Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Davos inequality, Iran disinvited, Lenovo-IBM talks, defending rhino hunting

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What to watch for today

Davos and the wealth gap. The World Economic Forum kicks off in Switzerland, with this year’s meeting centered on 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 are UnileverIBMSAB MillerJohnson & Johnson and Haliburton.

While you were sleeping

Iran disinvited from Syrian talks. A peace conference in Switzerland was salvaged after UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon rescinded his surprise invitation to Iran due to objections from Syrian rebels and the United States. 

Pollution does a roundtrip to China and back. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that industrialized countries have outsourced their greenhouse gas emissions to China and other developing countries; airborne pollution is then blown back across the Pacific Ocean to the United States.

Lenovo and IBM renew server talks. The companies tried and failed to reach a deal over IBM’s low-end server business last year, but are trying again to bridge the gap between the $4-6 billion IBM is reportedly offering and the $2.5 billion Lenovo is willing to pay.

China’s money injection. The People’s Bank of China offered funds to big lenders (paywall) to ease a cash crunch ahead of the Lunar New Year, pushing down interbank interest rates.

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).

US-Japan dolphin feud. New US ambassador Caroline Kennedy irked Japan with a tweet decrying an annual dolphin hunt that was depicted in the Academy Award-winning 2009 film “The Cove.”

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.

The sharing economy encourages racial discrimination. By delegating decisions to individual users, sites like Airbnb can be biased against renters whose names sound black.

Hunting black rhinos is good for conservation. Namibia’s controversial auction of hunting rights of the endangered species has resulted in fewer illegal poaching deaths.

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.

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

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

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

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