Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Japan’s GDP, riots in Venezuela, Snowden’s odd job, flappy apps

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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.

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

Japanese exports disappointed. Fourth quarter growth expanded by 0.3% bringing GDP for 2013 to 1%, well below expectations. Exports picked up, but not by much—hinting at a new normal of sluggish shipments.

Turmoil was a drag on Thai growth. GDP accelerated by 0.6% in Thailand, slightly faster than the 0.3% economists predicted. But the political vacuum in the country has dented (paywall) investment in the country and its competitive standing.

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.

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.

Merkel embraced a data fortress in Europe. Ahead of a meeting with French president François Hollande, the German chancellor voiced support for a plan to keep European data networks away from the Americans.

Kerry preached the green gospel in Indonesia. Before visiting national officials, the US Secretary of State implored young Indonesians to lobby their government for climate change action—and ribbed ‘flat-earther’ global warming skeptics.

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.

High tech is losing its luster. Over the past decade, dynamism and entrepreneurship in the sector have been on the decline.

Bolivia’s turnaround. Once an economic basket case, the country is now a rare bright spot.

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. Most all-nighters are spent over Excel spreadsheets, not Quaaludes (paywall).

Surprising discoveries

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

Africa is the next frontier. For Kung Fu.

The paper lobby is trying to stop the US government from going digital. Big, glossy money props up Consumers for Paper Options.

Apple and Google are rejecting apps with “flappy” in their title. When imitation isn’t flattering.

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.

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

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