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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Yellen’s grilling, Branson’s offering, Asian budget airlines, Flappy Bird RIP

By Quartz Staff

What to watch for today

Janet Yellen in the hot seat. The new US Federal Reserve chair will testify before Congress for the first time since taking the helm. Lawmakers will press her on why she’s signaled that she’ll continue the Fed’s scaling-back of bond purchases despite signs of a soft economy.

Taiwan and China’s awkward diplomacy dance. Diplomats meet for the first time since the end of their 1949 civil war to discuss cross-strait relations. Big surprise: China says Taiwanese independence is still off the table.

CVS’s profit prescription. The American drugstore chain, which recently said it will stop selling tobacco products this year, is set to report fourth-quarter earnings per share of $1.05, compared to $0.90 last year, on revenues of $32.67 billion. CVS has consistently beaten analysts’ estimates.

While you were sleeping

Barclays sheds profits and jobs, but not bonuses. Though profits at the bank fell by 32% in 2013 (with investment banking particularly hard hit) and it’s preparing to cut 12,000 jobs—most of them in the UK—it has set aside more money for bonuses for the remaining staff.

Thailand teetered. The caretaker government admitted it could not continue its beleaguered rice subsidy program, which expires at the end of the month, after China pulled out of a deal to provide 1.32 million tons of surplus rice. Meanwhile, a Thai official said this month’s election may need to be re-run entirely.

Nestlé and L’Oréal shook hands. The Swiss consumer-goods colossus agreed to sell back its 8% stake in L’Oréal for €6.5 billion ($8.9 billion). With the deal, Nestlé is expected to focus more on food and nutrition and L’Oréal will zero in on cosmetics. Both companies will release earnings later this week.

Richard Branson’s next IPO. The newly profitable airline Virgin Americas has picked Barclays and Deutsche Bank to run its public offering, according to the Financial Times (paywall), which could come in the second half of the year—a mere seven years after the airline’s maiden flight.

Vodafone said no to Facebook Zero. Facebook had asked Vodafone for a deal like those it has struck with some other telcos, whereby users in emerging markets don’t have to pay for mobile data when they use Facebook. Vodafone’s CEO sent Facebook packing (paywall).

The US thawed a little towards Narendra Modi. A State Department official is set to meet with Modi, the right-wing Indian politician and prime-ministerial favorite, who has been denied a US visa for his alleged role in 2002 riots that killed over a thousand Muslims.

Quartz obsession interlude

Lily Kuo on how Asia’s cash-conscious middle class will fuel airlines’ traffic growth. “As households in emerging Asian countries grow wealthier, more are traveling domestically and to neighboring countries. These newly wealthy travelers are still budget-conscious, which is one reason why regional discount carriers have taken off so quickly. As of October, budget airlines accounted for over half of capacity in Southeast Asia’s four largest travel markets, compared to the 40% of the market that budget airlines in Europe (paywall) occupy, even though they’ve been in existence for almost twice as long.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Amazon is undermining books, not just book publishers. Its low prices reinforce the idea that the book is an object of minimal value.

The rise of part-time work in America is a myth. No matter how you slice the numbers, full-time work is becoming more common, not less.

The emerging-markets slump should surprise nobody. Least of all economists, who should have realized long ago that the countries were too dependent on foreign finance.

Let’s embrace Stanley Fischer’s time at Citigroup. Private-sector banking experience will be an an asset, not a liability for the potential Fed vice-chairman.

American football will never be “ready” for gay players. But after the coming-out of Michael Sam, a rising star, the sport is just going to have to deal with it.

Surprising discoveries

The most sophisticated malware campaign was undiscovered for seven years. Meet Mask, the attacker of 380 victims in 31 countries.

Flappy Bird is dead, but its appeal lives on. iPhones with the app installed are selling for astronomical sums on eBay, now that the hit game has been removed from the Apple Store.

More than half of young Indians want to leave for the US. Corruption and violence are nearly as responsible as the laggard economy.

American men prefer sex to gifts on Valentine’s Day. So said two-thirds of them in a survey; among women, given the choice, 70% would rather have the gift.

Lotteries tilt their winners rightward. The bigger the pot, the more likely lottery winners will support conservative parties and become less egalitarian.

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