Breaking up Facebook, Hunter Biden, cheating at chess

Facebook Chairman and CEO Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington
Facebook Chairman and CEO Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington
Image: Reuters/Erin Scott

Good morning, Quartz readers!

Here’s what you need to know

The US wants to break up Facebook. The US Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general from 46 states filed a pair of antitrust lawsuits against the company, which could force it to sell off WhatsApp and Instagram in the most extreme outcome.

Covid-19 vaccines come to more countries. Canada authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, while the United Arab Emirates said China’s Sinopharm vaccine is 86% effective and approved it for sale. However, anyone with a history of anaphylaxis shouldn’t get the Pfizer vaccine, the UK said, after two people had allergic reactions.

DoorDash delivers for investors. The delivery app soared in its stock market debut, closing 86% higher than its $102 IPO price. Airbnb, which starts trading today, sold its IPO shares at $68, above its pricing range.

The European Central Bank releases details on a new stimulus. Though the EU economy is recovering more quickly than expected, the bank hopes that will continue for years if it keeps borrowing rates ultra-low. And the status of the UK-EU relationship in 2021 is to be revealed on Sunday.

SpaceX’s Starship rocket prototype exploded during landing. The vehicle’s three main engines cut off after it climbed to its target altitude during a test launch in Boca Chica, Texas.

Sony will buy AT&T’s anime business for around $1.2 billion. The deal will give the Japanese electronics giant access to the 3 million paying subscribers of Crunchyroll, part of AT&T’s WarnerMedia segment.

Federal prosecutors are investigating Hunter Biden’s business ties to China. The president-elect’s son reportedly had dealings with people who raised flags at the FBI.

What to watch for

Apple this week announced plans to release its first-ever wireless over-ear headphones, the AirPods Max, at a hefty price tag of $549. It’s the latest indicator that the company, for whom AirPods have generated a ton of cash, will continue to roll out new options on an iPhone-like cadence:

December 2016: First-generation AirPods

March 2019: Second-generation AirPods

October 2019: AirPods Pro 

December 2020: AirPods Max

Ironically, releasing pricey headphones on Dec. 15—just ahead of holiday season—is likely to boost sales of Apple’s regular AirPods. Research shows that introducing a more lavish option of a product makes the first option look like a relative bargain.

Charting used car imports

Importing cheap, second-hand vehicles from Japan is big business across many African countries whose citizens cannot afford new ones; Japan produces some of the most popular car models driven on the continent.

A bar chart showing the share of annual global imports of light duty vehicles, 2015-2018. Africa accounted for 40% of imports, eastern Europe had 24%, Asia-Pacific had 15%, the Middle East had 12%, and Latin America had 9%.

However, environmentalists worry that exporters of high carbon-emitting used cars are dumping the automobiles in Africa that they can’t sell in their home countries. Tawanda Karombo explains why Zimbabwe has just joined countries including Zambia, South Africa, and Uganda in cracking down on the practice.

Moving beyond tokenism in the boardroom

Research has shown there needs to be a critical mass of women—at least three—on a company’s board in order for the rest of the members to accept them as equals. To make that happen at New Zealand telecommunications company Spark, Justine Smyth accepted a position as board chair in 2011 only “on the condition that the next director would also be female.” Spark’s board is now 50% women, including its executive chair and CEO.

One needn’t be a woman or member of a racial or ethnic minority in order to make this kind of impact; as Sarah Todd writes for Quartz at Work, one need only be an ally. To read about other tactics for combating injustice in the workplace, check out our recent field guide on how to build an anti-racist company.

✦ If you find yourself reading a critical mass of Quartz stories, considering supporting our journalism by becoming a member. You can even try it for free for seven days.

Surprising discoveries

After the TikTok ban, Indians cut their video app use. Homegrown rivals have only managed to pick up 40% of the time Indians were spending on the Chinese platform.

Manmade materials now weigh more than all living things. The discrepancy is only likely to get worse.

More people are cheating at online chess. It was checkmate for the 18,500 users who caught violating fair play rules in November.

Pandas smear themselves with horse manure to keep warm. Chinese scientists spent more than 10 years (really) figuring this out.

NASA has selected 18 astronauts who will head to the moon. The group, which will blast off in 2024, includes the first woman who will set foot on the lunar surface.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, less expensive fancy headphones, and clean pandas 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 Jane Li, Alex Ossola, Tripti Lahiri, and Oliver Staley.