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Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Syrian peace talks, China’s tax havens, El-Erian is gone, Marx is back

By Quartz Staff

What to watch for today

Syrian peace talks begin in Geneva. Delegates from the Assad regime and rebel forces are hosted by the UN, the US and Russia in an attempt to end to the country’s civil war, but Iran won’t be at the table after UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon withdrew the invitation under US pressure—which is probably a mistake

Did Netflix grow? The video streaming service is expected to report higher earnings, but as always, analysts will pay more attention to how many subscribers it added in the fourth quarter. (If the Onion is any guide, Netflix might also want to think about improving its film catalog.)

Ebay’s triumph over a short holiday. Despite worse than expected sales in the fourth quarter, analysts still predict earnings will grow at the online marketplace and payments company.

While you were sleeping

The Bank of Japan held the course. The central bank’s audacious experiment in fighting Japan’s endemic inflation has led to a five-year high of inflation expectations, but it kept kept its pledge to expand monetary stimulus.

The CEO of the world’s largest bond fund stepped down. PIMCO’s Mohamed El-Erian announced a surprise decision to leave the business in March, which is sure to re-inflate rumors about the Egyptian-American’s political ambitions. He’s staying on at the fund’s parent company, financial-services giant Allianz.

The IMF got more optimistic. The group’s World Economic Outlook forecast faster global growth (pdf) of 3.7% in 2014, rising to 3.9% in 2015. But it warned that low inflation expectations in advanced economies and financial volatility in emerging markets could throw a wrench in the works. 

Chinese politicians’ relatives in the spotlight. A wide-ranging investigation into the assets of relatives of China’s most powerful Communist Party members could force the country to confront corruption at the highest levels.

Verizon reported a $5 billion profit. The largest US telecom had a solid quarter, and has room to grow: 30% of its customers still aren’t using smartphones.

Unilever pleased the markets. The giant consumer-goods firm faces slowing sales growth, but still beat expectations thanks in part to the wild success of its TRESemmé hair care products in Brazil.  

Third Point went after Dow. Activist investor Dan Loeb is calling for the chemical company (paywall) to break itself up.

Scientists reported 2013 was the fourth-hottest year on record. Global warming: Still a thing.

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on Shape Security, a start-up looking to change the economics of hacking. ”Shape Shifter has been in trials with companies like StubHub, the online ticket re-seller, and Citigroup, whose head of security praised it for ‘turn[ing] the cost equation back around in the defender’s favor.’ … The idea is to make hacking a human endeavor again: If bots won’t work, hackers will face more time and expense to do the dirty work themselves, or hire others to do it for them.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Keep your CEO succession candidates a secret. And other ways not to screw up a corporate leadership transition.

Janet Yellen’s Fed should ignore unemployment. It’s the best way to create more jobs.

Overwork is bad for productivity. Once, high earners worked fewer hours than low earners, but the rise of knowledge work has flipped that norm, with bad results.

Maybe workers should take turns being the CEO. Or at least, CEOs should stop being CEO from time to time.

Marx is back. Why the class struggle is globally relevant again.

Surprising discoveries

EU regulators have made the cinnamon roll illegal in Denmark. Anything but the kanelsnegels!

Bill Gates says there will be no poor countries by 2035. So that’s settled, then.

Russia and Japan may finally stop fighting World War II. At least one Asian island dispute could be resolved.

Warren Buffet will give you $1 billion if you correctly forecast the US collegiate basketball tournament. 1 in 9.2 quintillion? I’ll take those odds.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, illegal pastries and Panglossian predictions to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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