Quartz Daily Brief—Sochi lockdown, disaster data, menswear wars, stoner pills

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What to watch for today

Sochi goes into lockdown. With a month to go before the start of the winter Olympics, restrictive security measures go into effect in Russia’s Black Sea resort town.

The US chill continues. The so-called polar vortex is expected to keep the US Midwest ludicrously cold. On the other side of the globe, Australia will continue to grapple with a serious heatwave.

Taiwanese trade details. Export data from Taiwan for December could shed some light on the economies of its large trading partners such as Japan and China. The most recent report suggested ongoing weakness in China, the export-oriented nation’s largest market.

Ireland hopes to sell some bonds. The country will probably make its first bond issue today since its bailout ended last month, and is seeking to sell €3 billion ($4.1 billion) of 10-year bonds.

German jobs. The national measure of unemployment—produced by German statistical agencies rather than Eurostat—is expected to stay steady in December at 6..9%.

Expensive disasters. Insurance giant MunichRe is expected to put a price tag on 2013’s bevy of natural disasters. Its last update in July found that flooding dominated the catastrophe data for the first half of the year, accounting for nearly half of all losses.

While you were sleeping

The battle for Anbar got under way. Iraqi security forces are allowing local tribes to take the lead in the fight to oust al-Qaeda-linked militants who’ve take control of Fallujah and Ramadi in western Iraq.

Gay marriages were halted in Utah. The US Supreme court suspended gay marriages in the state, allowing time for the state to appeal a ruling by a Federal judge.

The US menswear war turned nasty. Men’s Wearhouse upped its bid for its rival Jos. A Bank and made it a hostile one. The two cut-price menswear retailers have been trading takeover bids since October.

Falling gold prices hit Swiss cantons. The Swiss National Bank said it lost billions as gold prices plunged in 2013, meaning that it won’t be able to pay its traditional dividend to the 26 cantons, Switzerland’s administrative regions, for the first time in over a century. On the upside, gold analysts are bullish right now.

Angela Merkel rested up. The German Chancellor was forced to cancel meetings, after it was revealed that she fractured her pelvis while cross-country skiing over the Christmas holiday.

Quartz obsession interlude

Christopher Mims kicks off a series on why 2014 could be the most interesting year for technology in a while. “If the hints that Apple CEO Tim Cook continues to drop—and the corresponding rumors—are any guide, 2014 is a year in which Apple will attempt, as it did in 2007, to redefine an entire product category. Only this time, instead of phones, it will be wearables.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The bull and bear cases for US stocks. Some say US investors are overconfident, but others think stocks can climb higher.

When Larry Summers strikes. The US can boost growth with more government jobs and government spending.

China’s destruction of poached ivory won’t save any elephants. The country’s legal ivory trade still encourages poaching too much.

Egypt’s conflict threatens to create a new al-Qaeda. If the West closes its eyes to the repression of the Muslim Brotherhood, it’s sowing the seeds for another 9/11.

A green tech bubble is coming. And it’s a good thing (registration required).

Surprising discoveries

Too stoned? There could be a pill for that. Scientists have found a naturally occurring hormone that blocks the effects of marijuana.

A Coke costs $2 in Zimbabwe. Why one of the world’s poorest countries is shockingly expensive.

Investing can make you sick. Hospital admissions for psychological disorders increase on days when the markets tumble.

Enjoy your perihelion. We’re closer to the sun than usual right now. 

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, outrageous soda prices and close-ups of sunspots to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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