Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Ukraine’s new president, Netflix’s speed deal, G20 goals, digital condoms

February 23, 2014
February 23, 2014

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Ukraine gets another chance at an EU deal. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will travel to Kiev following a weekend of upheaval for the Ukrainian government. She is expected to reinstate the trade partnership offer rejected by now-ousted president Viktor Yanukovych in November under Russian pressure, sparking months of violent protests, and discuss whether the EU can cough up cash to replace loans frozen by Russia.

Italy approves its latest prime minister. Matteo Renzi, the third consecutive Italian prime minister to be appointed, not elected, will outline his policies and face a vote of confidence after being sworn in as Italy’s prime minister on Saturday.

Greece again appeals to its creditors. Greece will meet again today with its troika of international lenders to discuss economic reforms in the hopes of unlocking another round of financial aid (paywall) without new spending cuts.

How HSBC is surviving global turmoil. The bank is set to post full-year profits of $35.15 billion, but investors will be looking at how HSBC’s operations are faring amid the emerging markets slowdown (paywall), particularly in Asia. The bank could also announce further cost-cutting measures after pledging last year to cut more jobs.

The US squeezes troops with defense cuts. US defense secretary Chuck Hagel will upset war veterans when he announces defense budget cuts that are likely to raise their healthcare costs and reduce their housing benefits. A pay freeze on the military’s top ranks is also included in a plan to focus spending on critical areas of defense.

Over the weekend

Ukraine appointed a new president. Ukraine’s parliament named speaker Oleksandr Turchynov its interim president after voting to dismiss Viktor Yanukovych, who fled Kiev but refused to resign despite dozens of deaths in protests against his presidency. Parliament also seized Yanukovych’s luxury mansion and freed imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

G20 countries pledged to boost global growth. After a two-day meeting in Sydney, the finance ministers of twenty major economies announced their aim to increase global economic growth by two percentage points, or $2 trillion, over the next five years. The countries said they would encourage competition, trade, job creation and investment, although they failed to provide much detail.

Netflix coughed up the cash for faster streaming. Netflix agreed to pay Comcast for a direct connection to its broadband network, cutting out intermediaries that led to a 27% decline in streaming speed since October. Netflix has pushed for years to get this direct access for free, but Comcast argued that the costs of delivering online video to its customers are too high.

Wearable technology turned out to be not so wearable. Fitbit voluntarily recalled its wristband activity trackers after 1.7% of Fitbit Force wearers complained of skin rashes. The company blamed allergic reactions triggered by the nickel in the device or the adhesive that holds its band together.

Deutsche Bank cuts US operations. Deutsche Bank unveiled a plan to cut its US balance sheet from $400 billion to around $300 billion (paywall) by moving some of its American business to Europe and Asia after the Federal Reserve imposed new regulations on foreign banks in the US.

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on whether the capture of the world’s most powerful drug trafficker will change anything. “Guzmán has been a top target for so long—certainly since 2001, when he escaped detention in a prison laundry cart—because of how good he is at his job. His life’s work has been to build the Sinaloa cartel into the world’s most efficient drug business, with billion-dollar revenues to rival Western blue-chip companies; he earned comparisons to CEOs for mastering the art of supply chain management, exploiting the massive demand for illegal drugs in the United States and Europe. He’s a key example of of the power of so-called “deviant globalization.” But it’s precisely this level of sophistication that has experts predicting the Sinaloa cartel will survive its mastermind’s detention; if Guzman is is the Steve Jobs of coke, he probably groomed a Tim Cook to take his place.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

News organizations’ tirade against bias is failing readers. Facts are meaningless and boring without the context of “intelligent bias.”

Italy’s fashion reflects its changing politics. Italian ladies’ fashion ditched the sex appeal in favor of mature confidence (paywall), just as the country unveiled its first ever half-female cabinet.

Climate change could kill the Winter Olympics. In just a few decades, some previous venues—including Sochi—will be too warm to host the Winter Games.

Ukraine should be cautious of idolizing opposition activist Yulia Tymoshenko. She’s been cast as an icon of democracy, but her past is less than rosy.

Pain is an essential part of sports. Enduring suffering is both a tactical advantage and a sign of achievement.

Surprising discoveries

Russians have a sense of humor. Performers in the Sochi Olympics closing ceremony took a dig at themselves by recreating  the mucked-up opening of the Olympics’ fifth ring.

There’s a condom that simulates electric shocks. It’s supposed to be quite nice, actually.

How Olympic time-keeping works. When a fraction of a second determines winner and loser, precision is key.

“Huh?” is a universal word. Linguists have discovered that it crops up in most languages.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Russian jokes, and digital condom designs to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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