Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Ukrainian sanctions, new internet rules, Facebook to buy WhatsApp, US clown shortage

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What to watch for today

Walmart ends the year on a disappointing note. After three consecutive quarters of weak results, Walmart cut its full-year guidance at the end of January and expects to post fourth-quarter earnings per share around the $1.60 mark. It’s been a tough year for the retail chain, particularly in emerging markets where it’s had to shut stores in Brazil and China. 

The EU ponders sanctioning Ukraine. At an emergency meeting, European Union officials will vote on whether to impose sanctions on Ukraine due to “excessive force by the Ukrainian authorities” toward anti-government protestors that have resulted in 26 deaths. EU leaders said President Viktor Yanukovich would be safe from sanctions in the interest of ongoing dialogue.

War-torn families reunite in North Korea. Dozens of elderly South Koreans—with an average age of 84—will cross the border into North Korea today for a long-awaited reunion with family members that were separated during the 1950-53 Korean War. Its the first meeting of its kind since 2010, when a North Korean attack on the South ended the reunion program.

Hewlett-Packard emerges from its losing streak. Hewlett-Packard is expected to post its first earnings per share growth since 2010; analysts expect $0.84, up from $0.82 in last year’s first quarter. HP started the year on a strong foot, with its major divisions—printing and enterprise hardware—showing strong momentum. The question is whether the company can keep that up into 2014.

While you were sleeping

Ukraine’s warring sides call a truce. President Viktor Yanukovych took to his website to announce a truce with the opposition after escalating violence in Kiev killed 26 people.  He said negotiations were underway “aimed at ending the bloodshed” and “stabilizing the situation in the country for the benefit of civil peace.”

Facebook splurged on another rival app. Facebook will buy Whatsapp, the free messaging app, for $19 billion in cash and stock—the social network’s largest acquisition yet. Whatsapp’s brand and service will continue unchanged. This follows Facebook’s $1 billion Instagram buyout in 2012, and its spurned $3 billion offer for Snapchat last year.

Tesla’s earnings drove its stock to record high. Tesla shares jumped to an all-time high after the electric car maker posted fourth-quarter earnings per share of $0.33, soaring past analysts’ expectations, on revenue of $615 million. Tesla said it delivered 22,477 cars in 2013 and predicted selling another 35,000 this year.

Greece’s cash flow sneaks into the black. Greece recorded its first current account surplus—meaning more money is flowing into the economy than out of it—since records began in 1948. The country ended 2013 with €1.2 billion ($1.7 billion) in its pocket, or just under 1% of its GDP, boosted by tourists flocking to its sun-drenched beaches.

Tony Blair joins the News Corp phone hacking scandal. Tony Blair made himself available as an unofficial adviser to former News Corp executive Rebekah Brooks six days before her arrest—as well as Rupert Murdoch and his son James Murdoch—saying the arrangement needed to remain “between us,” an English court was told.

The internet got a new rulebook. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said it would rewrite the rules governing internet broadband suppliers rather than appeal a federal court decision that declared the FCC “open internet” regulations unfair. The new net neutrality guidelines will prevent internet providers from discriminating against content providers, blocking certain websites and inhibiting competition.

Quartz obsession interlude

Nick Stockton on how bitcoin could become the go-to currency for digital tipping. “A lot of the hype around Bitcoin involves the crazy, illegal, or mundane things you can buy with it. But the digital currency could come in handy for an old-fashioned practice: tipping. According to an informal survey of 1,000 Bitcoin users published last April, users ranked gifts and donations as their most frequent transactions. At 36%, these categories beat out illegal drugs, gambling and the catch-all ‘other legal goods.'” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Russia and Western Europe are at war over Ukraine. Russia is winning.

There’s more to life than GDP. Market economic output isn’t a necessary indicator of communal well-being. 

Dead Poets Society represents the death of the humanities. The feel-good, uplifting irreverence of scholarship undermines serious academic study.

American auto workers must have an inferiority complex. Why else would they have rejected unionization?

Surprising discoveries

We curse more on Twitter than we do in real life. Wednesday is peak swearing day.

The US is running a clown shortage. Clowning around just isn’t that cool anymore.

Chicago has gone Minority Report. Its police force is closely monitoring a “heat list” of people it considers likely to get involved in crime.

A slang word is no longer welcome in Ghana’s parliament. Overuse of “tweaa,” expressing disapproval, was disrupting proceedings.

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