Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Italy’s PM out, Kerry in China, Venezuela protests, Viking valentines

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What to watch for today

Italy’s prime minister steps down. After less than a year in office, Enrico Letta will hand in his resignation. His center-left party voted 136-16 in support of his rival Matteo Renzi, the mayor of Florence.

South Korea punishes credit card companies. Regulators will announce fines against KB Financial Group, NH Financial Group and the Lotte Group, after about 60 million people were affected by the country’s biggest theft of credit card data.

France flirts with recession. The country’s fourth-quarter GDP data comes on the heels of several weak data points. Analysts expect GDP across the euro zone to grow by a modest 0.2%, led by Germany.

John Kerry plays good cop/bad cop. The US secretary of state visits Beijing to seek help in dealing with North Korea, but also to chide China for raising political tensions in Asia.

Will Comcast-Time Warner Cable make the grade? The massive $44 billion acquisition is already being questioned on anti-trust grounds. As it stands, there’s a good chance federal regulators will stop the deal, or change it significantly.

While you were sleeping

Chinese inflation stayed steady. January consumer prices in the nation rose by 2.5%, the same rate as December, which might give the central bank more room to encourage growth.

The US cast a pall over Avon. Avon Cosmetics said it could end up paying $132 million to appease US criminal and civil inquiries into allegations that it paid bribes in China—far more than the $12 million settlement Avon originally offered.

Protests turned deadly in Venezuela. At least three people died on Wednesday during protests against the government of president Nicolás Maduro. The government is blaming the unrest on a high-profile opposition leader and is seeking his arrest.

Thailand took action against protesters. Hundreds of riot police swarmed Bangkok in “Operation Valentine,” removing blockades and reclaiming public spaces that have been used for months by anti-government demonstrators.

Apple skewed ethical. The tech giant said it would name and shame suppliers that used ”conflict materials” for its products (paywall), and encourage ethical sourcing of gold, tin and tungsten.

Syrian peace talks neared the brink. The chief UN mediator of the three-week old negotiations, steered by the US and Russia, said failure is staring him in the face.

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on why the current Comcast-Time Warner Cable tie-up plan won’t happen. “Comcast and Time Warner Cable are two of the largest telecoms in the United States, providing television service, broadband internet and landline telephone to millions of people. Telecoms already tend toward monopoly behavior that hurts consumers, which is one reason that the two firms are notorious for being the most disliked in America’s most-disliked industry. And while Comcast will point out correctly that the two companies don’t compete in the same regions of the US, that’s not likely to convince regulators that their merger won’t affect national competition between telecoms.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Amazon should unbundle its Prime package. Users should be able to choose which elements work for them.

House of Cards depicts modern love better than any romcom. How appropriate that the new season debuts on Valentine’s Day.

Comcast’s planned takeover of Time Warner Cable should be blocked. The mega-merger would kill competition in the US cable industry, and that’s bad for customers.

Surprising discoveries

Google Glass causes headaches. An early adapter is ditching the device due to persistent cranial pain.

Vikings sent Valentine’s Day cards. This 900-year-old slab of bone says “kiss me” in coded runes.

Olympians send Tinder messages. The location-based matchmaking app has seen a 400% user boost in Sochi.

Pandora will target ads based on predicted political leanings. Red state or blue state; country music or jazz.

Winning the lottery makes you more right-wing. Not even millions—just a piddly $800 win.

Women are more educated than their husbands. It’s the first time in more than 50 years of monitoring.

Earwax says a lot about a person. Including country of origin, diet, environment and physiology.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Valentine runes and earwax analyses to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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