Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Bitcoin on eBay, Australian carmakers, toddler milk, giraffe meat

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What to watch for today

US same-sex spousal rights. The US Justice Department will expand the rights of same-sex married people “to the greatest possible extent under the law”—including bankruptcies, prison visitation, and the right to not testify against a spouse—even in states where same-sex marriage is not legal.

Syria reattempts peace talks. Syria’s government will attend a new round of negotiations in Geneva as a three-day ceasefire in Homs draws to a close. The first round of talks ended recently without progress.

EBay starts trading bitcoin. The UK branch of the online auction house will begin listing bitcoin and other virtual currencies for sale, though only in classified ads, meaning that the transactions themselves will have to take place outside eBay.

The state of play in the toy industry. Hasbro reports fourth-quarter earnings, and investors will be looking to see how the creator of GI Joe is faring against digital gaming—particularly after toymaker Mattel’s disappointing results.

The Time Warner Cable battle escalates. Charter Communications is preparing to nominate a team of 13 new Time Warner Cable directors (paywall) after the company rejected Charter’s $61 billion buyout offer last month. The deadline for nominations is the end of this week.

Over the weekend

Tokyo got a pro-nuclear governor. Nuclear energy proponent Yoichi Masuzoe, a former TV anchor and cabinet minister, was elected by a wide margin after the anti-nuclear vote was split between two rival candidates.

A death knell for flailing European banks. Danièle Nouy, the new chief banking regulator in the euro zone, signaled a new, tougher approach to regulation by suggesting in her first interview (paywall) that weak banks should be allowed to swiftly die.

Japan hit a record low current-account surplus. It was down 31.5% to ¥3.3 trillion ($32.3 billion), as energy imports picked up and exports slowed. A move toward current-account deficits may be evidence that Abenomics is working.

Emerging markets continued to slump. Thanks to sluggish growth in BRIC countries, business activity in emerging markets slowed to a four-month low in January.

Switzerland voted against European immigrants. Swiss voters passed by a slight majority—just 50.3% were in favor—a proposal to reintroduce stricter limits on immigrants from EU countries.

Nissan fell to last in Japan. The company posted a 57% jump in quarterly profits, to ¥84.3 billion ($825 million). But the weaker yen also boosted profits for other Japanese firms, making Nissan, the envy of its rivals two years ago, the least profitable carmaker in the nation.

Australia lost its last car plant. On Monday, Toyota announced that it will close its facility in Australia by 2017, blaming the rising costs of manufacturing in the country. Last year, both General Motors and Ford made similar declarations, leaving the nation with no auto plants in three years time.

The NSA’s link to drones. The maiden missive from First Look, the new publication from Pierre Omidyar and Glenn Greenwald, accuses the US National Security Agency of using flawed methods to identify targets for drone attacks that end up killing innocent people.

Quartz obsession interlude

Heather Timmons on how baby-formula makers are trying to save their flagging industry. “Also known as ‘growing-up milk’ or ‘GUMPs’ (growing-up milk products) by the companies that make them, powdered milk-based beverages for the 1- to 5-year-old set have exploded into a $15 billion business… But health professionals around the world say toddler milks are not only expensive and entirely unnecessary, but could be harming children’s long-term health. Regulating them and how they are sold is the next big battle in the long, acrimonious relationship between the $41 billion-a-year formula industry and global health advocates.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Microsoft should forget about Android. There are suggestions that Microsoft ditch its own smartphone operating system for Google’s open-source one, but Google has made sure that’s not going to work.

Drugstores should ditch more than tobacco products. US drugstore chains sell a whole range of things that are really bad for your health.

Visitors to the Sochi Olympics shouldn’t worry about hackers. They should, however, be very worried about government surveillance.

Brand loyalty is passé. Consumers now know much more about products’ real value, and as a result they, and smaller producers, are the beneficiaries.

We’ve fallen out of love with tablets. Despite a swooning first impression, the devices have let us down.

Surprising discoveries

No more spraying perfume samples on your wrist. A startup uses an algorithm to find the best scent for you.

Why marijuana gives you the munchies. Scientists have found that it enhances your sense of smell.

NASA is working on devices to regenerate bone and muscle tissue. Star Trek technology today.

The height of Apple fandom. This Japanese man got in line for the iPhone 6—a product that hasn’t been announced yet.

A giraffe death firestorm. Controversy swirled after the Copenhagen Zoo put down Marius, a healthy two-year old giraffe, and fed him to the lions, with a very young audience looking on.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, perfume algorithms and giraffe obituaries to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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