Quartz Daily Brief—Asia Edition—Calm in Ukraine, riots in Venezuela, Snowden’s odd job, Copernicus’s shame

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What to watch for today

Italy appoints a new prime minister. Matteo Renzi will become Italy’s youngest ever prime minister when Italian president Giorgio Napolitano asks him to form a government today—and its third consecutive leader to have been presidentially appointed, not democratically elected.

Thailand’s economy wobbles. Economists expect GDP grew only 0.3% year-on-year in the fourth quarter, as political unrest shook the country. However, the World Bank is optimistic about 2014, when it expects Thailand’s economy to grow by 4%.

Japanese shoppers boost the economy. An increase in domestic spending and business investment will have helped Japan’s economy grow by 2.8% in the fourth quarter (paywall), analysts expect. Consumers are splashing out on pricey items such as cars ahead of April’s tax hike.

An improbable job offer for Edward Snowden. Students elect a rector for Glasgow University, and the NSA whistleblower is one of four public figures nominated. Snowden said he will take the post if chosen, though how he’d do the job from Moscow isn’t clear.

Social media hits the spotlight. The sixth annual Social Media Week kicks off in New York City, but attendees will be participating in 26 countries across the globe. Check out the full schedule here.

Over the weekend

Novartis took India to task over patents. The Swiss pharma giant called on US and European policymakers to “apply pressure” to India (paywall), which rejected Novartis’s application to update a patent on a cancer drug. India sets a high bar for patent approvals to make generic drugs more widely available.

US unions suffered a body blow. The United Automobile Workers’ first attempt to unionize a foreign-owned car factory was thwarted when 53% of employees at a Volkswagen factory in Tennessee voted against unionization. It’s a bad sign for US unions already fighting falling membership.

Ukraine’s protestors called it a day… Anti-government protestors in Kiev called off their three-month long demonstration and agreed to clear occupied roads and municipal buildings after President Viktor Yanukovych promised to drop criminal charges against jailed activists.

… while riots escalated in Venezuela. Government supporters filled Venezuela Square, in central Caracas, responding to days of anti-government protests that resulted in the death of three people last Wednesday, for which opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez is wanted by the police.

The EC knocked Scottish independence. European Commission president José Manuel Barroso said Scotland shouldn’t harbor high hopes of joining the EU if it votes for independence from the UK later this year. Attaining membership would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible,” Barroso said.

Lebanon finally got a government. Lebanese leader Tammam Salam managed to cobble together a coalition, ending a 10-month gridlock since parliament appointed him prime minister. Political rivalries, exacerbated by Syria’s civil war, had blocked a consensus on a coalition.

Quartz obsession interlude

Max Nisen on why an impending shift in how American doctors get paid won’t bring down healthcare costs. “Economists think that larger networks of doctors operating on the salary model, rather than fee for service, will improve care and reduce costs. But the reality is that the shift from private practices might accomplish neither end in the short run… Instead of changing incentives, many hospitals tack facility fees on to procedures, offer bonuses to physicians based on the billing they generate, and pressure doctors to suggest physical therapy and follow-on X-rays with even more costly MRI scans.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

San Francisco is losing its liberal leaning. Hyper-gentrification and the tech boom are pushing the city off its progressive perch.

Bank CEOs are good value for money. Among the top British firms, financial services have the strongest correlation between executive pay and shareholder profit (paywall).

American workers’ job prospects are better than they look. The fears of stagnant wages and robots replacing people aren’t entirely justified.

Wall Street is far more boring than the movie The Wolf of Wall Street would have you believe. The all-nighters were spent over Excel spreadsheets, not Quaaludes (paywall).

Surprising discoveries

Moments of creative genius usually come in your late 30s. Particularly for scientists, and artists peak even later in life.

A quarter of Americans believes the sun orbits the earth. Copernicus is turning in his grave.

Facebook can map your relationship. Posts increase in the run up to a relationship, then drop off once it’s official.

A computer could predict the next revolution. Algorithms have done better at spotting incipient insurgencies than human CIA analysts.

A robot inspired by an electric fish. The underwater robots, borrowing sensing and motion tricks from the ghost knifefish, could do tricky jobs where human divers might be at risk.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, non-heliocentric theories, and middle-aged eureka moments to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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