s reputation, Olympic breakdancing

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Here’s what you need to know

The UK began its Covid-19 vaccination program. 90-year-old Margaret Keenan was the first person to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech jab; older adults, frontline health workers, and nursing home staff are the top priorities.

Uber is selling its self-driving car division. It will invest $400 million into the buyer, Aurora Industries, which also has backing from Amazon. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will join Aurora’s board.

Davos 2021 won’t be in Davos. The World Economic Forum is temporarily moving its annual meeting in May to Singapore, which has a low rate of Covid-19 cases, before returning to Switzerland in 2022.

MSNBC named its new president. News executive Rashida Jones, 39, becomes the highest-ranking Black woman in the US TV industry, and replaces Phil Griffin.

China’s trade surplus hit a new record. While the previous record in May resulted from a drop in imports, the November tally was driven by a 21% increase in exports.

Goldman Sachs is set for complete control of its China business. The US banking giant applied to boost its ownership of a securities joint venture from 51% to 100%.

Mass protests by farmers continue in India. Millions are demonstrating against new agriculture legislation—they also believe the laws will benefit billionaires that are close to the government.

Rehabbing big pharma’s reputation

“With the world in dire need of Covid-19 drugs and vaccines, the biopharmaceutical industry has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reset its reputation.” —Eli Lilly’s CEO, Dave Ricks, during a second-quarter earnings call

In a September 2019 Gallup survey, 58% of Americans held a negative view of the pharmaceutical industry; only the federal government scored worse. But heightening vaccine buzz is likely to bring about a change in public opinion. While drugmakers won’t make a ton of money from this vaccine (at least not right away), the reputation points they score could be worth their weight in gold.

Charting pandemic relief impact

Adding to months of stalled talks, the US Congress failed over the weekend to agree on legislation to bolster the American economy, although the governing body is expected to pass a stopgap relief plan alongside a broader funding bill on Friday. Relief couldn’t come soon enough: Similar pandemic measures in the spring made a big impact.

A chart showing the impact of pandemic relief on households in various countries, with the US and Canada performing best.

US pandemic relief also proved more generous than more automated stabilizers deployed in some European economies, in part because those measures are more targeted at maintaining living standards than America’s fiscal firehose.

Bullish or bearish

👎 Bearish on blockchain’s promise. Technology whizzes have spent years trying to use bitcoin’s blockchain architecture for other applications in finance, but so far blockchain companies have produced more press releases than viable enterprises. According to DocuSign CEO Daniel Springer, blockchain is still too expensive for the kinds of things his company does.

👍 Bullish on the bitcoin model. Using cryptocurrency to achieve environmental goals seems equally elusive, but Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is optimistic. His new company WOZX, launched by the energy-efficiency crowdfunding company Efforce, entitles holders to a share of profits from energy efficiency projects around the world. But will it work?

✦ You know what else we’re bullish on? A Quartz membership. Sign up today for a seven-day free membership trial.

Surprising discoveries

We’ve got another monolith. A fifth metal structure popped up on the UK’s Isle of Wight, while a US artist group hinted it might be responsible for them all.

A new high powered telescope has uncovered “ghostly circles.” Astronomers are so baffled they called the radio signals “WTF” at first.

Breakdancing is coming to the Olympics. For the Paris Games in 2024, the International Olympic Committee also confirmed skateboarding, sport climbing, and surfing.

This man’s schoolboy photo went viral. Now well into his thirties, he was surprised to discover his prepubescent image used to depict the stepson of a fictional “teenage stepdad.”

Portugal’s president announced his second term…at a bakery. Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa had wanted to confirm his candidacy at a bookshop, but most were shut due to coronavirus restrictions.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, unexplained space signals, and viral school portraits to Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our iOS app and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was brought to you by Hasit Shah, Liz Webber, and Susan Howson.