Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—NSA reforms, Nintendo’s Xmas woe, Google contact lenses, internet for bees

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What to watch for today

Obama reveals spying reforms, outlining proposed changes to NSA surveillance programs in the wake of the Snowden leaks. He has pointedly chosen the anniversary of Eisenhower’s farewell address, which warned of “the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power.”

Wall Street’s winning streak. Analysts predict Morgan Stanley’s fourth-quarter profits could reach $927 million, but Bank of America’s strong earnings earlier this week could be a hint of even better results.

And General Electric’s too? GE’s fourth-quarter profit and revenue are expected to soar. The company is currently working to getting rid of non-core businesses like its consumer credit card unit.

How America weathered the cold. The US releases housing starts and industrial production data for December. The cold weather probably reduced construction activity (pdf).

While you were sleeping

UK retail sales surprise. December retail sales jumped by a better-than-expected 2.6%, the biggest increase since record-keeping began in 1996. The increase came mostly at smaller stores, as mega-retailers like Tesco and Marks & Spencer posted declines.

Nobody got a Wii U for Christmas. Nintendo shocked investors by forecasting a full-year loss of net loss of 25 billion yen ($240 million) and slashed expected sales of its flagship console to 2.8 million units, from 9 million, after a dismal holiday season.

Shell warns of lower profits. New CEO Ben van Beurden said fourth-quarter earnings were hurt by higher exploration costs, security problems in Nigeria, and production problems.

Thailand protests rocked by bombing. Dozens were reportedly injured after an explosive was thrown at a group of anti-government demonstrators in Bangkok. Meanwhile, an anti-corruption court launched an investigation into embattled prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

China’s first IPO in a year. Neway Valve’s shares rose more than 20% as the manufacturer raised about $240 million in Shanghai (paywall), but questions remain about China’s IPO backlog.

Google is making contact lenses. The company’s Google X lab is testing a prototype that helps diabetics measure glucose levels.

China Mobile started selling iPhones. Some 763 million subscribers will be able to buy Apple’s iPhone smartphone, and analysts think the expansion could trigger a massive subsidy war among Chinese carriers.

Quartz obsession interlude

Mark DeCambre on what mobile phones mean for brick-and-mortar bank branches. “Bank of America plans to trim nearly 20% of its brick and mortar retail branch network—a process which effectively began back in 2009. The bank has already reduced its retail branches by 950 branches, or 15.5% over the past four years and is aiming to cut about 150 more in 2014. At the same time, it’s spending about $3 billion a year to improve its technology and infrastructure around mobile and banking.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Yahoo’s “comeback” is a mirage. The company’s performance is lagging and its stake in China’s Alibaba is about to decrease sharply.

Photoshop is losing its edge. 2014 could be the year web browsers replace it.

There’s no way to stop the next financial crash. You can’t tell if prices are in a bubble until that bubble bursts.

Samsung should be worried about its smartwatch. Unimpressed Chinese tech counterfeiters aren’t even copying it.

Surprising discoveries

Sony makes a prison radio. The SRF-39FP (for “Federal Prison”) is beloved by inmates and radio aficionados—but good luck finding one if you’re not behind bars.

China’s left-behind kids. About 61 million Chinese children haven’t seen one or both of their laborer parents for at least three months.

Bye bye beepocalypse. Scientists pinpoint the causes of the global die-off by attaching tiny sensors to bees’ backs.

The economics of blow. Cocaine exports account for 2.5% of Colombia’s GDP, the same proportion as the mining industry does for the US.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, pirated smartwatches and prison-only electronics to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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