Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Debating Iran, shutdown in Bangkok, marijuana without the high

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What to watch for today

Thailand’s capital shut down. People’s Democratic Reform Committee leader Suthep Thaugsuban is asking hundreds of thousands of followers to block intersections around Bangkok. The protestors could cost the country an estimated 20 billion baht or $606 million and want Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to step down.

US and EU leaders meet for trade talks. Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy plans to visit US President Barack Obama to discuss a new trade partnership. The agreement, which has been in talks since July, would expand US exports to the European Union.

Iran’s role in Syria peace talks determined. US secretary of state John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov meet in Paris to agree on whether or not Iran will participate in a Jan. 22 conference on Syria. US officials say the country could still play a role.

Over the weekend 

Ariel Sharon dies after eight years in a coma. The 85-year-old former prime minister of Israel, labeled war hawk by some, fine military strategist and political genius by others, will be buried today.

More US retailers possibly hit by cyber attacks. After announcements from Target and Neiman Marcus that customer information had been stolen in network breaches, at least three other unnamed retailers were hit, according to Reuters reports.

Chemical leak leaves 300,000 without water. Sunday marked the fourth day without access to clean tap water for hundreds of thousands in West Virginia, following a chemical leak late last week. A chemical used in coal cleaning is the cause. While this is a known irritant, the extent of its effects on human health are unknown.

Chinese auto market gunning for another strong year. Industry executives and analysts say that, while the growth surge of the previous decade is over, the Chinese auto industry remains a bright spot. China’s interior provinces are driving the demand for vehicles, much to the relief of automakers dealing with sluggish buyers in Europe and the US.

Iran’s nuclear program will freeze in a week. Under the terms of the deal agreed upon by world powers in November, Iran will halt enrichment of uranium above 5% purity, and neutralize stockpiles of particularly pure uranium. In return, certain sanctions on Iranian trade in gold, precious metals, petrochemicals, and automotives will be suspended.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gideon Lichfield on how his cousins remember Ariel Sharon—after the leader forced them out of the Gaza Strip. “Still, there was a religious subtext to the settlers’ view of themselves. They frequently described Gush Katif in Hebrew as a gan eden, a Garden of Eden. They talked about ‘waiting for a miracle’ to save them. And instead of hitnatkut, or ‘disengagement’—the antiseptic, Orwellian term coined by the government and adopted by the media—they called their impending departure a girush, ‘banishment,’ a biblically charged word reminiscent of the flight of Adam and Eve. Except that, unlike Adam and Eve, they believed they had committed no sin.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Really, ladies first. Stephanie Coontz says that aiding women in the workplace isn’t the “reverse sexism” that men’s rights activists would claim.

Gay marriage is all about freedom of religion. When you take away religious motivation, Miles Kimball writes, none of the arguments against same-sex marriage make any sense.

Lena Dunham’s rear end upsets the status quo. People understand gratuitous nudity on Game of Thrones, but not on Girls. This, Emily Shire writes, is because we’ve forgotten that the human body isn’t always meant to scintillate.

Buying a $500 house to save Detroit. Drew Philp is 23 and wants to help the “broken, chaotic” city of Detroit by making it his home.

Surprising discoveries

Warby Parker has an interrupting fez. Highlight’s of an annual report released by the company, famous for its hipster eyewear, include the use of a fez to signal that interruption is a no-no. Beats passing the conch.

The dark side of the moon is colorful. According to astronomers in Hawaii, light reflected from Earth turns from blue to a shade of turquoise when it bounces off of the moon.

This weed won’t get you high. As medical marijuana is legalized, researchers work to provide a buzz-free alternative to weed card carriers who don’t care to alter their state of mind. Meanwhile, Colorado dealers navigate a world with legal competition.

Singapore is drinking whisky. Scotch whisky’s largest importer per capita is Singapore—and by a staggering margin.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, queries, and Scotch cocktail recipes to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.