Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Euro zone growth, Volkswagen vote, cable deal doubts, 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.

John Kerry plays good cop/bad cop. The US secretary of state began a 24-hour visit to Beijing by asking for aid with North Korea’s disarmament. He’s also expected to chide China for raising political tensions in Asia.

Volkswagen workers go to the polls. Employees at a Tennessee auto plant will decide today whether or not to join a union, in a vote critical for the future of unions in the American south.

Consumer confidence risks another dip. The US consumer sentiment index for January is expected to fall from 81.2 to 80.6, following a slip last month and data showing stagnating wages.

While you were sleeping

The euro zone grew. Euro zone GDP rose by 0.3% in the fourth quarter, beating expectations of 0.2%—but still contracted by 0.4% for all of 2013. German GDP rose by 0.4% on rising exports; France, which looked to be headed towards a recession, rose by 0.3% and Italy posted a slim 0.1% gain.

Chinese inflation stayed steady. January consumer prices rose by 2.5%, the same rate as December.

Rakuten acquired a voice app. The Japanese e-commerce company is planning to spend $900 million for Viber, the voice app for smartphones and PCs that is active in 193 countries.

Inflation finally eases in India. Wholesale prices accelerated at just 5.1% in January, an eight-month low and a rate close to the central bank’s target. The figures arrived after a reported retail inflation slowdown.

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

South Korea agreed to ditch Huawei. Sensitive correspondence between South Korea and the US will circumvent the Chinese telecom, as South Korea bowed to US concerns over Chinese espionage. In October, the US struck a similar deal with Australia.

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 Prime. Users should be able to choose which elements work for them.

Millionaire taxpayers should get more votes. Tom Perkins has ideas about politics.

House of Cards is more realistic about love than any romcom. How appropriate that the new season debuts on Valentine’s Day.

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

Pandora’s ads will target your political leanings. Red state or blue state; country music or jazz.

A civilian NSA employee logged Snowden in. The employee used his own log-in and password on Edward Snowden’s terminal, then Snowden swiped the password.

Darwin’s kids liked to draw. The “Origin of Species” manuscripts featured depictions of epic battles, with soldiers astride steeds of blueberries and carrots.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, coded Valentine cards and Google aspirin to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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