Trump’s Russia scandal, Mattis-NATO talks, face mites

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Jim Mattis talks with NATO. The US defense secretary is expected to push for higher military spending by European allies when he visits Brussels. His boss Donald Trump considers the alliance “obsolete” and has called upon Europeans to spend more on their own security. The US accounts for about 70% of the alliance’s overall defense expenditure.

The US releases key economic data for January. Reports on retail sales, consumer prices, and industrial production will hint at whether (paywall) positive consumer sentiment and enthusiasm in the stock markets are translating into an uptick in economic activity. Meanwhile the UK will share its latest labor-market report, after the previous one revealed unemployment at its lowest level in over a decade.

NetEase gets a report card. The Chinese online gaming company is expected to deliver a 37% increase in revenue for the fourth quarter. Investors will look for hints about a deal with Google that might make the Google Play app download service available in mainland China, where NetEase’s games have a strong following.

The US Senate considers blocking a regulation on guns and the mentally ill. The Obama-era rule would prevent an estimated 75,000 people with mental disorders from being able to purchase a firearm. Trump is expected to sign a measure to block that rule should the Republican-controlled Senate pass it.

While you were sleeping

The White House knew about Michael Flynn’s Russia lies. Spokesman Sean Spicer said that Trump’s team knew the national security adviser had lied about his interactions with Russia’s ambassador, but that it had needed more than two weeks to conclude he couldn’t be trusted. Lawmakers are calling for an investigation into the scandal.

GM may sell its European auto business to Peugeot. General Motors lost $257 million on its European operations last year—capping 16 years of consecutive losses and a cumulative loss of more than $20 billion. Acquiring GM’s Opel and Vauxhall brands would make Peugeot parent PSA Group the second-largest European automaker after Volkswagen.

Janet Yellen’s testimony gave the US stock market a boost. The Federal Reserve chairwoman said that it would be unwise to wait too long to raise interest rates, sending US stocks to record highs. She also expressed some uncertainty about Trump’s economic policy.

SoftBank announced a $3.3 billion acquisition of an investment fund. The Japanese tech and telecom giant, which is preparing to launch the world’s largest private equity fund, agreed to buy Fortress Investment Group. The New York-listed asset manager has a track record in Japan and investments spanning real estate, hedge funds, and private equity.

India launched over 100 satellites in a single mission. That broke a record previously held by Russia and provided further evidence of the nation’s growing role in the multi-billion-dollar space market. All but three of the satellites were from foreign countries, including over 80 from US-based startup Planet, which says it will now be able to image the entire Earth daily.

Quartz obsession interlude

Elaine Ramirez on a new sharing economy in Seoul that leaves Uber and Airbnb in the cold: “Seoul mayor Park Won-soon defends his city as a free-market economy that wouldn’t survive if it weren’t open to foreign companies. But the mayor draws the line between ‘innovation’ and ‘disruption,’ insisting that these startups should be welcomed—as long as they follow the rules.” Read more here.

Quartz markets haiku

On Valentine’s Day
Investors heard sweet nothings
From Fed chair Yellen.

Matters of debate

Billionaires want to end disease, but nature says otherwise. The vast scale of evolutionary time is lost on technologists who only think about data and money.

Trump is dividing Mexicans, too. Anti-Trump protests are seen as an attempt to cover up domestic problems with patriotic unity.

Politicizing science could return us to the Dark Ages. Environmental pioneer Rachel Carson’s warning went viral more than 60 years ago.

Surprising discoveries

Iceland is busting people for driving under the influence of the Northern Lights. Erratic lane changes were blamed on the distractingly beautiful aurora borealis.

There are microscopic creatures that live on our faces. Demodex mites have been harvesting oil from our hair follicles for at least 200,000 years.

IBM physicists have created a unique triangular molecule. “Triangulene” may eventually power quantum computers.

Apple’s new reality show is called Planet of the Apps. Contestants make an “escalator pitch” to a panel of celebrities including Gwyneth Paltrow.

A surprisingly high number of animals kill each other after sex. The line between “flirty” and “hungry” is a blurry one.

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