Middle East ceasefire, Art Basel Hong Kong, tiny hearts


Good morning, Quartz readers!

Here’s what you need to know

Israelis and Palestinians halted their latest conflict. The ceasefire took hold after 11 days of fighting in which at least 232 people were killed.

The US proposed a global minimum corporate tax rate. The Treasury said multinationals should pay at least 15% on their earnings, to discourage firms from shifting profits offshore.

Things are not looking good for WeWork. The workspace firm reported a quarterly loss of nearly $2.1 billion, as it prepares to go public via a special purpose acquisition company.

Oatly shares opened 30% above its initial public offering price. Meanwhile, the Swedish company’s CEO is counting on consumers to see through big brands’ wokewashing.

The BBC is under pressure over its infamous Princess Diana interview. Her sons William and Harry attacked the UK broadcaster for its failures over the alleged deception in securing the tell-all in 1995.

The EU’s investment deal with China is on hold. The European Parliament voted to freeze ratification efforts until Beijing lifts sanctions on those who have criticized China’s human rights record.

What to watch for

Visitors look at artworks displayed at the Art Basel in Hong Kong, China May 19, 2021.
Visitors to Art Basel in Hong Kong on May 19.
Image: Reuters/Lam Yik

Art Basel Hong Kong, Asia’s biggest contemporary art showcase, opened this week—the first edition of the Swiss franchise with a physical component since the pandemic. The four-day event is more austere than in previous years, Anne Quito writes, with half the stalls staffed virtually (a.k.a. “ghost booths”), due to Hong Kong’s very strict Covid-19 quarantine requirements.

But many art lovers are just excited to roam the labyrinth of white walls and look at artworks in real life, instead of a screen. “It’s moving, it’s meaningful,” said director Adeline Ooi the day the fair opened.

The numbers paint the picture:

104: Exhibitors from 23 countries, about half the usual number

800+: Works exhibited at this year’s fair

56: Number of international galleries operating “ghost booths,” with some reps beaming in via hologram

1: Gallery peddling NFTs

4: Maximum group size who can gather at the fair, per Covid-19 guidelines

$19.5 million: Record-setting price for an abstract expressionist painting sold at the fair

Charting the economic impact of India’s second wave

A bar chart showing the earlier estimates of India's GDP growth in FY2022, compared to revised estimates after the second Covid-19 wave hit. The revised estimates are significantly lower across the board, which includes Moody's, ICRA, S&P Global, and CRISIL.

The second wave of Covid-19 has made economists less hopeful about India’s growth prospects. At least four leading rating agencies had initially estimated double-digit growth for the Indian economy due to a low base and revival of business activities in the country after the first wave of Covid in 2020. Now, they’re trimming their forecasts.

This spike in Covid-19 cases has forced state governments to impose restrictions on businesses and the movement of goods and people. From auto sales to traffic congestions, and from railway freight volumes to electricity consumption—several key economic indicators are showing signs of weakness, writes Prathamesh Mulye.

Are carbon offsets a scam?

Not all, but many still are. Companies are clamoring for offsets, and more are becoming available. In the first quarter of 2021, a record 38.6 million metric tons of offsets were purchased globally. That’s equal to the annual emissions of 10 coal-fired power plants and a jump of 81% compared to the same period last year.

A bar chart showing the increase of voluntary carbon offset issuances by month, every year since 2017. It increases every year, throughout the year.

But just as they’re stepping into the spotlight, carbon offsets are facing more challenges to their credibility than ever. Tim McDonnell explains how the flaws in the way offsets are tallied are endangering a critical element of the corporate campaign.

✦ Many of the companies eager to show their climate friendliness are in the retail business. As part of Retail Week at Quartz, we’ve got a field guide that’ll lead you through how stores are preparing for the future. Not yet a member? Try it for free—then use code “RETAILWEEK” to take 40% off.

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📡 This economist made $200 billion for the US by auctioning the airwaves

💰 India’s at-home Covid test is priced out of reach for most Indians

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Surprising discoveries

The Rock accounts for a third of Hollywood’s lead roles for Asians and Pacific Islanders. But overall, opportunities for API actors are slim.

Some companies will still use Internet Explorer after it’s retired. Healthcare, manufacturing, and local government are the main sectors that still have holdouts.

The Mormon Church made a big bet on a meme stock. The value of its GameStop shares went from $900,000 to $8.7 million in the first quarter of 2021.

Stem cells made a mini heart all by themselves. Researchers nudged the stem cells into becoming heart cells, then sat back and watched.

Migrating swifts can travel more than 500 miles (830 km) a day. They take advantage of wind currents and stop for snacks along the way.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, obsolete web browsers, and bird migration routes to hi@qz.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 Hasit Shah, Jane Li, Mary Hui, Liz Webber, and Susan Howson.