Good morning, Quartz readers!
WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY
South Koreans elect a new president. In the wake of Park Geun-hye’s impeachment, voters are most concerned about corruption and the economy. The frontrunner, Moon Jae-in, is a liberal who favors more economic integration with North Korea, from which his parentsfled as refugees. That could put him at odds with US president Donald Trump. Polls close at 8pm local time, with results known as early as 2am.
Amazon debuts its latest Echo virtual assistant. The new version of the voice-controlled speaker—a category Amazon dominates—will have a 7-inch touchscreen and could be unveiled today (paywall), according to the Wall Street Journal. It will reportedly allow for video calls and respond to questions with visual search results. (The current version of Echo has no screen.)
Australia spends big bucks on infrastructure. A major boost in spending is expected in the new federal budget, including a second international airport in Sydney and a A$2.3 billion (US$1.7 billion) road and rail package.
Walt Disney updates investors about its troubled TV business.Shareholders want to know if the media giant has found a way to slow subscriber declines at ESPN, and how low-price “slim” internet TV bundles are performing. Other companies reporting earnings include News Corp, SeaWorld, and SoftBank.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING
A former Justice Department official testified about Trump-Russia intrigue. Sally Yates, who served as acting US attorney general, said she’d been concerned that Michael Flynn “could be blackmailed by the Russians.” Yates alerted the White House about the former national security adviser’s vulnerabilities several weeks before he was fired—and so did Barack Obama.
Alipay struck a deal with US payments processor First Data.The deal will let Alipay users shop at 4 million US merchants and put China’s mobile-payments king in the same league as Apple Pay in terms of acceptance. If the deal encourages more US retailers to offer tap-and-go transactions to shoppers—whether they’re Chinese tourists or US consumers—Apple might actually benefit from it.
Wells Fargo is exploring selling an insurance brokerage unit that could fetch $2 billion. It would be the largest divestiture on record for the US bank, which sees a strong appetite for insurance brokerages among private equity firms, according to Bloomberg. The largest retail bank in the US by branch count, Wells Fargo is looking to cut costs and offload some businesses.
A grammar-checking startup raised $110 million. Grammarly, based in San Francisco and founded by Ukrainian entrepreneurs, uses artificial intelligence to help users fix awkward phrases. Nearly 7 million people use its service daily, many through an extension of Google’s Chrome browser. Venture capital firm General Catalyst led the funding.
QUARTZ OBSESSION INTERLUDE
Alison Griswold on the demise of a startup that dreamed of a better office lunch. “By overseeing everything from menu design to ingredient supply chains, co-founder and CEO Caleb Merkl believed Maple could create an ‘incredible’ dining experience that was also a sustainable business. The company raised $4 million in seed funding in late 2014. Backing from David Chang, the celebrity chef behind Momofuku, made it an instant food-tech darling, and Maple secured another $26 million early the next year.” Read more here.
No cause for panic / Everything is fine. Really. / Just look at the VIX.
MATTERS OF DEBATE
Russia’s meddling in the French election has backfired spectacularly. It’s turned a level-headed politician with a relatively conciliatory outlook into a new president with a grudge.
Data, not oil, is the world’s most valuable resource. That means a new regulatory approach is needed for Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft.
The global donut craze must be stopped. Exhibit A: The spaghetti donut.
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Venice is banning new fast-food shops. Kebabs and pizza-by-the-slice are out; only gelato is spared.
A Danish brewery is using urine to make a special-edition pilsner. Talk about taking the piss.
China’s seniors are lining up to go back to college. Some 7 million of them are currently enrolled in courses on everything from English to yoga to smartphone use.
Shell-attached robots can control turtles with snacks. The reptiles could be used for exploration or surveillance.
Penguins are flourishing in a Falkland Islands minefield. But the Magellanic penguins may lose their home due to an anti-mine treaty signed by the UK.
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