What to watch for today
Who will defend the Central African Republic? EU ministers meet in Brussels to determine which countries will dispatch peacekeeping forces to secure the capital Bangui, as the conflict rages between Christian militias and a mostly Muslim rebel coalition that seized power in March.
The Iranian economy gets a break. The US will start easing sanctions against Iran involving petrochemical, vehicle and metals trade today, in exchange for Iran eliminating its uranium stockpile. The limited relief will boost Iran’s economy by an estimated $6 billion to $7 billion.
US markets are closed for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. His daughter urged a “no shots fired” day in support of non-violence.
Over the weekend
China’s GDP numbers pleased no one. The fourth-quarter increase of 7.7% was the lowest since 1999; the annual rate (also 7.7%) was only achieved because the government freaked out about missing its target, and overshot the mark.
AB InBev bought back Korea’s Oriental Brewery. It’s not last call yet for consolidation in the alcohol industry: AB InBev paid $5.8 billion for a brewer that it sold for $1.8 billion in 2009.
British bankers are feeling cheery… A financial industry survey shows 69% of firms feel more optimistic about the economic climate.
…and Deutsche Bank is not. When a bank releases a surprise €1.2 billion ($1.6 billion) quarterly loss on a Sunday night, you know it’s really bad. Shares fell more than 5% on Monday as Deutsche warned of more challenges in 2014.
Violent protests in Kiev… Tens of thousands of demonstrators clashed with police over new laws aimed at curbing public protests. President Viktor Yanukovich said he would seek talks with opposition leaders.
…and in Bangkok. A second major grenade attack wounded scores of anti-government demonstrators as a Bangkok “shutdown” entered its second week. Some $4 billion worth of investment has been pulled out of Thai stocks and bonds since the unrest began two months ago.
The UN invited Iran to the Syria talks. American officials objected, saying Iran had not met the preconditions for attending.
The US and China may build the world’s biggest dam together. The US development agency USAID is considering financing the Inga III dam in Congo, and Chinese firms are among the leading bidders.
The Vatican’s Holocaust test. Jewish groups applauded Pope Francis’s decision to open the Vatican archives and investigate the actions of his predecessor Pius XII during the Holocaust.
Quartz obsession interlude
Roberto Ferdman on why Dr. Dre’s Beats Music hits the wrong notes. “Beats is betting it can beat Spotify at its own game. There’s only one kink in Dr. Dre’s master plan: He shouldn’t have chosen Spotify as the company to copy. Pandora may not be the coolest music streaming product, but it is the best music streaming business right now.”
Matters of debate
Pot is no more dangerous than alcohol. US president Barack Obama makes his case.
Google is the new GE. In a break from its software roots, the company is positioning itself as a major inventor of hardware.
The US government’s mixed messages on marriage. A US federal court judge recently struck down a ban on plural marriages in Utah. That could leave the US Supreme Court in a “quandary” about how to approach gay marriage.
Toilet seats are actually quite clean. Alarmist studies that compare their germ content to those of mobile phones are missing the point.
The Jamaican bobsled team is back. After an absence of more than a decade, the team earned a spot in the Winter Olympics. So did a violin-playing Chinese-British pop star of Thai descent, who will ski for Thailand in Sochi.
American seniors are contracting STDs at alarming rates. Rates of chlamydia and syphilis among Americans 65 and over are roughly equal to 20- to 24-year-olds.
Prairie dogs are infanticidal cannibals. Scientists noticed that not many mating females ended up with babies, and some would emerge from their relatives’ burrows with blood on their faces.