Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—US farm bill, begging the Scots, ArcelorMittal optimism, ‘third world’ LaGuardia

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What to watch for today

The Sochi Olympic shenanigans begin. Russia’s first post-Soviet Olympic Games kick off today, ushered in by many a scandal. The event, running about five times over budget, has been marred by claims of embezzlement and corruption, boycotts over Russia’s human rights record and athlete withdrawals due to dangerous courses.

Americans win some, lose some in their latest farm bill. US president Barack Obama will sign the new $1 trillion farm bill (paywall), giving US farmers better crop insurance to mitigate risk and consumers better meat labeling. Too bad for American households that federal food stamps get slashed.

Brazil fends off inflation, sort of. Thanks to a weakening currency and seasonal falloff in certain types of spending, Brazil’s monthly inflation is expected to ease to 0.61% in January, shrugging off December’s decade high of 0.92%. That still leaves annual inflation at 5.67%, above the government’s 4.5% target.

Cameron appeals to the Scots. With Scottish independence looking like real possibility, the British prime minister plans an emotional appeal to keep the United Kingdom intact.

The US jobs tally perks up. December was a rough month for US job numbers; a brighter figure for January (an expected 185,000 added jobs) should pave the way for more tapering by the US Federal Reserve.

California kill switch bill. Two Golden State lawmakers will propose a bill that would require cell phones, beginning in 2015, to include an anti-theft device. Those without one will be fined $2,500 for each device.

While you were sleeping

The ECB was sent to court. A German constitutional court ruled that the European Central Bank’s Outright Monetary Transactions program, its bond-buying stimulus, likely exceeds the bank’s mandate and infringes on the the power of euro zone nations. The decision refers the case to the European Court.

IBM plans sell its chips. The company is exploring the sale of its semiconductor business, which has dragged down earnings, though it is open to a joint partnership as well. Two weeks ago, IBM agreed to sell its low-end servers to China’s Lenovo.

Swiss industrialists ABB will sell, too. The conglomerate is on the prowl for buyers for two American companies acquired recently—Thomas & Betts Corp, an electrical component maker, and Power-One, a solar energy firm—alone with other units. ABB is hoping to raise $1 billion in total proceeds.

ArcelorMittal bounced back. After a long stretch of weak demand, the world’s largest steel company posted a 23% jump in fourth quarter profits on stronger orders from the US and Europe. The company also projected earnings of $8 billion for 2014 and upswings in steel demand from China and Brazil—although its predictions have missed the mark before.

Vodafone got the green light in India. Six months after lifting the ban on foreign ownership in telecom, the Indian cabinet approved the British mobile carrier’s $1.6 billion plan to scoop up its local unit.

The US blocked liquids from Russia. A day after the US government issued a warning about bombs traveling in toothpaste into Russia, the Transportation Security Administration banned all liquid, gels and aerosols in carry-on luggage on flights between the two countries.

Quartz obsession interlude

David Yanofsky on how America’s rising exports are killing the planet.“As a portion of US GDP, the trade deficit shrank to 2.8% from 3.3%. The shift reflects a resurgence in American manufacturing and fossil fuel extraction, as well as a healthier world economy, which created new opportunities for tourists to visit the US. This is good news for the US economy, but the growth in these sectors is also striking for its impact on the environment. Travel and energy services are the largest contributors to household carbon emissions.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

India deserves its rebuke in Sochi. Why three Indians are competing in the Olympics, but India isn’t.

Gates is having a Steve Jobs moment. But his return to Microsoft may be disappoint—more Michael Jordan at the Wizard than Jobs at Apple.

Bitcoin won’t disrupt digital transactions. David rarely beats Goliath, just look at all the companies who have been trying to topple Bloomberg News for decades.

‘Ax’ is not a mistake. It has been an English alternative to ‘ask’ for 1,200 years.

LaGuardia is a ‘third world’ airport. Especially when compared with Hong Kong’s, according to the latest Bidenism.

Millennials are conservative, thrifty investors. They could go down in history as the Wisest Generation.

Philip Seymour Hoffman didn’t know how to be happy. It wasn’t just the drugs and depressing acting roles.

Surprising discoveries

Germany is growing fast. And nobody seems to be noticing.

Exorcisms have entered the 21st century.  Over Skype, apparently.

Licenses made Lego a business behemoth. A tiny Darth Vader is a revenue empire.

Google took a stab at Russia. The company enlisted a damning doodle and quote.

Several viral images allegedly from Sochi are fake. Before the games start, forgery has already won.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, viral hits from Sochi and Millennial investors to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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