Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Davos begins, protests in Kiev, butter’s revenge

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Davos puts unironic focus on wealth gap. The World Economic Forum kicks off today in Switzerland’s skiing mecca. One theme of this year’s meeting: the threat of income inequality to global economic stability. (The world’s 85 richest people now have as much wealth as the world’s 3.5 billion poorest.) Check out our interactive database of all the attendees in Davos, including Quartz editor-in-chief Kevin Delaney, who will be reporting from the scene.

The IMF gets more optimistic. The group’s World Economic Outlook is expected to forecast even faster growth than the 3.6% expansion it previously predicted for 2014.

Big week for quarterly earnings. America’s largest airline (Delta) and mobile carrier (Verizon) will update on their performance in the last three months of 2013. Also reporting earnings today: UnileverIBMSAB MillerJohnson & Johnson and Haliburton.

Watch the road in Buckinghamshire. Britain’s first pub at a highway service station will start serving alcohol at 9am, raising understandable concerns.

While you were sleeping

Europe’s energy costs are getting out of hand. A sneak preview of a European Commission report slated for January 22 says high EU energy prices are primarily due to taxes and levies. Businesses are paying up to four times as much for energy as in the US and Russia (paywall).

Nintendo’s stock took a beating. It sure looks like the end of an era for the world’s most iconic video game company, which lowered projected sales of its Wii U console by 6.2 million units. Pundits leapt at the opportunity to badger Nintendo about finally releasing its titles on mobile devices.

China’s GDP growth was the lowest since 1999. The good news is that, for the first time ever, most economic growth came from services, a sign of a maturing economy transitioning away from unsustainable levels of investment in rising industrial production and exports.

Protesters battled police in Kiev. Two months of mostly peaceful protests erupted into “street battles” between anti-government protesters and law enforcement, leading to a “siege of the government quarter.”

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on Western media’s gullibility for dystopian stories about China. ”When it comes to China stories, people will believe almost anything. Take, for instance, the reports about pollution being so severe in Beijing that residents now watch radiant sunrises broadcast on a huge screen in Tiananmen Square. So, that never happened. […] But that didn’t prevent a slew of prominent media outlets—including Time, CBS News and the Huffington Post—from running the story.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The Winter Olympics in Russia are a scam. Or so say critics of the enormously expensive games, which will take place in a warm location that’s riven with corruption.

Does the sharing economy encourage racial discrimination? By putting the decision of whom to rent to in the hands of individuals, sites like Airbnb lead to bias against renters whose names sound black.

Surprising discoveries

Acid snow is a thing. Weather forecasters in South Korea forecasted acid snow, warning people to take an umbrella to avoid coming in contact with the stuff.

Americans are consuming three times as much cheese as in 1970. That’s 11.5 pounds of mozzarella per person, per year. The obesity rate is up 20 percentage points over the same period.

Butter won. After 20 years of trying to convince people that margarine is better than real butter, Unilever has announced an historic reversal.

Hershey’s plans 3D printed confections. No word on when they’ll hit the market, but the ability to print them will be available to consumers.

“Password” is no longer the most common password. That would be 123456.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, opinions about spreadable butter alternatives, and better passwords to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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