Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
US earnings season gets underway in earnest. Big banks like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, and tech firms such as Intel, Samsung and GE are among those reporting fourth-quarter results this week. JP Morgan, which reports on Wednesday, Jan. 16, might release more information about its “London Whale” trading loss.
Smartphones for Myanmar. Six models from Taiwanese smartphone-maker HTC, specially modified for the Burmese alphabet, go on sale today, in a country where only 5% of people use a mobile phone of any kind.
Property stocks dive in Singapore. Government measures to curb speculation on the island’s sizzling property market have triggered what may end up being the biggest fall in property developers’ shares in over a year.
High noon in Mali. French troops are intensifying their attack on Islamist rebels, who took control of a large swathe of the north of the country earlier last year. Other countries, including Britain and the US, have now joined with logistical support.
Peace talks over Colombia. Colombian government officials and FARC rebels will meet in Cuba for a second round of peace talks, as the end of a ceasefire looms.
Smog chokes China. The pollution cloud over southeastern China is expected to hang around for a couple more days. Beijing has issued its first-ever “orange alert,” meaning visibility is 200 metres (700 feet) or less; the US embassy measured pollution at a dozen times the World Health Organization’s safety threshold.
Over the weekend
Hosni Mubarak not guilty, but may be guiltier. An Egyptian court overturned the conviction and ordered a retrial for Egypt’s former president in the killings of hundreds of protesters during the 2011 revolution. The ruling wasn’t unexpected, for procedural reasons, and Mubarak could face a raft of new charges.
A young internet pioneer dies. Aaron Swartz, a 26-year-old prodigy who was a folk hero to internet freedom activists, reportedly hanged himself. He suffered from depression, and was facing trial and possibly decades in prison for hacking into an academic journals database. His family blames prosecutors, with whom a deal had fallen through days earlier, for hounding him.
Shinzo Abe wants a “bold” central banker. Which is to say, one who will do what the Japanese prime minister tells him to, and aggressively fight deflation, when the current Bank of Japan governor retires in April. The yen fell to a two-year-low on Abe’s comments.
No, there will be no magic supercoins. The US Treasury said it will not mint a trillion-dollar coin, an originally facetious proposal for delaying the onset of the US debt ceiling that has recently gained some unexpected, er, currency.
Nor Death Stars. In the spirit of deficit-cutting, the White House officially rejected a petition to build a Star-Wars-style moon-sized battle station costing $850 quadrillion.
Quartz obsession interlude
Tim Fernholz on a new way to divide the world. “It used to be the Soviet Bloc versus the West. More recently, we’ve talked about emerging economies and advanced economies—BRICS versus the G7, if you will. But a new paper suggests another way of splitting the global community: Countries that manipulate their currency for an advantage in international markets, versus those that don’t.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
The world needs 600 million new jobs by 2020. And the private sector, which provides 90% of the jobs in the developing world, will be the one to supply them, says a new report out today from the International Finance Corporation.
The world will also need some new ways to grow food. New research suggests that global warming will start to cause severe drops in staple crop yields over the next few decades.
Is the WTO giving up on free trade? The World Trade Organization needs an ambitious new leader who can overcome an impasse over tariffs, but the chances of getting one look slim.
Watch this US earnings season closely. Companies’ revenues will give a good indicator of how well the economy is recovering.
CES is starting to mean “Chinese Electronics Show”. The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which just ended, is an increasingly irrelevant place for American firms, but it’s turning into a showcase for the Chinese behemoths you’ve never heard of.
CEOs should take the 10-year-old test. As in a 10-year-old child. If they can’t explain their jobs (or their salaries) to one, something’s wrong.
Miss America: Keep it, scrap it or change it? The arguments for and against beauty pageants.
China is about to out-green Germany. It will become the world’s biggest market for solar power this year—thanks partly to German help.
Waxing wipes out crabs. The fad for the “Brazilian” bikini wax among women (and increasingly its male counterpart, the “Bro-zilian”) is driving pubic lice towards extinction.
Starbucks faces Vietnamese coffee snobs. The coffee-house chain is about to open branches in Vietnam, but the locals think its coffee is too weak.
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