Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Another Abe reckoning, a wasted year for tech, $5 flight glitch, fake knee surgery fix

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

What to watch for today

The other side of Abe. A day after his controversial visit to a symbolic shrine, Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe faces another referendum on his controversial economic stimulus plan, with the release of new data today on unemployment and inflation.

Thailand’s elections spat bubbles over. The senior staff of Thailand’s army will meet after the country’s elections commission said ongoing protests should delay polls. The statement was a win for protestors seeking to delay the Feb. 2 vote and a blow to the governing party.

More UN peacekeepers—and perhaps a Chinese envoy—arrive in South Sudan. The two-week old civil war in the world’s newest state has China worried about its energy interests after rebels seized several oil wells. China is sending an envoy to help mediate talks, as the UN moves quickly to reinforce thinly-stretched peacekeeping forces in the area.

While you were sleeping

US retailers had happy holidays. Sales rose 2.3%, compared to 0.7% in 2012, despite a shorter holiday shopping season.

Turkey’s corruption scandal took its next victim. The prosecutor, Muammer Akkas, was removed from the case for allegedly leaking to the media. Akkas accused prime minister Recep Erdogan’s government of meddling in a politically divisive investigation rife with high-level government resignations.

Delta took its own website down after accidentally selling $5 flights. The airline will honor the tickets (paywall) bought during a technical glitch that gave huge discounts.

India’s Modi couldn’t escape the hot seat. Officials said an aide to Narendra Modi, the frontrunner to become prime minister in India’s 2014 elections, will be investigated for illegal police surveillance the same day that a judge cleared Modi of complicity in 2002’s deadly anti-Muslim riots.

Twitter had a big day. On a big day for US stocks, the market valued the social media company at $40 billion not even two months after going public—almost as much as internet giant Yahoo.

Quartz obsession interlude

Chris Mims on the tech sector’s wasted year. “All in, 2013 was an embarrassment for the entire tech industry and the engine that powers it—Silicon Valley. Innovation was replaced by financial engineering, mergers and acquisitions, and evasion of regulations. Not a single breakthrough product was unveiled—and for reasons outlined below, Google Glass doesn’t count. If it’s in the nature of progress to move in leaps, there are necessarily lulls in between.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Antibacterial soaps don’t do anything. Aside from offering little real benefit, they increase the risk of antibiotic-resistant germs.

The US, China and Japan were losers in Abe’s inflammatory shrine visit. Here’s how Japan’s prime minister changed fortunes around the globe.

Is Target to blame for losing control of 40 million people’s credit card info? Lawyers aim to find out.

Our geopolitical forecasting algorithm was five for six in 2013. Thanks a lot, erratic US lawmakers.

Surprising discoveries

Everything you know about gangs is wrong. For one, even gangsters aren’t entirely sure who is actually in the gang.

Europeans are now too cheap for Champagne. Maybe China will make up sales losses for the world’s finest bubbly wine.

Fake knee surgery is as good as real knee surgery. Placebo is a hell of an effect.

The US government is behind bee deaths. The EPA has approved a pesticide linked to the catastrophic collapse of bee colonies.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, bottles of Champagne and geopolitical forecasts to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

Sign up for the Quartz Daily Brief here, tailored for morning delivery in Asia, Europe & Africa, and the Americas.