Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Dimon’s raise, Apple’s phablet, Samsung’s squeeze, sound of silence

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What to watch for today

Jamie Dimon’s raise. The JPMorgan board has voted to increase the CEO’s pay package despite billions in fines over the past year, according to the New York Times. Details will be released “possibly as soon as Friday.”

Davos rolls on. UK prime minister David Cameron and US secretary of state John Kerry are two highlights of the day’s agenda. Yesterday, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani failed to impress Western policy hawks, Ukraine’s prime minister was summarily disinvited, and LGBT activists were sidelined.

Canadian inflation (or deflation). There’s been plenty of discussion about a housing bubble in Canada, but that hasn’t translated into higher consumer prices, with economists more concerned about the persistent specter of deflation.

While you were sleeping

Samsung got squeezed, as fourth-quarter earnings fell short of analyst expectations. The company’s flagship smartphone division is facing pressure from Apple on the high-end and new competition from Indian and Chinese manufacturers on the low-end.

Apple is getting into phablets. The iconic device maker is planning to release a handset with a screen larger than 5 inches; such devices are popular in places like South Korea and have huge growth potential elsewhere.

China unemployment ticked up. The urban jobless rate was 4.05% at the end of December, up from 4.04% but still comfortably below the 4.6% that the country tries to keep below.

Argentina’s currency crumbled. The peso plunged as much as 18% after the country’s central bank gave up trying to support it, a Sisyphean task that has depleted its foreign reserves to a 12-year low. Other emerging-market currencies were also hit, amid rising concerns about growth.

The White House stood up for the National Security Agency. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent government agency, said the logging of phone metadata must stop, but the Obama administration immediately rejected its recommendations.

More evidence for water on Mars. A NASA rover confirmed the findings of another rover, adding to signs that at least some of the conditions needed for life to form once existed on the red planet. The next step is to find out whether the water contained the right chemicals.

Quartz obsession interlude

Matt Phillips on why so few Germans own the homes they live in. “Isn’t home ownership a crucial cog to any healthy economy? Well, as Germany shows—and Gershwin wrote—it ain’t necessarily so. In Spain, around 80% of people live in owner-occupied housing. (Yay!) But unemployment is nearly 27%, thanks to the burst of a giant housing bubble. (Ooof.) Only 43% own their home in Germany, where unemployment is 5.2%. Of course, none of this actually explains why Germans tend to rent so much.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

It’s time for the lottocracy. Elections are irredeemably flawed, so why not choose our leaders at random?

Globalization could save the US labor movement. If, that is, a US union can convince Volkswagen to import the model it uses in Germany.

The world needs a “circular economy.” Companies shouldn’t sell goods, but rather services based on the use of goods, to encourage re-use and recycling.

A century year-old idea could end San Francisco’s class war… A simple change to land taxes could alleviate the Bay Area’s gaping inequality.

…Or maybe it couldn’t. For densely populated, built-up cities, changes to zoning policy might be a better solution to stratospheric property prices, which are at the root of inequality.

Surprising discoveries

South Korean plastic surgeons really know how to advertise. A popular Gangnam clinic is fined for its decorative tower of patients’ shaved-off chin bones.

Seeking the sound of silence. Thanks to jet airplanes, there are almost no places left on Earth that are free of man-made noises.

How a 1,500-ton ocean liner became a cannibal-rat-infested vessel. Abandoned “ghost” ships aren’t even that rare.

The strange life of bond traders at Pimco. The trading floor at the world’s biggest bond fund is eerily quiet, and there are some rather odd rules.

How life emerges from inanimate matter. A British physicist has a theory that says it’s pretty much inevitable.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, ghost ship sightings and theories of life to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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