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NATO defense ministers meet. The Biden administration will use the two-day teleconference to mend the US relationship with European allies irritated by former president Donald Trump’s unilateral decisions.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial began in secret. As street protests widen, the trial began a day early after military authorities added a new charge—violating Covid rules—to the earlier allegation of illegally importing walkie-talkies.
The daughter of Dubai’s ruler says she’s being held hostage. Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Al Maktoum, whose attempt to escape her family in 2018 failed, begged for help in videos obtained by the BBC.
New York accused Amazon of failing to protect workers during the pandemic. The tech giant is trying to block the proceedings with its own suit last week accusing the state of overstepping its authority.
Japan began vaccinating health workers. The country plans to vaccinate 40,000 health staff with the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 shot initially, and then study the effects before a national rollout.
What to watch for
China wraps up its latest test of the digital yuan. This Lunar New Year, the government handed out 10 million yuan’s worth ($1.5 million) (link in Chinese) of the digital currency to 50,000 Beijing residents to spend from Feb. 10-17 in designated shops or on e-commerce platforms. As with previous tests, the digital currency could be accessed through a digital yuan wallet app on a mobile phone, but this time users were also able to spend it by swiping a special bank-issued card (link in Chinese). Additionally, several ATMs in Beijing allowed customers (link in Chinese) to deposit or withdraw the digital currency.
One major motivation for an accelerated rollout of the digital yuan is the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022. The government wants to impress participants partly by giving them access to the digital currency, which China hopes will boost the yuan’s stature in the global financial system.
Charting S&P 500 emissions
US president Joe Biden hopes his $2 trillion infrastructure spending plan will make the American economy greener. If passed, it would also benefit some of the country’s biggest companies, especially those involved in construction. Biden’s challenge will be expanding construction without exacerbating the already high carbon emissions in the industrial sector.
Europe’s new top trade partner
Recent data from the European Union’s statistics office, Eurostat (pdf), show that China dethroned the US as Europe’s top trade partner in 2020. EU exports to China grew by 2.2% to €202.5 billion ($245 billion) and imports from China increased 5.6% to €383.5 billion in 2020, while EU exports to the US fell by 8.2% and EU imports from the US dropped 13.2%.
That’s probably because China is the only major rich country whose economy grew in 2020, in part thanks to public investment in infrastructure that fueled demand for European manufacturing goods. On the other end, the EU bought vast quantities of pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, and personal protective equipment from China.
Remaining the world’s number one supplier of these kinds of goods is part of the Chinese Communist Party’s post-Covid plan to see China “[ascend] to its rightful place at the top of the global system whose discourse and power structures have long discriminated against it,” writes Isabella Steger. Read more in our field guide on China’s changing influence.
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An Oklahoma museum has a room made of chocolate. The walls are coated in 100 pounds of the stuff to recreate artist Ed Ruscha’s 1970 installation “Chocolate Room.”
Earth’s smallest reptile was discovered in Madagascar. The nano-chameleon is just 13.5 millimeters (0.5 inches) long.
A 17,000-year-old shell still makes music. A modern musician was able to coax a C, C-sharp, and D out of the paleolithic instrument.
Venetian beads were found at an Alaskan archaeological site. They’re evidence that European objects reached North America before Europeans.
Anthony Fauci won a $1 million prize for “defending science.” The award from Israel also recognizes his contributions in fighting AIDS.
Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, paleolithic music recommendations, and chocolate construction schematics to email@example.com. 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, Tripti Lahiri, Hasit Shah, Nicolás Rivero, and Liz Webber.