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Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Election tensions, abortion rallies in Spain, China’s weak military, the world’s biggest boozers

What to watch for today

Hard times befall a hard-nosed airline. Struggling discount airline Ryanair is expected to post a third-quarter loss of €35 million ($58 million), down from an €18 million profit in the same period last year, marking the Irish carrier’s first third-quarter loss since 2010. So much for the allure of added frills.

India auctions its airwaves. The India government could raise 11,300 crore rupees ($1.8 billion) in its third round of spectrum auction today. Eight telecom companies, including Vodafone, will bid for bandwidth after a weak first round of auctions.

Ukraine’s president gets back in the game. After a four-day sick leave due to an acute respiratory infection and a high temperature, Viktor Yanukovych returns to the office today. Protestors have been calling for his resignation since Yanukovych rejected a trade deal with the EU in November, choosing Russia’s support instead.

Americans gather for head-bashing, beer and pricey commercials. American football teams the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos go head to head in the country’s favorite sporting event, held this year for the first time in the New York area. This is also the first time a legally deaf footballer—the Seahawks’s Derrick Coleman—has played in the event. If you’re not into the sport, at least watch the commercials.

Over the weekend

El Salvador and Costa Rica marched to the polls. Both countries’ elections are likely to end in runoffs. El Salvador’s incumbent leftist vice president Salvador Sanchez is the favorite to win, if he can convince the public his party can revive the economy and curb gang crime. Meanwhile, in Costa Rica, the ruling conservative candidate Johnny Araya takes on 36-year-old left-winger José Maria Villalta.

Thailand fumbled through national elections. Seven people were wounded in a gun fight between government supporters and protestors in Bangkok, and hundreds of polling stations across the country were forced to close. Drawn-out disruptions will likely leave Thailand in political limbo for months without a full government or an approved budget.

Abu Dhabi flew to Italy’s rescue. Etihad Airways, the Abu Dhabi carrier, said it is on the verge of agreeing to an investment in Alitalia, Italy’s troubled airline. Etihad would potentially take a 40% stake in Alitalia for up to $405 million in the next 30 days, saving Alitalia from bankruptcy.

Spain rallied for the right to choose. Thousands of Spaniards took to the streets in Madrid to protest a government-backed bill that would limit abortion rights to instances of rape and serious health risks. Currently, any woman in Spain has the right to an abortion during the first 14 weeks of her pregnancy.

Hedge funds filed a lawsuit against Porsche. The chairman of Porsche and another board member could be forced to hand over €1.8 billion ($2.43 billion) in damages to seven hedge funds that are suing the luxury carmaker and its management for misleading the market (paywall) in the run up to its failed takeover bid for Volkswagen in 2008.

Philip Seymour Hoffman died. The Academy Award-winning actor, who bagged an Oscar in 2006 for his role in Capote, was reportedly found dead in his Manhattan apartment (paywall). The cause of death was not determined but was thought to be drugs related; police found heroin and a hypodermic needle in Seymour Hoffman’s apartment.

Quartz obsession interlude

Jason Karaian on why banks aren’t selling their non-core assets as fast as they should be. “The managers in non-core units are charged with selling off these assets for as much as they can, as fast as they can. The thing is, some distressed debt investors tell Quartz that it’s harder than it should be to purchase these otherwise unwanted assets. [One] reason, investors say, comes down to the people working in the banks’ non-core units. Once these workers sell the assets they’re charged with disposing of, they’re out of a job. Thus, they drag the sales process on for as long as possible. For banks, this means that their balance sheets are weighed down by dud debts longer than strictly necessary, which consumes scarce capital and management attention.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Bitcoin’s mood swings are over. Considering that the cyber currency’s price was pretty stable in January, people might start to take it more seriously.

The gender wage gap isn’t as bad as you think. US president Barack Obama said American men earn $0.23 more than women per dollar in his State of the Union address, but the pay difference is nearer five cents.

China’s military is weaker than it looks. But its enemies shouldn’t get complacent; that actually makes China more dangerous.

Global democracy is crumbling. Translating and distributing the writings of political philosophers would give more power to the people (paywall).

Surprising discoveries

Vegetables are the third-most popular Super Bowl food. They even beat chicken wings. Swot up on other game day trivia here.

Say goodbye to expensive, environmentally harmful ink printer cartridges. Chinese scientists are working on a water-based ink.

South Koreans are the world’s biggest boozers. They drink twice as much liquor as Russians.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, football facts and South Korean cocktail recipes to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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