Vaccines work, TikTok’s grip on music, a royal dog

FILE PHOTO: A United Airlines Boeing 777-200ER plane is towed as an American Airlines Boeing 737 plane departs from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois,…
FILE PHOTO: A United Airlines Boeing 777-200ER plane is towed as an American Airlines Boeing 737 plane departs from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois,…
Image: Reuters/Kamil Krzaczynski

Good morning, Quartz readers!

Here’s what you need to know

Covid vaccines are effective, early studies suggest. The Pfizer shot appears to prevent most transmission; perhaps “not everybody needs two shots;” and both AstraZeneca and Pfizer protect against serious illness.

Boeing is struggling to fly. United Airlines and Japan’s aviation regulator temporarily removed the 777 aircraft from service following an engine failure and emergency landing.

Texans face huge energy bills. There’s a political battle over who should cover these costs, but is this the end of the US state’s deregulated energy market?

Bitcoin keeps going. The cryptocurrency broke through $58,000 on Sunday (Feb. 21), and a lot of this is thanks to Elon Musk.

The UK has a “cautious” plan for coming out of a lengthy lockdown. But many businesses must wait much longer, and are unlikely to be allowed to reopen until at least April.

Most African countries do not have a mandatory system for registering deaths. “In order to help the living, we need to count the dead,” said a UN demographer, following a BBC News investigation.

What to watch for

Federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland, stands with President Barack Obama as he is introduced as Obama's nominee for the Supreme Court during an announcement in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2016.
Merrick Garland with former US president Barack Obama.
Image: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Finally, Merrick Garland gets his confirmation hearing.

To many liberal Americans, Garland came to symbolize Republican obstructionism and hypocrisy after they wouldn’t allow his Supreme Court confirmation to proceed in 2016 on the grounds that the next president—though the election was eight months away—should get to fill the vacancy. Notably, former president Donald Trump added a third judge, Amy Barrett, to the court eight days before the presidential election last year.

Today Garland faces the Senate Judiciary Committee as president Joe Biden’s pick to lead the justice department at a time when domestic extremism is under a spotlight in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

That makes his most relevant experience not his protracted non-confirmation five years ago, but his past experience prosecuting terrorism cases. During a previous stint at the department in the 1990s, he helped prosecute the 1995 Oklahom City bombing, the deadliest domestic terror attack ever in the US, a task he has described as “the central thing, the most significant thing I worked on.”

Charting Chile’s Covid vaccinations

If you look at vaccine rollout data focused on Latin America, Chile jumps out. With 12% of its population vaccinated, it lags just behind the US, and is well ahead of the rest of its region.

A chart shows Chile's vaccination rate shooting up to 12 doses per 100 people over the course of the first half of February, while the rest of Latin America remains relatively stagnant.
One of these countries is not like the others.

Its population is relatively tiny compared to the US or China and its long, narrow landmass makes it more amenable to nationwide rollouts than massive Brazil. Still, by negotiating a favorable vaccine price with manufacturers, buying early and often, and maintaining a robust healthcare system, Chile has set itself up for a successful fight against Covid.

TikTok is changing the music business

Last October, Nathan Apocada uploaded a video of himself skateboarding to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” while sipping cranberry juice. It went viral almost immediately, soon spawning 135,000 homages and reactions from other TikTokers.

For a music industry smarting from the pain of canceled festivals, silent clubs, and scrapped recording sessions, this was the latest sign of TikTok’s growing impact on the music industry.

Three years after its stateside debut, the Chinese-owned app could have been relegated to dance fads and quirky memes. Instead, TikTok is now considered by many to be a major player in music, with the power to reinvent the path to stardom and upset the long-held power imbalance between artists and executives.

But beneath the beats, TikTok has a complex financial structure and formula for popularity that artists and industry insiders struggle to navigate—and that’s just how the app likes it, writes Stacey Anderson.

✦ If you wanna sing, that’s a problem for Mama. If you want the news, Try a Quartz membership free for a week.

Surprising discoveries

Scientists cloned an endangered species. Elizabeth Ann is a ferret made from decades-old DNA.

A Royally Good Boy. Max the therapy dog is the first pet unaffiliated with law enforcement to receive the UK’s “animal OBE.”

A new world record. Jasmine Harrison is the youngest woman to row across the Atlantic.

Why do stars go nova? Thanks to infrared light, scientists now believe they know the answer.

Want to know how TikTok changed music? You can certainly read our field guide to find out. But, if you’d rather jam, here’s our playlist.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, world records, and songs you first heard on TikTok 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, Mary Hui, Tripti Lahiri, Oliver Staley, and Jordan Lebeau.