Quartz Weekend Brief—#Modi’s first year, #Iraq’s Shias, #Texas bikers, pollinator plans

Good morning, Quartz readers!

“India has won,” Narendra Modi tweeted after becoming prime minister by a landslide last May. “The good days are coming.” A year later, India isn’t quite convinced.

Modi has had his successes. After a decade of the scandal-ridden Congress Party’s rule, he has, so far, delivered a corruption-free administration. Aided by a sharp drop in oil prices, he’s been able to rein in India’s once intractable inflation. He’s brought some order to the country’s critical coal sector and speedily auctioned dozens of coal mines. Interest rates have come down, the Indian rupee has stabilized, and a massive financial inclusion programme has been launched. Abroad, Modi has transformed himself into India’s salesman-in-chief, traveling widely, winning promises of massive investments, holding big public receptions—and even finding time to click selfies with staid Communist leaders.

Some question whether this will lead to actual gains—monetary or strategic—for a country fenced in by unstable neighbours. But Modi’s bigger challenge lies at home. GDP growth estimates may have jumped to 8% for 2016, but that’s thanks to statistical wizardry that someexperts consider a “bad joke.” The all-important infrastructure sector is still stuck in a rut; manufacturing and services are still showing signs of weakness; and the stock markets, which rallied after Modi’s arrival, are falling. India Inc. wants more reforms, and it wants them now.

More importantly, India’s rural economy—with its 800 million people—is hurting. Unseasonal rains have damaged crops, rural wage growth has slowed, and demand from households in the hinterland, already reeling after a sustained period of high inflation, is plummeting. And a lackluster monsoon is likely, which could spell more trouble for the 65% of Indian farmers who depend on the rains.

Modi, though, seems unperturbed. He has a five-year-plan, he told Time magazine earlier this month, and everything is going according to it. Let’s see what he says this time next year.—Devjyot Ghoshal


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Five things on Quartz we especially liked

The growing danger of Iraq’s Shi’ite militias. They were supposed to help a weak Iraqi army beat back the Islamic State (ISIL), then melt away. That’s not going to happen, says Peter Schwartzstein, who visited Baghdad and Basra not long before ISIL recaptured Ramadi last weekend—a setback that will make Iraq even more dependent on the militias and their caprices.

Xi and Modi have failed the global leader test. This week Malaysia and Indonesia belatedly gave refuge to thousands of starving Rohingya boat people. On Quartz India, Heather Timmons argues that China and India, which were quick to help Nepal after its earthquake, should be doing a lot more for the Rohingya, given their clout with Myanmar and their aspirations as global powers.

Americans should be talking about quality of death. Cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other diseases are creating an ever-growing demand for death with dignity, yet that’s still a discussion most of the US is unwilling to have. Lauren Brown highlights some recent accounts that contrast the terrible fact of dying with “the act of death, small and prosaic.”

Barack Obama’s plans for pollinators. Jenni Avins explains the White House’s proposed tactic of using a highway, I-35, as a corridor tohelp endangered Monarch butterflies migrate between the US and Mexico, while Gwynn Guilford analyzes the new strategy to save collapsing bee colonies, and points out its shortcomings.

Video: Watch a viral Muslim cartoonist at work. Jacob Templin produced this interview with Khalid Albaih, a Sudanese cartoonist whose reaction to the Charlie Hebdo massacre went viral. He says the drawing, which depicted the quandary of ordinary Muslims caught between Islamist extremists and anti-Muslim bigots, got a lot of praise from non-Muslims. “We seem to be learning from our mistakes,” he says.

Five things elsewhere that made us smarter

The crazed biker gangs of Texas. The New York Times’s in-depth look at last weekend’s deadly gang shootout in Waco, Texas is full of surprising details (paywall)—for instance, police arrested so many people they had to hold them at the Waco Convention Center. And Texas Monthly republished a 2007 profile of the Bandidos gang, from its bloody history to its members’ surprisingly intimate form of greeting.

Is Iraq headed toward partition? Nick Pelham visits Baghdad for the New York Review of Books and depicts a country that feels increasingly like two. As ISIL consolidates its reign of terror in Sunni areas, the Shia-dominated south is beginning to lose hope of getting them back, but is also undergoing a kind of cultural revival, and perhaps starting towonder why it needs the rest of Iraq at all.

A cultural history of post-traumatic stress disorder. “Trigger warnings” on books or films that might upset people who’ve suffered trauma are a big thing in the US, and sometimes derided as a new kind of political correctness. Jeet Heer at the New Republic argues for seeing them as part of the way Americans forge political identity these days around wars, terrorist attacks, criminal violence, and abuse scandals.

Does the world need a doomsday seed bank? The Svalbard global seed vault on a remote archipelago in the Arctic ocean is entrusted with the safekeeping of half the world’s plant species. If disaster strikes and there’s widespread crop failure, the theory goes, Svalbard’s seeds would enable us to start anew. But, as the Guardian’s Suzanne Goldenberg writes, more and more experts believe it’s all a monumental waste, and they’re fighting a rearguard action to keep more varieties growing in the field.

The stain of slavery in Africa. “Black Americans do not feel shame about slavery… Slavery is our history, but it is not who we are. In Senegal, the stigma of being a descendant of a slave still holds strong.” Pam Weintraub writes for Aeon about her journey through Senegal to probe the tensions of a caste system that still persists more than a century after slavery there ended.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, bee colonies, and intimate forms of greeting tohi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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When Mediocre is Good Enough

Stocks pressed higher in the face of poor economic reports the past month. So it should be no surprise that the mediocre data on Thursday would give investors the green light to race up to yet another new high.

Both PMI Mfg and Philly Fed came in with readings that show growth…but each was a notch or two below expectations. Jobless Claims was the bright spot as the 4 week average came down to 266K. That bodes well for another month of solid job adds and lower unemployment rate.

Also in the plus column were 10 year Treasury rates falling to 2.19 from a recent high of 2.31. The idea of the Fed staying on the sidelines for even longer certainly helped. Let’s hope this trend continues as lower rates makes stocks more attractive.

This market is grinding higher. It’s so slow that it seems imperceptible to some. But indeed it is happening. So don’t have too much money on the sidelines because when the data goes from mediocre to good, then it will really take off.


aka Steve Reitmeister

Executive Vice President, Zacks Investment Research

Quartz Daily Brief—New Time Warner bids, #HP beats expectations, #Iraq’s #Shia militias, incorrect emoji

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Ireland votes on gay marriage. The majority-Catholic country holds a referendum on whether to change the constitution to allow people to marry “without distinction as to their sex.” Recent polls show that around70% of voters support gay marriage.

Janet Yellen speaks in Rhode Island. Markets are anxiously awaitingany hints the Federal Reserve chair might drop about the timing of the central bank’s next rate hike. Minutes released from the Fed’s April meeting suggest that an increase won’t come before July (paywall).

Inflation data. Incoming from Mexico and Brazil.

Who’s up, who’s down: Footlocker and Campbell Soup both report quarterly results.

While you were sleeping

Charter upped its bid for Time Warner Cable. The cable and internet company is in talks over a bid worth far more than the $170 per share previously expected by analysts, according to the Wall Street Journal. Charter Communications offered $132.5 per share last year; France’s Altice is also currently in talks with Time Warner Cable.

Hewlett Packard beat expectations. The 75-year-old computer company reported fiscal second quarter net profit of $1 billion, down from $1.3 billion a year earlier but better than expected on an adjusted basis. HP forecast lower-than-expected earnings for its third quarter as it splits itself into two businesses and struggles with falling revenue.

The Bank of Japan declined to expand its stimulus. The central bank bet that organic growth, coupled with its existing stimulus measures, will be sufficient to push inflation levels higher. First-quarter GDP grew at a better-than-expected annualized 2.4%.

New Zealand’s consumer confidence dipped. The survey from ANZ, a bank, indicated a slight fall to 123.9 in May, from 128.8 in April, but that’s still well above the 100 mark that signifies general optimism. ANZ itself remained optimistic; it expected 3% GDP growth this year, and healthy job creation.

Moody’s cut Puerto Rico’s credit rating. The ratings agency cut its assessment of the US territory’s bonds and other items further into junk, claiming it is unlikely to be able to access cash before a crucial June 30 deadline. The cut comes despite the Puerto Rico government issuing anew, austere budget (paywall).

Quartz obsession interlude

Peter Schwartzstein on how Iraq is losing control of its Shia militias. “The Iraqi government narrative suggested they would disperse when the Sunni jihadists were finally defeated. But the militias’ role in the fighting has emboldened them. And few are now betting against the militias’ longevity—especially after the key city of Ramadi fell back into ISIL hands a few days ago.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Donating to Nepal is good for business. You’ll want to be among those who helped save the country’s economy.

ISIL taking Palmyra could be a propaganda win for Syria. If militants destroy the city’s ancient artifacts, president Assad will begin to look like a lesser evil.

Schizophrenia is often misunderstood. Treat it right and it’s nothing to fear.

Silicon Valley is turning into Hollywood. It’s now a dream factory where investors throw around money to create a brave new world.

Trigger warnings are not just a tool of political correctness. They are related to how we process traumatic stress.

Surprising discoveries

Many hit lyrics are at a third-grade reading level. Beyonce’s scoreparticularly low on “song intelligence.”

We were using emoji all wrong. That teary face is actually supposed to be sleepy.

An adorable, origami-inspired drone. It fits in your pocket and could be a lifesaver.

The Large Hadron Collider just smashed an energy record. Some13 trillion electronvolts.

Don’t litter in Hong Kong. The DNA you leave with it will be used topublicly shame you.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, emoji guidelines, and folding drones to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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Quartz Daily Brief—#Banks’ forex fines, #ISIL’s ancient conquest, seal ban blunders, #London’s duck lanes

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

The Eastern Partnership Summit convenes in Riga. European Union leaders will meet in the Latvian capital with their counterparts from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine, where they will discuss energy and regional security. Moscow’s presence will loom heavily over the initiative, designed to bring the region into Europe’s orbit.

Greece’s prime minister tries to pressure the EU. Alexis Tsipras is expected to hold talks with his European counterparts on the sidelines of the Riga summit, pressing them to resolve the deadlock in talks on his country’s debt. Greece has said it will not be able to make a loan payment that is coming due on June 6.

The SpaceX Dragon capsule returns to Earth. The spacecraft delivered two tons (1.8 tonnes) of supplies to the International Space Station and will be bringing back some research samples when it splashes down in the Pacific Ocean.

Hewlett-Packard announces its earnings. The computer hardware and software company’s profit is expected to slip, as it struggles to find its way in an industry that is shifting to mobile and the cloud. CEO Meg Whitman plans to split Hewlett-Packard into two companies—one that sells larger technologies such as servers, and the other for printers and personal computers.

Who else will open their books? Best Buy, Gap, Aeropostale, Dollar Tree, Lenovo, and National Grid.

While you were sleeping

Five global banks are fined $5.6 billion for manipulating the forex market. After a US investigation, JP Morgan Chase, Barclays, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and Citigroup will plead guilty to criminal charges and pay hefty fines for colluding to manipulate foreign currency rates. UBS received immunity in the antitrust case, but will pay US regulators $545 million to settle other charges, while Bank of America will pay a fine but will not plead guilty.

CVS neared an Omnicare takeover. The drugstore chain is close to buying out the top provider of pharmaceutical services for the elderly for more than $12 billion, according to Reuters. Another big prescription drug company, Express Scripts, also showed interest in the company last month.

California declared a state of emergency for its oil spill. The Santa Barbara coastline was swamped with TK gallons of crude after Tuesday’s rupture of a pipeline owned by Houston-based Plains All American. Cleanup crews are on the scene.

China’s manufacturing is sluggish, but business confidence perked up. The HSBC/Markit preliminary purchasing managers’ index for May was 49.1, below the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction. The MNI China Business Indicator rose to 49.7 in May(paywall), from 48.8 in April, in a sign that stimulus measures are beginning to take effect.

Japan’s manufacturing rebounded. The Markit/JMMA preliminary purchasing managers’ index was 50.9 in May, indicating an expansion in activity for the first time in two months. New domestic and export orders both rose above the 50 threshold as well, which is good news after low business investment held back Japan’s first-quarter GDP.

ISIL took over the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. The militant group claimed near-complete control of the strategic city after government troops withdrew. There are concerns over the city’s ruins, which have been designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

A major player in bank regulation is stepping down. Benjamin Lawsky will leave New York’s Department of Financial Services in June after four years as its superintendent. Lawsky redefined the reach of a state regulator, aggressively going after big global banks like Barclays.


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Quartz obsession interlude

Jake Flanigan on the detrimental effects of Europe’s ban on seal hunting. “Exports of seal pelts have dropped 90% in the years since the ban was implemented. The impact on Greenland’s coastal economy has been disastrous. Though the ban included an exemption for indigenous peoples in order to protect distinctive cultures and traditions, “the market seems to be negatively affected by the EU initiative,” a 2012 report compiled by the European Bureau for Conservation and Development (EBCD) states.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The singularity is not that near. Computers are getting smarter, but that’s very different from being conscious.

More than 62 laborers will die for each game played during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Where will FIFA draw the line?

Russia’s outlaw bikers are tools of the state. The Night Wolves are emblems of Vladimir Putin’s macho brand of politics.

The American cable industry is about to get a taste of some progressive French business models. And that’s a good thing.

Stop gorging on chicken. The birds are raised with intolerable cruelty, in horrific conditions.

Surprising discoveries

Google launched a satellite just for DJ Skrillex. It was named after the dubstep star’s dog.

A US man shot a rare black rhino in Namibia. He paid $350,000 for the pleasure, which he says will help the species survive.

There’s life in the driest place on Earth. The discovery has implications that are truly out of this world.

A man cross-stitched his own bank card. He was frustrated waiting for a replacement from the bank.

London’s canal paths have special duck lanes. It’s a lesson in courtesy for humans and animals alike.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, animal crossings, and dubstep satellites to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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Finally Something Positive – 20/05/2015

I have been very vocal about the weak fundamentals of late. But to say they are all negative would be inaccurate. Tuesday served up a prime example with a surprisingly strong Housing Starts report.

Certainly things had already improved for housing from the darkest days of the Great Recession. Yet they were a far cry from a boom that could really add to GDP growth. This most recent report gave a glimmer of hope that it could finally be taking off. If this trend accelerates then it certainly adds to the US growth story and a benefit for the stock market.

This news helped me get a bit aggressive today after a few weeks hunkering down at 35-40% long. Now I am up to 65% long in the Reitmeister Trading Alert.

I am not 100% long because manufacturing data is still suspect. Plus the recent rise of Treasury rates and strength of the dollar are still troublesome. As those problems subside then I will get more aggressive. However, if those problems grow worse, then I will have to climb back into my defensive shell.


aka Steve Reitmeister

Executive Vice President, Zacks Investment Research

Websim Focus sui Mercati finanziari 20/05/2015 – WS

Wall Street ha perso spinta nel finale chiudendo con variazioni modestissime. Dow Jones +0,1% a 18.319 punti, nuovo massimo storico. S&P500 -0,06%, Nasdaq -0,17%.

I segnali di un’ulteriore accelerazione dell’attività edilizia hanno spinto al rialzo il rendimento del Treasury decennale di 4 punti base al 2,26%.

Asia. Stamattina il Nikkei (+1%) chiude sui massimi degli ultimi 15 anni. Sopra le attese il Pil del Giappone nel primo trimestre, la crescita è stata del 2,5%, un punto percentuale in più rispetto alle aspettative del consensus, si tratta dell’incremento più forte degli ultimi 4 trimestri.

Le Borse della Cina sono contrastate, Hong Kong -0,2%, CSI 300 +1,2%. Mumbai +0,7%, Seul +0,8%.

I future sulle borse europee anticipano un avvio piatto.

Grecia. Un portavoce del Parlamento di Atene ha detto che il governo non rimborserà il prestito del FMI in scadenza il 5 giugno se non verrà raggiunto un accordo con i creditori.
Dichiarazione che non lascia intendere chiaramente la verità: non è che la Grecia “non vuole” rimborsare, ma che “non può” rimborsare il prestito perché non avrà più soldi in cassa.

Analisi tecnica borse. Grazie alle dichiarazioni della BCE sull’intenzione di accelerare il QE, ieri c’è stata una potente accelerazione delle borse europee che ha visto anche Piazza Affari tra i protagonisti. Per ora non sono state violate resistenze importanti in grado di proiettare ulteriori accelerazioni, ma l’ottimismo permane. Ottima tenuta anche per Giappone, Cina e Wall Street. Quadro di fondo tonico.

FtseMib (23.713, +2,2%). In un paio di giorni ha messo a segno un balzo che sfiora il 4% comprensivo dei dividendi staccati. L’indice si porta sulla parte alta del range che veicola il movimento da inizio marzo tra i supporti in area 22.500/22mila e i top dell’anno a 24.100 punti. Il movimento è secondo noi da interpretare come propedeutico ad ulteriori allunghi. Pertanto si suggerisce di sfruttare eventuali discese verso la parte bassa della banda per gli acquisti.

Variabili macro

Petrolio. Ha chiuso in brusco calo (-3%) per la quinta seduta di fila, la sequenza negativa piu’ lunga da marzo. Oggi Wti 58,5 usd, Brent 64,6 usd. Due i fattori che hanno inciso sulla discesa: 1) nonostante il calo delle attivita’ di trivellazione, l’elevata domanda dalle raffinerie e la discesa delle scorte Usa nelle ultime due settimane, il livello degli stoccaggi resta a livelli record per questo periodo dell’anno. 2) l’Arabia Saudita, a capo dell’Opec, continua ad aumentare la produzione arrivata alla cifra record di 10,3 milioni di barili al giorno ad aprile.

Operatività: la nostra strategia non cambia. Sul WTI manteniamo le posizioni in acquisto scattate al superamento di area 60 usd. Il segnale di forza verrà negato solo in caso di ritorno sotto 52/50 usd. Sul Brent, interverremo in acquisto solo al superamento convinto di area 70 usd.

Oro (1.207 usd). E’ bastato il forte rimbalzo del dollaro degli ultimi due giorni per sgonfiare la quotazione, dimostrando che il quadro di fondo è ancora estremamente fragile. Negato il primo timido segnale di forza visto con il superamento di area 1.210/1.220 usd.


Euro/Dollaro (1,1090). Dollaro in rally grazie alle dichiarazioni della BCE (più QE) che suonano come una controffensiva nei confronti del “furbo” temporeggiamento della FED. E’ chiaro che nessuno dei due vuole che la propria valuta si rafforzi e si gioca sporco per raggiungere l’obiettivo. In questa fase la BCE ha il coltello dalla parte del manico. Nelle ultime settimane il livello di equilibrio si è alzato nel range 1,10/1,15 da 1,05/1,10 precedente. L’idea di sfruttare le scivolate per costruire posizioni in dollari sta dando i suoi frutti. Target 1,05. Solo sopra 1,20 rivedremo il quadro a favore dell’euro.


Bund tedesco. Rendimento del decennale a 0,60%. C’è ancora un po’ di confusione nel breve e continuiamo a ritenere opportuno un atteggiamento prudente. Gli eccessi accumulati potrebbero provocare un rialzo dei rendimenti anche fino all’1%.

Grecia. Ormai siamo alle battute finali. Qualche giorno ancora e poi capiremo se la Grecia ha deciso di suicidarsi o di procedere con le riforme sacrosantamente richieste dalla ex troika. Lo spread decennale è a quota 1.020 e il rendimento al 10,7%, ancora lontano dal 13,5% di metà aprile.

Italia. Il nostro spread è poco mosso a 120 punti base, il rendimento è a 1,80%. Ieri si è visto qualche acquisto sulla scia della BCE. Per noi un rendimento intorno al 2% rappresenterebbe già un buon livello per tornare a comprare. Più che sulla discesa dei rendimenti puntiamo su una discesa dello spread fino a 60/80 punti base se proseguiranno le riforme, peraltro molto apprezzate dagli investitori esteri.


Quartz Daily Brief—#Yahoo’s spin-off imperiled, #California oil spill, #Altice eyes Time Warner, #Hezbollah loves lemonade

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

The Fed talks the talk. The US central bank releases the minutes from its April meeting, which could reveal more about the Federal Reserve’s stance on a potential rate hike, which is expected either in either June or September.

The US military plane launches into space. In a classified, unmanned mission, the Air Force’s winged X-37B space planebelonging to the US Air Force will bring along an extra payload in its fourth test flight: a small civilian satellite to test whether photons from the sun can be used to propel a spacecraft.

Spotify may announce web video plans. The Wall Street Journal reports that the streaming service is hatching plans to add video to its business to compete with the likes of Facebook and YouTube.

Salesforce reports earnings amid takeover talks. The cloud computing company is expected to report strong growth in the quarterfor both earnings and revenue. But most investors will want to know whether the company is really fielding buyout offers.

Earnings, earnings, earnings: Target, Lowe’s, Staples, Williams-Sonoma, Hormel Foods, and American Eagle Outfitters also report quarterly results.

While you were sleeping

The IRS threw a wrench in Yahoo’s Alibaba spin-off. The US tax agency is reportedly considering a rule change that would end Yahoo’s plan to spin off its Alibaba stake without paying a heavy tax bill. Yahoo isincluding its small business unit in the spin-off, but that may not longer be enough to qualify it as a standalone business; Yahoo’s shares fell 7.6% on the news.

An oil spill hit the California coast. A four-mile wide oil slick has appeared near Santa Barbara’s scenic Refugio Beach, after an estimated 21,000 gallons of crude leaked from a ruptured pipeline. The pipeline, operated by Plains All American Pipeline, was shut down, and Exxon Mobil said it has deployed a team to clear the spill.

Altice reportedly made a bid for Time Warner Cable. The French cable and broadband company made the offer after Time Warner Cable’s attempted merger with Comcast fell through, according to Bloomberg. Altice is also already in talks to buy Suddenlink, the US’s seventh-largest cable company, for $10 billion.

Japan’s economy grew faster than expected. GDP grew at an annualized 2.4% in the first quarter, beating expectations, due to stronger-than-expected consumer spending. But business investment was lower than expected, suggesting further stimulus measures may still be necessary.

The US charged six Chinese nationals with economic espionage.The group includes three professors from Tianjin University, who are accused of stealing trade secrets and proprietary information related to wireless technology that is often used in military systems.

Wal-Mart’s earnings disappointed. Quarterly profit for the world’s largest retailer fell and same-store sales rose by less than anticipated. Wal-Mart said American customers used extra cash from tax refunds and lower gas prices to pay down debt instead of going shopping.

Quartz obsession interlude

Anne Quito on an artist’s panoramic coffee cup illustrations of Japan, which portray the country better than any guidebook.“With a pencil, a pen, an ink brush or watercolor paints, he captures quiet scenes of urban life, portraits of strangers reading in café, playing with their smart phones, and even salary men snoozing in Tokyo’s subway.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Uber is just getting started in China. The low-priced “People’s Uber” service is still a major threat to domestic competitors.

Is nicotine actually bad for you? Many smokers are switching to gum or vaping, but may still be at risk.

Women should be able to wear flats on the red carpet. The Cannes Film Festival doesn’t seem to agree.

Amal Alamuddin Clooney is the ultimate feminist superhero. She has made her husband George into an adorable sidekick.

Surprising discoveries

Hezbollah has endorsed lemonade. The group’s secretary-general says it’s the best for delivering long speeches.

Obama made Twitter history. His account is the fastest to reach 1 million followers.

80% of sunscreens contain suspect ingredients or don’t work at all. Neutrogena gets a badge of shame.

Audi makes a bicycle that weighs less than five iPhones. But it’s as expensive as a car.

Spiders can spin their own parachutes. They used them to rain down on one Australian town.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, red carpet rights, and coffee cup art to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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