Brexit’s next test, SpaceX’s historic launch, taxing robots

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Next Brexit steps. Britain’s House of Lords will begin debating the Brexit bill after it passed in the House of Commons two weeks ago. While the House of Lords is not expected to block the proposed legislation entirely, it could force prime minister Theresa May to do more to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK.

The EU talks diplomacy, trade, and Greece. US vice president Mike Pence meets with EU leaders in Brussels to discuss the implications of the Trump administration’s “America first” policies. Meanwhile eurozone finance ministers will meet to discuss Greece’s next bailout loan.

It’s Presidents’ Day in the US. Financial markets are closed for the public holiday, as are most banks and public schools.

Over the weekend

The US defense secretary paid Iraq a visit. Pentagon chief James Mattis said the US is not in Iraq “to seize anybody’s oil” ahead of his arrival in Baghdad on Monday. He’s there for a briefing on the US-backed Iraqi forces’s latest push to drive ISIL out of Mosul. Mattis will likely have to talk about Trump’s temporary US travel ban on Iraqis, and comments he made about keeping Iraqi oil.

The US stressed its allegiance to skittish Europe. At a security summit in Munich dominated by discussions of “fake news,” vice president Mike Pence emphasized his country’s commitment to its European allies, while Angela Merkel called for global cooperation—and expressed her “greatest respect for journalists” and the free press. Europeans, meanwhile, were baffled by president Donald Trump’s reference to a nonexistent terror incident ”last night in Sweden” at his rally in Florida on Saturday; he has since tweeted that he was referring to a Fox TV report.

Kraft Heinz backed away from Unilever. The American food giant announced it was withdrawing a $143 billion bid to acquire Anglo-Dutch consumer goods company Unilever 48 hours after making it public. The bid would have created the world’s largest food company but it was quickly rejected by Unilever.

SpaceX had a successful and historic launch. A day after its launch was postponed with 13 seconds left on the clock, a Falcon 9 rocket took off from Kennedy Space Center at 9:38am ET on Sunday from a pad that hadn’t seen a liftoff in six years. NASA described the launch, which will deliver supplies to the International Space Station, as the beginning of a new phase of American operations in space.

China punished North Korea… In a move that will bolster UN sanctions, China announced it would suspend coal imports from North Korea until the end of the year, an expression of its frustration over the country’s nuclear missile development. North Korea was China’s fourth-largest supplier of coal last year.

…and Malaysia recalled its North Korea ambassador. It also summoned North Korea’s envoy in Malaysia following his comments that Malaysia had “something to conceal” regarding the mysterious death last week of Kim Jong-nam—the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un—in Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Until now Malaysia has had surprisingly cozy ties with Pyongyang.

Quartz obsession interlude

Alison Griswold on why Uber has absolutely no good reason for keeping tipping out of its app. “Uber hasn’t abstained from tipping because it’s the ‘right thing’ to do, as famed restaurateur Danny Meyer explained when he debuted a no-tipping policy at The Modern, a pricey dining spot in midtown Manhattan. Uber cuts prices relentlessly and has fought tooth and nail in court to avoid classifying its drivers as employees, a status that confers both minimum-wage protection and benefits. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is no Danny Meyer.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The US is forgetting the lessons of World War II. The same fear-based rhetoric that was used to intern Japanese Americans 75 years ago is now being used to justify far-reaching immigration orders.

Robots should pay taxes. The money would help slow down automation and fund other types of employment, Bill Gates argues.

Addressing racism in the arts is a risk worth taking. Privileged artists like Marc Jacobs and Adele help level the playing field by acknowledging the frequently sidelined.

Surprising discoveries

There’s a Swedish company with no one in charge. The staff at software firm Crisp makes decisions during four-day meetings held a few times a year.

It’s been over a century since a US president sported facial hair. Leaders of the free world have bristled at the idea since 1913.

Havana’s international book fair is a massive party. A nearly 100% literacy rate and a turnout of half a million people make the annual event anything but bookish.

Smokers in Indonesia are defending their right to light up. They insist that stricter tobacco regulation is part of a culture war waged by the West.

Researchers have discovered new microbial lifeforms trapped in crystals. The still-viable organisms from deep inside a Mexican cave are believed to be up to 50,000 years old.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, cave microbes, and presidential facial hair sightings to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day or download our apps for iPhone and Android.