Mario Draghi, Bezos to step down, spinach emails

Super Mario vs. the mighty Euro.

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Here’s what you need to know

Super Mario could be Italy’s next prime minister. If former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi—with his experience wrangling EU members—can form a government, the country could avoid a fresh election.

Jeff Bezos is stepping down. The Amazon CEO, who just announced the company’s first $100 billion quarter, will hand the reins to cloud services head Andy Jassy.

Uyghur detainees alleged systematic rape. New accounts obtained by the BBC detail patterns of sexual abuse and torture perpetrated against women in Xinjiang’s detention camps.

China’s anti-graft drive is sweeping through tech firms. Chat and gaming giant Tencent blacklisted 37 firms and fired over 100 staff over suspicions of embezzlement and bribery.

AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine could cut transmission by 67%. A single dose could also offer protection for up to three months, preliminary findings show, but supply delays could yet give Russian and Chinese vaccines inroads to Europe.

Janet Yellen wants to discuss GameStop. The US treasury secretary called a meeting with key financial regulators over market volatility driven by retail trading.

What to watch for

Uber’s transitioning into a delivery service. The company formerly known as a “ride-hailing service” announced Tuesday that it will buy Drizly, an alcohol delivery startup, for approximately $1.1 billion in stock and cash. With Uber jettisoning its mobility-based projects—flying taxis and automated vehicles—it seems clear that the company is changing routes, writes Michelle Cheng. And the market envisions a smooth road ahead, sending Uber’s stock climbing at the news.

What else is Uber delivering?

🍕 Meals: Uber Eats holds 22% of the US delivery market

🥕 Groceries: Uber acquired Postmates in 2020

💊 Prescriptions: Uber partnered with NimbleRx in 2020

🚕 People: Well, not nearly as much since the pandemic began. Both Uber and Lyft will report earnings next week, giving investors a glimpse into how the ride-hailing industry is faring.

Charting ExxonMobil’s earnings

ExxonMobil posted a fourth-quarter loss of $20.1 billion on Feb. 2—its fourth consecutive quarter in the red—after writing down $19 billion in “less strategic” oil-producing assets. In that, the company joins other US and European oil outfits, which wrote down a collective $145 billion in the first three quarters of 2020 due to the pandemic and concerns about climate change.

A chart showing the huge drop in quarterly earnings for ExxonMobil.

The oil giant also made a surprise promise to invest $3 billion in carbon capture technology by 2025, through a newly-minted subsidiary venture called ExxonMobil Low Carbon Solutions. Tim McDonnell argues we shouldn’t get too excited, though—Exxon is still no champion for climate action.

Hygiene theater

A selection of masks designed by NYU to be used in a performance of Romeo and Juliet.
Image: NYU / Lauren Carmen and Krista Intranuovo

Live theater’s pandemic survival is coming down to costume design. Anne Quito tells us how New York University’s costume department has played a crucial role in the theater wing’s avant-garde staging of Romeo and Juliet, tailoring Covid-compliant face masks that double as a storytelling device.

Under hot lights for extended hours, thespians offer an extreme use case for mask makers, and the quest to improve upon standard face masks serves as a vital lesson in design accessibility.  And anyway, theater has a long history of relying on masks—maybe it’s just the industry to improve upon them.

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Surprising discoveries

In Germany, sugar-free chocolate isn’t chocolate. The official rules say chocolate has to contain sugar.

Re: Popeye. MIT engineers have taught spinach to send emails when it senses explosive chemicals in the water supply.

Fake mountaineering news will get you banned. Two climbers had Everest summit photos that didn’t add up.

Naked mole rats imitate the queen’s speech. Each colony ends up with its own dialect.

Pranksters briefly scrambled the Hollywood sign. The culprits said they were just trying to raise breast cancer awareness.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, sugary choco bars, or fake Everest news 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 Mary Hui, Tripti Lahiri, Jordan Lebeau, and Susan Howson.