🌍 A new iron curtain

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks to the media during his visit to Minsk.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks to the media during his visit to Minsk.
Image: Russian Foreign Ministry/Handout via Reuters

Good morning, Quartz readers!

Here’s what you need to know

A new iron curtain is descending. So says Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. Meanwhile, Russian forces were pushed out of Snake Island, and the European Court of Human Rights sent a probably fruitless order forbidding Moscow to execute detained Brits.

Xi Jinping arrived in Hong Kong. China’s president is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the British handover while calling his crackdown in Hong Kong over the last two years a success.

The US Supreme Court weakened federal power to regulate emissions. The move hinders the country’s ability to fight climate change. After a jarring week of SCOTUS decisions, the docket appears to continue the theme.

South Korea committed to raising its minimum wage in 2023. Added to an earlier hike this year, the 5% increase, meant to fight inflation, puts the country on par with the US and Japan.

Hackers from North Korea are suspected of stealing $100 million in crypto. Last week’s Horizon Bridge heist had some stylistic similarities to other thefts attributed to Lazarus Group.

TSMC threw up a red flag. The Taiwanese semiconductor giant has been struggling with employee turnover and utility concerns, which doesn’t bode well for the ongoing chip shortage.

Hello Kitty made big gains on the stock market. Sanrio, the company that designed the kawaii character, saw its stock jump 15% after signing a deal with Alibaba.

What to watch for

T-Mobile will shut off the last vestiges of its 3G cellular network in the US today. Other major US carriers, including AT&T and Sprint, have already axed their 3G networks to clear out more radio frequency bands for new 5G ones. Verizon plans to follow suit by the end of the year. The death of 3G will render some older phones, Kindles, and OnStar roadside assistance systems useless—although most devices sold in the last decade should be compatible with newer networks.

After launching in 2002, 3G cell networks helped usher in the age of the smartphone, giving mobile devices fast enough internet speeds that users could stream videos and scroll through social media feeds. While 3G networks are starting to shut down across the US, Europe, and Japan, 3G remains a crucial link to the web for smartphone users around the world—especially in poor countries like Cuba, where a brand new 3G network helped protesters organize and document historic nationwide anti-government demonstrations last year.

Giant Tesla batteries are killing coal and gas plants

Can a battery the size of a shipping container really end the need for coal- and gas-fired “peaker” plants, which run when there’s a high demand for energy?

Tesla’s Megapack batteries are starting to live up to that promise in the US. The company is accelerating utility-scale battery construction at a pace that increased nearly tenfold in 2021. The big batteries can store renewable energy when demand is low, and pump it back out to the grid when demand is high.

A bar chart showing the annual big battery project installations by Tesla. 2022 saw the highest number of completed and planned installations.

Tesla isn’t the only company obsessed with big batteries. LG and Samsung are key rivals. But while the race to build the big guys could build fortunes for the companies that come to dominate the industry, it will also play a crucial role in weaning the world off of fossil fuels.

Abortion laws make a strong argument for cash

Now that the US Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, Americans are raising concerns about what data police and prosecutors could access to incriminate people who seek abortions. If law-enforcement officials can’t access medical documents, they could turn to financial services companies for data on payment transactions.

Remember cash? Paying for abortion services with cash could be one way to avoid detection, posing a challenge to the idea that cash is on its way out, as Quartz reporter Michelle Cheng explains.

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A rocket crashed into the Moon. And NASA can’t figure out where it came from.

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