Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Internet land rush, Karzai’s Taliban talks, T-Mobile-Sprint warning, nonexistent electric eels

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What to watch for today

The great internet land grab begins. Around 1,000 new top-level domain names including .limo, .coffee, 在线, and شبكة. will become available. Will they benefit regular people and small businesses as promised, or just the world’s biggest internet companies?

Thailand vote challenged. The opposition Democrat party that boycotted Sunday’s election is contesting it by other means, asking the Thai Constitutional Court to annul the vote. Meanwhile, the street protests that have choked Bangkok for months have eased.

Facebook turns ten. The social network that launched on Feb. 4, 2004 has more than 1.2 billion users and a market cap of some $135 billion. Here are some more Facebook facts and figures.

While you were sleeping

Karzai’s secret Taliban talks. The Afghanistan president has been holding covert negotiations with the Taliban since November, attempting to secure a peace accord without Western involvement and complicating efforts to keep US forces in place beyond this year.

UBS posted surprising gains, reporting better-than-expected quarterly income of $1.02 billion.

The Feds warned against a T-Mobile-Sprint merger. The head of the US Federal Communications Commission has serious concerns about the potential combination, which would drastically alter the telecom playing field.

BP slumped. Fourth quarter earnings fell by 28% to $2.8 billion, with significant losses in the refineries business; the company also reported an uptick in exploration drilling (paywall).

Toyota ramped up again. For the third time in as many quarters, the carmaker raised its full-year profit forecast, to $23.7 billion, on the back of steady sales and a weakening yen.

Australia kept rates on hold. Despite a deepening slump in the country’s non-mining sectors, the central bank maintained its benchmark interest rate at 2.5%.

Formula One attracted a bidder. US cable magnate John Malone is in talks with CVC Capital Partners about buying its 35% stake in Formula One racing (paywall)—a move that will surely irritate fellow tycoon Rupert Murdoch, who tried unsuccessfully to buy into F1 three years ago.

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on how the US invented the 401(k), its major retirement solution, by accident. ”There’s just one little problem: For all the big changes section that 401(k) wrought on American society, more than half of US retirees’ haven’t saved enough to continue their normal lifestyle when they’re done working, even when with Social Security’s public pension payments.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The US post office should become a bank… An inspector general’s report suggests offering services like bill paying, check cashing, and small loans.

…Because banks don’t do much banking anymore. The largest financial institutions treat deposits and loans as an afterthought.

We need genetically modified wheat. Corn and soybeans will have the advantage unless the government approves Monsanto’s GMO strains.

This won’t be the year of the electric car. We’ll have to wait for 2015.

Upworthy is going down. The viral news site’s trademark “curiosity-gap” headline exploits a Facebook loophole that isn’t likely to last.

Surprising discoveries

PTSD is a growing threat in inner-city America. Victims of urban violence have incidence rates that are similar to war veterans.

Bernanke didn’t even take a weekday off. The former Fed chair relaxed this weekend, then started work at the Brookings Institution first thing Monday morning.

How to pronounce “February.” It’s all about that pesky first “r.”

There is no such thing as an electric eel. It’s actually a fish.

It pays to be the king—but not that much. Juan Carlos of Spain will earn €292,752 ($395,918) this year, out of a royal family budget of $10.6 million.

Legal weed reduces suicide. States that allow medical marijuana see a significant decline in suicide rates for men.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, calendar pronunciation guides and royal paychecks to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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