🌍 The UK’s new covid rules

Boris Johnson.

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Here’s what you need to know

The UK imposed new covid rules. Prime minister Boris Johnson announced vaccine mandates for some crowded venues, compulsory face masks, and a plea to work from home. Meanwhile, his government is under fire for throwing a party during December 2020 lockdowns.

A helicopter crash killed India’s defense chief. The military helicopter was also carrying his wife and 11 others when it crashed in Tamil Nadu.

More countries joined the US in its diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics. Canada, Australia, and the UK won’t send officials to the Winter Games in protest of China’s human rights record. China retorted that the latter was never invited.

Germany has a new chancellor. Olaf Scholz formally took the reins from Angela Merkel, and the country’s new cabinet is the first to have equal numbers of men and women.

The US won’t be sending troops to Ukraine. However, president Joe Biden said a tense call with his counterpart Vladimir Putin on Tuesday involved threats of steep sanctions.

Kickstarter is starting its shift to crypto. The pioneer in crowdfunding said it will build a new platform based on blockchain technology, then move itself onto it.

The last Quartz at Work (from anywhere) workshop of 2021 is today. Join us at 4pm GMT for a conversation on how to work social impact into your career.

What to watch for

Over the weekend, Beijing published a white paper on the virtues of its democracy, followed by a report the next day on the terminal malaise of the US political model. The main takeaway—that China is more democratic than the US—comes conveniently just before US president Joe Biden hosts the two-day Summit for Democracy (China wasn’t invited).

According to the NGO Freedom House, which annually gives countries a freedom rating from 0-100 based on citizens’ individual rights, the US scores 83, while China, with a score of 9, is among the world’s least free. Of course, some of Biden’s invitees also fall in that category.

A map showing the 113 countries invited to US president Joe Biden's Summit for Democracy, shaded by their Freedom House global freedom scores. Countries like Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo with low scores are less free, whereas countries like Canada and Finland with high scores have greater political and civil freedom.

But China “strategically manipulates the discourse about democracy” to legitimize authoritarian rule, Tsinghua University political scientist Yue Hu wrote in a 2018 paper. Beijing is also wagering that putting its own stamp on democracy will help in its strategic competition against the US for global influence.

Another type of global report card

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a UK nonprofit that acts as a gold-standard clearinghouse for corporate climate data, issued its latest evaluations of corporations’ climate strategies on Dec. 7. To score an “A,” companies must have science-based net zero targets, disclose their emissions and have those audited by a third party, and provide proof of year-over-year progress on reducing emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy.

13,000: Companies that disclosed some form of climate data and strategy in 2021

64%: Global market capitalization represented by that group

200: Companies that scored an A

4,000: Companies—including Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and Volvo—that scored an F because they hadn’t disclosed climate data to CDP in spite of a request to do so

How did charts help you in 2021?

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Did a chart—at Quartz or elsewhere—help you better understand the world? Perhaps one that perfectly represented your thoughts in a visual way, so much so that your friends asked you to stop sending it, please?

We’re rounding up the charts that you loved in 2021. Send us a screenshot or link, along with a couple of sentences about why you like it, to reply@qz.com.

(Can’t remember how to find it, exactly? If you’re thinking of a Quartz chart, we can probably get our hands on it if you give us a brief description.)

💌 In return, we’ll send you a special code for 40% off a membership, which will give you access to the best charts of 2021 and a whole lot more. Want to see exactly how much more? Try it today.

Handpicked Quartz

😬 A total Amazon cloud outage would be the closest thing to the world going offline

💉 India’s largest vaccine maker threatens to cut production by half

Why signs of an improving supply chain are an illusion

🥽 Snap is already delivering on the future Meta is promising

🤔 All the ways White House press secretary Jen Psaki was wrong about rapid testing

🇮🇳 India is among the world’s most unequal countries—and it’s getting worse

Surprising discoveries

Canary Island bees sealed themselves in their hives after September’s volcanic eruption. They were buried under ash for weeks and survived by eating stored honey.

Some sea creatures are making their homes on plastic garbage islands. It sounds like another tale of resilience, but scientists warn about the spread of invasive species.

Wine made from grapes tainted by wildfires was turned into vodka. While a smoky flavor may not work for California reds, the spirit is “very easy to sip.”

Saudi Arabia disqualified over 40 entrants to its camel beauty pageant. With $66 million in prize money on the line, it’s no wonder some owners resort to Botox and face lifts.

There’s a right and a wrong way to shop for office chairs. In the latest episode of the Quartz Obsession podcast, reporter Anne Quito explains her “zoom in, then zoom out, then zoom even further in” strategy.

🎧 Sit back and listen to all of this season’s episodes on Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google | Stitcher

Our best wishes for a productive day. Send any news, comments, bee survivors, and repurposed alcohol 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 Mary Hui, Clarisa Diaz, Tim McDonnell, Liz Webber, and Susan Howson.