Quartz Daily Brief—Thailand shutdown, China’s off-again IPOs, watered-down Basel, Viking chess

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What to watch for today

Thailand shutdown begins. The first day of anti-government protests passed peacefully as demonstrators blockaded government buildings and key intersections, but with little hope of a tidy resolution ahead of February elections.

US-EU trade talks. Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy visits US president Barack Obama to discuss a new partnership that would expand American exports to the European Union.

Iran’s role in Syria. US secretary of state John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov meet in Paris to discuss whether Iran could still play a role in Jan. 22 peace talks on Syria.

Over the weekend 

Backing off BaselGlobal banking regulators watered down a planned rule that would have restricted the amount of debt that major banks can take on, due to fears that it might curtail crucial lending.

China’s on-again, off-again IPOs. Five firms delayed their plans for the country’s first initial public offerings in 15 months after regulators unexpectedly announced plans to scrutinize them more closely.

Iran nuclear deal finalized. Negotiators put the finishing touches on an agreement for Iran to limit nuclear enrichment beginning Jan. 20 in exchange for loosened sanctions and the release of $4.2 billion in frozen Iranian bank accounts.

More US retailers hit by cyber attacks. After Target and Neiman Marcus had customer information stolen in network breaches, at least three other unnamed retailers were also hit, Reuters reports.

India triumphs over polio. The UN is set to certify that the country has been polio-free for three years, which Bill Gates described as “quite phenomenal.”

Chemical spill aftermath in coal country. Hundreds of thousands of West Virginians marked the fourth day without access to clean tap water following the leak of a chemical used in coal production.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gideon Lichfield on how his cousins remember the late Ariel Sharon, who 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

Teenagers can literally drive you crazy. When kids hit adolescence, their parents’ mental health becomes collateral damage.

Really, ladies first. Aiding women in the workplace isn’t “reverse sexism” as men’s rights activists claim.

Gay marriage is about freedom of religion. When you take away religious motivation, arguments against same-sex marriage don’t make any sense.

The Internet has liberated language from the elite. As foretold by the late David Foster Wallace, the strictures of the establishment stylebook now seem untrustworthy.

Surprising discoveries

Life imitating reality television. MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” show may have prevented tens of thousands of births to teenage mothers.

Vikings had their own version of chess. “Hnefatafl” taught Norsemen how to triumph even when outnumbered and far from home.

Don’t forget to clean your brains. New research suggests that a good night’s sleep scrubs the brain free of waste, much like cleaning a fish tank.

Weed that won’t get you high. Researchers are working to provide a buzz-free alternative to medicinal marijuana cardholders who don’t care to alter their state of mind.

Singapore slings whisky. The city state imports the most Scotch per capita, by a staggering margin.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, queries, brain cleaning regimens and Viking chess strategies to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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