Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Obama’s big speech, UK GDP, Turkey’s drastic measures, Google Glass insurance

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What to watch for today

Obama’s State of the Union address is expected to address immigration reform and income inequality. Pundits will also be watching how he handles the delicate issue of Obamacare.

American Airlines flies out of the red. In its first quarterly results since merging with US Airways, the world’s largest airline is expected to swing to a profit—but most of the costs from the merger won’t yet be accounted for.

Turkey tries to save its currency. The central bank will hold an emergency meeting after the lira plummeted to record lows. An expected hike in interest rates is already causing the currency to bounce back slightly.

Mohamed Morsi on trial, again. The deposed Egyptian president is back in court to face charges for his escape from prison exactly three years ago during the demonstrations that brought down Hosni Mubarak.

While you were sleeping

UK GDP rose by 0.7% in the fourth quarter, contributing to the fastest annual increase since 2007 and putting more pressure on the Bank of England to raise interest rates.

Ukraine’s PM offered to resign. Mykola Azarov said he would step down to end anti-government protests, a move that would trigger the dissolution of the country’s cabinet within 60 days.

Thailand’s PM vowed to continue with elections. Yingluck Shinawatra rejected a proposal by the country’s Election Commission to delay a scheduled Feb. 2 vote. Gunshots were reportedly fired at the Army facility where the PM’s meeting with the commission was being held. 

Ikea customers are feeling eager. The furniture maker posted record quarterly profits and said consumer sentiment was especially strong in China, Russia, and the United States.

Smartphones selling like hotcakes. Research firm IDC said shipments topped a billion in 2013 (paywall), an increase of 38% from the year before, with volume driven mostly by cheaper devices. 

Bank of India’s surprise rate hike. The central bank unexpectedly increased rates from 7.75% to 8% in an attempt to get inflation under control.

China went on “high alert” for bird flu, placing a ban on live fowl trading in some areas after a spike in H7N9 infections and deaths in humans. Hong Kong will cull 20,000 infected chickens, but the true canaries in the coal mine are healthcare workers.

Quartz obsession interlude

Christopher Mims on how Intel’s voice recognition system will trump Siri by ditching the cloud. “The result could be voice-recognizing devices with which we can have an actual conversation. That could mean something as simple as telling our phones to ‘please email Mike,’ followed by the phone asking which ‘Mike’ we mean. It will also, inevitably, mean something like the artificially intelligent conversation systems pictured in Iron Man, transforming our computers into something like true personal assistants.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Reshoring is the new offshoring. From GE to Ford to Whirlpool, manufacturers are deciding it’s actually cheaper to build products in the United States.

Performance reviews are a dangerous waste of time—even among the people who are the most eager to learn from them.

Emerging markets have themselves to blame. The worst-hit economies have low levels of productivity, so they are forced to depend on volatile commodity exports.

The biggest threat to China’s Communist Party comes from within. Economic reforms are taking aim at the entrenched elites who have grown vastly rich under the current system.

It’s time to ditch your Facebook shares. The social network’s growth is flatlining and its users aren’t logging on as much, so sell now before Wednesday’s quarterly earnings.

Surprising discoveries

Google Glass will be covered by health insurance. The wearable computer will be available with prescription lenses and covered by vision insurer VSP.

Spam is a luxury gift in South Korea. The popularity of the Lunar New Year offering can be traced back to US Army rations during the Korean War.

Jack Dorsey’s strange silence. The co-founder of Twitter hasn’t tweeted in three weeks. It could be nothing. But it might be something.

Why the Pope’s doves got attacked. The so-called birds of peace are bred to be unnaturally white, drawing the attention of their predatory cousins. 

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Google Glass prescriptions and gift-wrapped Spam to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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