Weekend edition—#Obamacare lives, #IBM’s remote work shift, insect detectives

Good morning, Quartz readers!

It is always easier to criticize something than it is to fix it.

US president Donald Trump’s signature campaign promise, the complete repeal and replacement of Obamacare, is now dead, at least for the foreseeable future, after it didn’t get enough votes in the US House of Representatives, despite a Republican majority.

Trump, like other populist leaders, promised to do away with“business-as-usual” politics. But as revisions of the health-care bill were kicked between Capitol Hill and the White House, it became clear that this was very much business as usual—a highly public display of the traditional arm-twisting and favor-granting that had led disgusted US voters to vote for Trump. In an attempt to get the needed votes, the White House took a bill already deeply unpopular with voters and heavily criticized by the medical profession and made it even more draconian, stripping away some of the most basic health-insurance guarantees.

Trump pledged before the US election that he would quickly craft “much better health care, at a much less expensive cost.” He alsopromised “decades of failure in Washington, and decades of special interest dealing, must come to an end.” Populists enjoy making such sweeping promises, and voters like them too, because they are easier to digest than the equivocations of mainstream politicians and the nitpicking of policy wonks. But they can also become yokes around a leader’s neck.

The Republicans’ mistake was to spend so many years demonizing Obamacare that repealing it became an end in itself, which had to be achieved at any cost. It turned out that “any cost” was not, in fact, a feasible price to pay.

“We were a ten-year opposition party, where being against things was easy to do,” a chastened Paul Ryan, the House speaker, admitted afterward. “Doing big things is hard.” Welcome to reality.—Heather Timmons and Gideon Lichfield

SPONSOR CONTENT BY THE GOVERNMENT OF JAPAN

Multinational corporations are investing in the world’s third largest economy. With a lower corporate tax rate and revamped visa requirements, Japan is increasingly a destination for those with a growth mindset looking to tap into global business opportunities.

SOME THINGS ON QUARTZ WE ESPECIALLY LIKED

IBM’s office head space. In 2009, 40% of IBM’s nearly 400,000 global employees worked from home. Now the remote-work pioneer has changed its mind about the value of in-person teamwork, asking some employees to move to cities where they can work side by side. Sarah Kessler examines IBM’s shift, part of a transformation effort amid 19 consecutive quarters of declining revenue.

The science behind the meatless burger. The Impossible Burger is 100% made from plants, but it tastes, smells, and bleeds like the real thing. The secret ingredient? Neuroscience. Hannah Yi visits the lab where flavor scientists are creating meat that’s indistinguishable from an actual beef patty—part of the hunt for a perfect meat alternative.

Don’t be relieved by the Dutch elections. While the global media heralded the election results as a repudiation of xenophobia, the “quarterfinals” of European politics actually proved just hownormalized populism has become in the Netherlands. As Christiaan Paauwee notes, in his country and elsewhere, the political mainstream has sold its soul. And that does not bode well for the rest of Europe.

Uber’s biggest selling point is under threat. The world’s most valuable startup often offers an unbeatable price in the nearly 600 cities where it operates. It partly achieved that by skirting local taxes, offering plenty of freebies, and paying drivers as little as possible. As Alison Griswold and Akshat Rathi report, these strategies have run their course: Regulators are forcing Uber to cough up avoided taxes, huge losses are bringing freebies to an end, and it can’t pay its already angry drivers any less.

China jumps into athletic wear. With 415 million millennials, a booming middle class, government investment in sports, and a rapidly growing consumer appetite for sportswear, China is starting to look increasingly attractive to athletic-wear companies. Marc Bain explores how sportswear companies are competing in this arena, as more and more Chinese look to sport for fun.

FIVE THINGS ELSEWHERE THAT MADE US SMARTER

One country, one system? Hong Kong is in a state of “permanent crisis,” and its people fear a head-on collision with the mainland’s masters in Beijing will cause irreparable damage to one of Asia’s freest and most cosmopolitan cities. Howard W. French describes for the Guardian Hong Kong’s increased political radicalization, fuelled by rising mainland wealth, an ascendent Chinese premier, and stalled social mobility.

When the first hundred days go wrong. A new president who misses the traditional honeymoon due to scandal, incompetence, and a lack of discipline will find that early mistakes haunt the rest of his presidency. But we’re talking about Bill Clinton, not Donald Trump, writes David Graham in the Atlantic—which means that despite everything, there is a blueprint for Trump to salvage his stumbling administration.

Corporatized inequality. Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom argues in Harvard Business Review the extent to which the gaps between companies have become drivers of income inequality in the US. This “firm inequality,” driven by outsourcing, an increasing reliance on technology, and a “winner take most” competition, has created a stark division between employees who are treated well and those who aren’t.

ISIL isn’t Iraq’s only nightmare. While the West has largely moved on, the fight against the extremist group in Iraq continues to rage with an extremely bloody and complicated intensity. Ramita Navai spent several weeks on the ground reporting on sectarian power dynamics and describes to Frontline her fear that the entire region is a tinder box, waiting to explode again.

Scientists as therapists. Entomologists are used to studying insects so they can help clients with pest control. But occasionally, people will come to their offices complaining of bites from insects that aren’t real—the product of a mental-health condition called Ekbom syndrome, or delusional parasitosis. For STAT, Eric Boodman explores how these scientists navigate the moral waters of helping clients find the treatment they need, not necessarily that they want.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, meatless burger recipes, and Chinese athleisure to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day, or download our apps for iPhone andAndroid.

Hong Kong “election,” premium #Twitter, private-jet paint

Good morning, Quartz readers!

WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY AND OVER THE WEEKEND

US lawmakers vote on health-care legislation, probably. A vote by the House of Representatives to repeal and replace Obamacare, slated for yesterday, was delayed because not enough Republicans backed the replacement bill pushed by Trump. The US presidentthen threatened that Obamacare would stay unless the vote was held today. House Speaker Paul Ryan said it would be.

Hong Kong selects a new leader. On Sunday, the 1,194 members of a Beijing-sanctioned “election committee” will choose the semi-autonomous territory’s new chief executive. Carrie Lam, until recently the city’s second-ranked official, is expected to win. Her strongest opponent, financial secretary John Tsang, is far more popular and supported by pro-democracy parties.

The EU’s bummer of a 60th birthday party… Leaders will meet on Saturday in Rome under the specter of Brexit. Disgruntled members Greece and Poland are threatening not to sign a declaration designed to promote unity and solidarity.

…And an anti-Brexit march in London. On Saturday thousands of demonstrators will march from Park Lane to Parliament Square in London, demanding that Britain remain in the European Union. They argue that Brexit is not inevitable and people have “the right to change their minds.”

SPONSOR CONTENT BY THE GOVERNMENT OF JAPAN

Germany and Japan are teaming up to create new tech standards. Before touring Germany’s largest technology trade fair, Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Abe signed the Hannover Declaration, which promises to establish common standards for IoT and artificial intelligence. The agreement will be an opportunity for both countries to play a key role in tech innovation moving forward.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING

A group of nations called on Venezuela to return to democracy. In an unprecedented show of unity, the US, Canada, and 12 Latin American countries collectively urged the government of president Nicolás Maduro to release political prisoners, hold elections, and take other measures to bring back “democratic normality.” Maduro has led a broad crackdown against political opposition.

Twitter said it might offer a subscription-based premium service. It’s surveying some users to gauge interest in such an offering, which would be aimed at business and power users. Twitter has struggled to grow its user base and faces a decline in advertising revenue, currently its only significant source of income.

US authorities said a Trump hotel in Washington doesn’t violate conflict-of-interest rules. The luxury hotel is housed in the historic Old Post Office near the White House, but elected officials may not take part in a lease of federal property. The agency said there was no violation because Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, now controls the company that runs the property.

More than 250 migrants were feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean. Two dinghies sank off Libya’s coast, according to Italy’s coast guard and a Spanish aid organization. With the route between Turkey and Greece effectively shut down, more migrants are trying to reach Europe from Libya via Italy.

QUARTZ OBSESSION INTERLUDE

Ilaria Maria Sala and Isabella Steger on the “election” in Hong Kong: “Campaigning has become part of Hong Kong’s political culture now, there is an expectation that you have to win the hearts and minds of the people,” said one pro-democracy lawmaker. “But in the end, it cannot sway anything. The system is rubbish, the winner is predetermined.” Read more here.

MARKETS HAIKU

The cracks are spreading
In the Trump trade’s foundation
Watch out for debris.

MATTERS OF DEBATE

Monogamy is based on flawed science. Bias has been getting in the way of important research.

The next generation of feminists will feel even more frustrated.Governments worldwide should get rid of dated legislation that keeps women out of particular occupations.

The gig economy glorifies workers’ helplessness. Companies like Uber and Lyft are touting inspiration stories of contractors whowork themselves to the bone.

QUARTZ ANNOUNCEMENT

Get inspired for the weekend with Quartzy. Each weekly edition of our lifestyle newsletter is comprised of intelligent, heartfelt reflections on the current cultural moment, expert but attainable guidance on the fashion and art scene, and interesting and actionable insider tips on events, products, and recipes.

SURPRISING DISCOVERIES

The $5 male fertility test is coming. Users inject a tiny sperm sample into a 3D-printed smartphone case.

The ultra-rich paint their jets in “Matterhorn White.” The understated tone “evokes a snowy morning,” at up to $350,000 per coat.

At least one Chinese shoe manufacturer is moving to the US.Fed up with skyrocketing wages, Dongguan Winwin is moving closer to its most lucrative customers (paywall).

Reality TV contestants emerged from a year’s seclusion to find their show canceled. The UK show Eden in the rugged Scottish Highlands was pulled from the airwaves months ago.

An eco-friendly brewery in San Diego made beer from purified sewage. Stone Brewing’s Full Circle pale ale uses the same water to which it will return.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, sewer beer, and $5 fertility tests to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day or download our apps for iPhone and Android.

CWS Market Review – March 24, 2017

CWS Market Review

March 24, 2017
“If you have trouble imagining a 20% loss in the stock market, you shouldn’t be in stocks.” – Jack Bogle

The streak finally came to an end. On Tuesday, the stock market did something it hadn’t done in the previous 109 trading days. It closed down by more than 1%.

This was the longest such hot streak in more than 20 years, and it was close to becoming the longest in over 50 years. If we look more closely, the recent streak was even more impressive, because there were only two days in which the S&P 500 fell more than 0.7%. Of course, we have to remember that not that long ago, a 1% drop was barely a scratch. In 2008, it happened 75 times.

As we know well, Wall Street has a notoriously poor memory.

So, is this the beginning of the end? Have the walls come crashing down? Eh…probably not. Bear in mind that the Trump Rally has endured four North Korean missile launches, two Fed rate hikes, and of course, President Trump himself. Through all that, it’s quietly powered ahead.

But this may be the end of the Trump Trade. It’s a little more complicated than has often been portrayed. I’ll explain what it all means. I’ll also cover some of the recent stories impacting our Buy List stocks. But first, let’s look at the fading Trump Trade.

The Death of the Trump Trade

While there’s been a lot of talk of the Trump Trade, properly speaking, there were two separate trades in recent months.

The first Trump Trade came immediately after the election. That’s when stocks soared. The stock rally was matched by a big downturn for bonds. Within a few days, the yield on the 10-year Treasury jumped from around 1.8% to close to 2.3%. That’s an unusually large move for such a short period of time. Combine that with the fact that the 10-year yield had been creeping higher since the summer, and you can see how dramatically the interest-rate outlook had changed.

Within the stock sectors, the small-caps saw the biggest gains. On November 3, the Thursday before the election, the Russell 2000 stood at 1,156.89. By November 25, the index had risen to 1,347.20. That’s a jump of more than 16% in just over three weeks. That’s a huge leap for an entire size category.

Among stock sectors, the big winners were industrials and financials. The move in the latter was astounding. On our Buy List, shares of Signature Bank (SBNY) soared 21% in four days. Prior to the election, Goldman Sachs warned of dire consequences if Trump were to be elected. That outcome, apparently, didn’t include a massive rally in shares of Goldman. Shares of GS gained more than 60% in the second half of 2016. (The bank’s former COO, Gary Cohn, is now President Trump’s top economic advisor.)

Here’s what was happening. This first stage of the Trump Rally was based on the idea of a markedly improving economy. Traders thought policies in Washington would shift towards fiscal stimulus. That’s why the cyclicals stocks led the way. The yield curve widened, and defensive areas like utilities and staples didn’t fare so well.

But by early December, that stage of the rally had petered out. By December 13, the S&P 500 had reached a near-term peak of 2,271.72. The stock market was pretty flat for a few weeks after that. By Inauguration Day, the S&P 500 closed at 2,271.31.

Stage Two of the Trump rally really got going in February. This second stage was led by large-cap tech stocks. Unlike stage one, this time the long end of the bond market was relatively stable. The yield on the 10-year bond peaked around mid-December and has mostly been in a trading range since (between 2.3 and 2.6%).

Instead, the interest-rate action has been at the short end. The second stage of the Trump Rally happened at the same time there was a perceived need for higher interest rates. This is when we saw yields at the short end of the yield curve touch levels they hadn’t seen in seven or eight years. This move in the market foreshadowed last week’s Fed rate hike. In fact, it also caused traders to think more hikes were on the way.

But now, that thesis is starting to show holes. For one, we can’t help noticing the price of oil. One month ago, West Texas Crude got as high as $54.45 per barrel. Everything was going right for OPEC. The production cuts were holding. Finally! But the latest numbers show that there’s still an oil glut. In fact, it’s a big one, and the oil markets are taking notice. At one point, the price of oil fell ten times in eleven days. This week, West Texas Crude came close to falling below $47 per barrel.

Goldman Sachs noted that OPEC’s production cut has had an unintentional side effect—it has spurred the biggest productions in history. It’s hard to say that the Fed needs to raise interest rates to combat inflation when the price of oil is dropping.

Both parts of the Trump Rally have seen rising share prices and low volatility. If I had to pinpoint a single day when the Trump Rally peaked, it would probably be the day after President Trump’s congressional address. Traders loved the speech. The Dow shot up 300 points the following day.

Since then, however, the market has had a tough time getting its footing, and some cracks are starting to show. For example, 217 stocks in the S&P 500 are currently below their 50-day moving average. The overall index is just 0.72% above its 50-DMA. There are now 171 stocks in the index that are more than 10% below their 52-week high, which is the traditional definition of a market correction. In other words, more than one-third of the index is effectively in a correction already.

On Tuesday, the S&P 500 lost 1.24%. Ryan Detrick notes that the average worst day of the year is three times worse than Tuesday’s loss, which is our current worst day of the year. It wasn’t bad, but it was different from the trend, and that’s what catches our attention. The Nasdaq Composite, actually, hit a new all-time high on Tuesday, which shows the impact of large-cap tech.

So stage one of the Trump Rally (November and December) was about a resurgent economy. Stage two (February) was about taking on more risk due to higher rates.

What to do now: I’m still holding on to my view that stocks are due for a modest pullback. It may have already started, since the S&P 500 has now gone three weeks without making a new high. But let me caution you not to worry. I’m not expecting a major decline.

Make sure that you’re well diversified and look for decent dividends. Microsoft (MSFT), for example, currently yields 2.4%. Cinemark (CNK) yields close to 2.7%. I think there’s a very good chance that we’ll be looking at a lot of bargains in the spring. Now let’s look at some news affecting our Buy List stocks.

Buy List Updates

Sherwin-Williams (SHW) said the acquisition of Valspar will take longer than expected. It doesn’t seem to be a major problem. They have to work through some divestitures. Originally, Sherwin thought the deal would close by April. Now they’re thinking it will be June. Going into the deal, SHW knew they were going to have to sell off some units to appease regulators. They just didn’t know what. Don’t let this news worry you. Sherwin-Williams is doing fine.

HEICO (HEI) announced a 5-for-4 stock split. This means investors will get an extra share for every four they currently own. The share price will be expected to fall about 20%. The semi-annual dividend will stay at nine cents per share, so that’s effectively a 25% increase.

I’m never sure why companies like to do small splits like this. If I had my way, only 2-for-1 splits or higher would be allowed, and the share price needs to be over $100. This will be HEICO’s 15th stock split since 1995. The split is payable on April 18 to shareholders of record as of April 7. Cash will be paid in lieu of fractional shares. If you had invested $100,000 in HEICO in 1990, today it would be worth $18.7 million.

That’s all for now. Next week is the final week of the first quarter. On Thursday, the government will update the Q4 GDP report for a second time. Before that, on Tuesday, we’ll get the report on consumer confidence for March. Then on Friday, we’ll get the reports on personal income and spending for February. Be sure to keep checking the blog for daily updates. I’ll have more market analysis for you in the next issue of CWS Market Review!

– Eddy

Image
Named by CNN/Money as the best buy-and-hold blogger, Eddy Elfenbein is the editor of Crossing Wall Street. His free Buy List has beaten the S&P 500 eight times in the last ten years. This email was sent by Eddy Elfenbein through Crossing Wall Street.
2223 Ontario Road NW, Washington, DC 20009, USA

#Japan scandal, advertisers leaving #YouTube, freeze-dried tardigrades

Good morning, Quartz readers!

WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY

A tense China-South Korea football match. Authorities are stepping up security for the World Cup qualifier in Changsha, China, providing police escorts for visiting South Korean fans. The two countries are in a heated standoff over the deployment of a US antimissile system in South Korea.

Brazil launches its first defense and communications satellite.It will beam broadband internet to remote parts of the country, while giving military and government personnel secure communications. Embraer subsidiary Visiona is behind the project, which will launch Thursday night from French Guiana.

Congress votes on Donald Trump’s health-care bill. Democrats and a range of Republicans have all come out against the pivotal legislation, which is designed to replace Obamacare. With 26 GOP representatives publicly refusing to vote “yes,” the bill seems unlikely to pass.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING

CNN dropped a bombshell. The network said it’s been told by unnamed US officials that the FBI has evidence that Trump associates “communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.” It warned the information is not conclusive.

Trump’s oldest son criticized London’s mayor hours after a terror attack. On Twitter he referenced an out-of-context quote(paywall) by Sadiq Khan, the city’s first Muslim mayor, from September. Yesterday (March 22) a terrorist killed four people and injured dozens in Westminster, London, before being shot and killed by security forces.

Major companies like Verizon and GSK pulled ads from YouTube. The fifth-largest US advertiser and world’s sixth-largest pharmaceutical company are among hundreds of brands protesting their ads appearing alongside extremist content.

A political scandal deepened in Japan. A school principal testified that Akie Abe, the prime minister’s wife, handed him an envelope with 1 million yen ($9,000) when she visited a kindergarten run by nationalist group Moritomo Gakuen. Parliament has been questioninghow the group, which has students bow to portraits of the emperor, was able to buy publicly owned land for a fraction of its market value.

QUARTZ OBSESSION INTERLUDE

Dave Gershgorn on the crime-fighting software that scours itself for bias. “Predictive policing is being adopted across the country—despite being riddled with issues. These algorithms have been shown to disproportionately target minorities, and private companies won’t reveal how their software reached those conclusions.” Read more here.

MARKETS HAIKU

Months without drama
on Wall Street. Then came a plunge.
It’s steady once more

MATTERS OF DEBATE

Don’t start your own business—manage someone else’s.Business managers rank higher than founders on happiness and job satisfaction.

Young geeks will save us from political attacks on science. A leading astronomer notes that being a nerd is now a compliment.

Donald Trump has a credibility problem. When his “Black Hawk Down” moment inevitably arrives, Americans won’t believe a word he says.

SURPRISING DISCOVERIES

Scientists figured out why tardigrades are indestructible. The microscopic creatures freeze-dry themselves in hostile conditions.

A pizza investment beat Silicon Valley. Since 2010, Domino’s shares have outperformed those of Apple, Facebook, Google, and Amazon.

Some nearby planets may be swapping life. Microbes may bejoyriding on meteorites between the seven worlds of the TRAPPIST-1 solar system.

The NBA is addicted to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.Teams can’t live without the seductive combination of sugar, salt, protein, carbs—and superstition.

An Irish betting site has hired a manager for unlikely Trump bets. Will the president make it to Mount Rushmore or announce the existence of aliens? Paddy Power will quote you odds.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, joyriding microbes, and PB&J sandwiches to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day or download our apps for iPhone and Android.

#Japan’s surging exports, #Trump boom fizzles, weaponized GIFs

Good morning, Quartz readers!

WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY

China’s premier goes Down Under. Li Keqiang’s first official trip to the country, lasting about a week, comes as China takes a bigger role in promoting free trade. Australia is trying to maintain its alliance with the US while also courting China, its top trading partner.

Rex Tillerson hosts a global coalition on ISIL. The US secretary of state will host counterparts from 68 countries in Washington to discuss the Islamist extremist group. For NATO foreign ministers, it could be their last chance to talk to Tillerson for a while—he’sskipping a big meeting of the alliance next month, unless theyreschedule it for him (paywall).

An update on existing-home sales in the US. In January they increased at the fastest pace in nearly a decade, according to the National Association of Realtors. Numbers for last month areexpected to show a slight slowdown, but inventories are still tight.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING

Japanese exports leapt the most in two years. Last month they were up 11.3% from a year earlier, rising for the third month in a row. Leading the way were exports to China—Japan’s largest trading partner—which jumped 28.2% year-on-year. That helped Japan record its first trade surplus with China in five years.

US stocks fell on Trump fears. Investors think the US president will have difficulty delivering the tax cuts he promised, sending major indices down by more than 1% on Wall Street’s worst day since Nov. 8. Trump’s tax cuts are predicated on Congress passing a health-care reform bill, the prospects of which are looking iffy (paywall).

Airbnb changed its name in China and doubled its investment there. Where Uber failed, the home-sharing giant aims to succeed. The new name is Aibiying, which means “welcome each other with love.” The company’s China unit is also tripling its workforce to better compete against domestic rivals, chief among them market leader Tujia.

A North Korea missile launch failed. The US military detected a missile that appeared to explode seconds after taking off, with South Korea confirming. Experts believe the rogue nation is trying to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile that could strike the US. It was unclear what kind of missile misfired.

QUARTZ OBSESSION INTERLUDE

Oliver Staley on how the scandal rocking Thinx shows why HR departments exist: “Agrawal encouraged a rambunctious, sexually explicit work environment where boundaries were not only crossed, but obliterated… So where was HR in all of this? Oh yeah: Thinx hadn’t bothered hiring an HR director.” Read more here.

MARKETS HAIKU

Tax cuts always just
around the bend. Investors
won’t wait forever.

MATTERS OF DEBATE

The US should stop building airports. Upgrading existing infrastructure would create more growth opportunities.

Losing weight won’t make you happy. Eating a balanced diet, however, reduces the risk of depression.

It’s time for remote workers to return to the office. Distributed workforce pioneer IBM is demanding that employees return to the mothership.

QUARTZ ANNOUNCEMENT

We’re working on some new projects that we’re really excited about, and we want you to be the first to know about them. Sign up for our product updates email and we’ll send you an announcement whenever we have a new special series, product, or event. And don’t worry—we’ll never spam you or share your information with others.

SURPRISING DISCOVERIES

Spain had an outbreak of cannibalism 10,000 years ago. New evidence suggests that hunter-gatherers relied on a convenient source of protein.

Bots are learning to speak their own language. There’s no way to translate it into something humans can understand.

Jane Austen faked her own marriage—twice. The author, who wrote about socially advantageous pairings, registered two phony announcements at her father’s parish.

GIFs can be a deadly weapon. A man is facing a 10-year prison sentence for allegedly sending a strobing image to a journalist with epilepsy.

A mistranslated word led to fake news in the New York Times.An Italian astronomer’s 19th-century report of “canali” on Mars was misread as “canals.”

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Spanish cannibals, and fake marriage announcements tohi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day or download our apps for iPhone and Android.

French presidential debates, #Gates meets #Trump, fake-news warnings

Good morning, Quartz readers!

WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY

France’s presidential hopefuls face off in their first televised debate. The five leading candidates will duke it out over topics such as immigration, security, and economic recovery. Currently leading the polls is Emmanuel Macron, a centrist, closely followed by far-right conservative Marine Le Pen. The debate is expected to be a chance for conservative Francois Fillon, who has been embroiled in fraud accusations, to reinsert himself into the race.

The director of the FBI testifies about investigations into Russia. In a public hearing James Comey will take questions from lawmakers. Many are wondering about the ties between the Trump administration and Moscow, and whether there was collusion between the two in swinging the US presidential election in Trump’s favor, with assistance from Russian hackers.

The euro zone’s finance ministers gather in Brussels. The Eurogroup will address ongoing strife in Greece and the International Monetary Fund’s bailout program. Meanwhile the future role of its president, Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, is looking unclear. His Labour party was decimated in recent elections and may not be part of Holland’s new coalition government.

Bill Gates meets with Donald Trump. The face-to-face comes after the Gates Foundation said it is “deeply troubled” by the US president’s 2018 budget proposal. An agenda hasn’t been released, but a statement from the Gates Foundation said it has “a long history of working with officials” on issues like domestic education and global health and development. Gates and Trump also met in December to discuss innovation.

OVER THE WEEKEND

The US turned its back on free trade at the G20. International financial leaders hoped that US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin would present a tempered version of Donald Trump’s aggressive trade policy at their meeting in Baden-Baden, Germany. But for the first time in years, the G20 did not declare its opposition to protectionism.

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson rounded out his Asia tour by meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping. The highest-level meetings to date between the Trump administration and Chinese leaders were notable for their surprisingly friendly tone. Before the meeting, Trump had called out China on Twitter for doing “little” to help the US deal with North Korea.

Donald Trump pointedly ignored Angela Merkel’s offer for a handshake at a photoshoot. The German chancellor’s handshake diss added to the strangeness of the meeting between the two leaders after Trump suggested that they shared the common experience of having been wiretapped by Barack Obama. Germans, for their part, say the meeting “could have been a lot worse.”

North Korea says its military tested a new “high-performance rocket engine.” If the new technology works, it will be a boon to the country’s efforts to make accurate intercontinental ballistic missiles. The test comes as tensions over North Korea and the THAAD missile-defense system are seriously straining relations between South Korea and China.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told Turks living in Europe to battle injustice—by having as many children as possible. “Make not three, but five children,” Erdoğan said. “Because you are the future of Europe. That will be the best response to the injustices against you.” His comments come as nationalist politicians in Europe are gaining popularity by stirring up anti-Turkish sentiment.

QUARTZ OBSESSION INTERLUDE

Yinka Adegoke on Nollywood, Nigeria’s burgeoning film empire. “Nigeria’s movie industry has become the country’s second largest employer and shows huge potential as an export product to the rest of the world. This is especially important for a Nigerian government which is keenly aware of the need to diversify from its over-reliance on oil for 90% of its export revenue.” Read more here.

MATTERS OF DEBATE

You can’t be socially progressive and economically conservative. The hard truth is that for society to progress, it has tospend money.

Automation increases poverty and inequality, not unemployment. That explains why productivity and employment are growing while wages remain stagnant.

The US’s missile-defense system in South Korea is actually a gift to Kim Jong-un. By creating a major point of contention between Beijing and Washington, THAAD strengthens North Korea’s hand.

QUARTZ ANNOUNCEMENT

We now offer a Flash Briefing for the Amazon Echo. Click here to add the Quartz skill, or search for it in the Alexa app. Then try asking, “Alexa, what’s the news?” for the latest from Quartz and other sources.

SURPRISING DISCOVERIES

Orlando, Florida wants to turn itself into a theme park for self-driving cars. Boy bands, palm trees, and… autonomous vehicles?

Facebook rolled out fake-news warnings. The pop-ups force you to acknowledge you are posting an article that has been debunked by independent fact-checkers.

Plants may be millions of years older than we thought. A new fossil discovery in central India is pushing back the timeline for theearliest-known plant life.

YouPorn’s viewers tanked during the Nintendo Switch launch.The website experienced a 17% drop in traffic; users may have been keeping themselves busy with the critically acclaimed new Zelda game.

It took the inventor of the Rubik’s Cube a month to solve his own puzzle. That’s still much faster than it would take the rest of us.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, plant fossils, and completed Rubik’s Cubes tohi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day or download our apps for iPhone and Android.

Weekend edition—Britain’s disarray, Indian weddings, Foucault on power

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

Imagine a world leader in disarray. Caught off-guard by the demands of governing, making up policy on the fly, trying to contain disputes within the governing party, and facing an onslaught of outside criticism.

It sounds like US president Donald Trump, but it’s just as true of the English-speaking administration across the Atlantic. The British prime minister, Theresa May, campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU. Now she’s in charge of taking it out, while strenuously insisting that a “global Britain” is better off severed from its largest trading partner.

Just beginning Brexit has wreaked havoc. May has shuttled back and forth through courts and parliament to try to wrest control of the Brexit process and subsequent negotiations. She’s been forced to share some power with MPs but won’t stand for party dissent; last week she fired Michael Heseltine, a government adviser and former deputy prime minister, for rebelling.

Meanwhile there’s trouble in the regions. May has just denied Scotland a second independence referendum. How she’ll convince the Scots that splitting from their largest trading partner (England) is a disastrous mistake while cheering the benefits of the UK splitting from the EU is unclear.

Then there is the matter of governing everything else about the UK. Last week’s budget contained just one notable item, a tax increase on the self-employed. That seemed like a smart effort to prepare the UK for the future. But resistance within May’s Conservative party killed the plan within a week. “A screeching, embarrassing U-turn,” as one politician called it.

All of these fumblings would be of parochial interest were Brexit not such an era-defining challenge. The UK needs skill and steel to succeed. Don’t be fooled by their Oxford educations and posh accents—Britain’s leaders are flailing just as alarmingly as their US counterparts.—Eshe Nelson

SPONSOR CONTENT BY THE GOVERNMENT OF JAPAN

Multinational corporations are investing in the world’s third largest economy. With a lower corporate tax rate and revamped visa requirements, Japan is increasingly a destination for those with a growth mindset looking to tap into global business opportunities.

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Indians are no longer obsessed with big fat weddings. Only about a quarter of Indian women, and even fewer Indian men, want to spend big bucks on a grand, expensive wedding. And as women get older, they become increasingly frugal. Devjyot Ghoshal charts the way that men and women of different ages feel about their D-day, and their honeymoons.

Steve Bannon the filmmaker. His movies say a lot about what’s on his mind, and how he plans to use the power of the US presidency. In a video looking at extracts of three of the films, Adam Freelander looks past the familiar conservative themes—such as the evils of big government—and finds that what emerges is a unique vision of America’s future.

Park Geun-hye’s legacy is a more authoritarian state. Under Park Korea’s democracy has grown weaker, political rights have deteriorated, freedom of expression has taken a hit, and police powers have expanded. Isabella Steger examines the impact of Park’s presidency and what it means for Korea’s future.

Brexit has reawakened Britain’s dormant imperialism. To understand the rhetoric of British exceptionalism that has surfaced in the past year, Henry Wismayer looks to “the emotional residue of lost empire and the peculiarly English neurosis about national pride.” With uncertainty about Britain’s economic future, the jingoism that once fed Britain’s colonial assertiveness has become “a mad refuge from Brexit’s cold truths.”

The simple design solutions that can make bathrooms better.As transgender people in America grapple with “bathroom bill” debates, Lisa Selin Davis explores the easy ways to make restrooms more functional for people of all genders. One way to create a practical, trans-friendly restroom, for instance, is to divide each stall into a separate gender-neutral chamber.

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FIVE THINGS ELSEWHERE THAT MADE US SMARTER

On the place of gambling in capitalism. Insurance is a form of gambling—a bet on the probability of an outcome. Yet while the former is vital to the world economy, the latter is often frowned on and sometimes banned. John Kay in Prospect explains this paradox with a history of both gambling and insurance, culminating in the financial crash of 2008—a point when bankers forgot, or ignored, the basic distinction between the two.

Why facts have no traction. The tobacco industry pioneered the systematic sowing of doubt in the face of overwhelming evidence that tobacco was deadly. Contemporary politicians have adopted its methods to terrifying effect. “Undercover Economist” Tim Harford offers a brilliantly—and depressingly—clear summary of the research into why simple truth isn’t enough to sway minds, but ends with a grain of hope.

“It will be all about her, and it will really be about us.” Sam Knight in the Guardian offers a walkthrough of “London Bridge,” the secretive and painstakingly elaborate plans for the death of Queen Elizabeth II. It’s an engrossing read that follows the physical journey the Queen’s body will travel with the psychological trip that the whole of Britain will endure, as the last living link with its imperial past is laid to rest.

Foucault’s urgent teachings on modern power. In the 20th century, Michel Foucault described to the world the subtle machinations of modern power: in the form of surveillance, “disciplinary power”, and bio-politics. Yet his lessons are more relevant than ever in our age of artificial intelligence, globe-spanning social networks, and algorithmic assessments, argues Colin Koopman for Aeon.

The man who made Trump president? Two weeks ago we featured the Guardian’s profile of Robert Mercer, the reclusive Long Island hedge fund manager and pioneer of algorithmic trading. Jane Mayer’s profile in the New Yorker is a more in-depth a look at one of the pivotal people of the Trump era, who funneled millions towards anti-Hillary Clinton publications and bankrolled Breitbart and Stephen Bannon personally.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, royal funeral plans, and bathroom designs to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day, or download our apps for iPhone and Android.