Quartz Daily Brief—Uncertainty in Ukraine, G20 finance summit, Xiaomi’s expansion, mile-low club

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What to watch for today

Uncertainty and violence in Ukraine. President Viktor Yanukovych says he is poised to sign a deal to end a bloody confrontation with protesters that has killed at least 70 people. But shots are still being heard in the street and anti-government demonstrators have not confirmed the agreement.

Is Mexico’s growth holding up? The country has sidestepped the worst of the emerging market sell-off, but observers are still concerned about growth. Mexico is expected to post fourth-quarter GDP growth of 0.6%, down from 0.8% a year earlier.

The global economy gets a fix-it plan. Finance ministers from the world’s major economies meet at the G20 Summit in Sydney, Australia. The US is pushing back against developing countries’ criticisms of the Federal Reserve’s tapering plan.

US-China relations hit a speed bump. President Obama will meet the Dalai Lama to express concerns about “the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas of China.” The move is certain to anger Chinese leaders, who see the exiled Tibetan as a “splittist.”

While you were sleeping

Xiaomi’s expansion went like gangbusters. The company’s mid-priced phones sold out in eight minutes in Singapore, its first market outside of greater China—part of a strategy to convert limited supply into intense consumer demand.

A US power giant prepared for a breakup. Energy Future Holdings, previously known as TXU Corp, is preparing to file for bankruptcy protection in the wake of a massive private equity buyout gone wrong, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Thailand averted a dust-up with farmers. Angry farmers called off their protest in Bangkok after the government pledged to pay them under a controversial rice subsidy scheme. They would have joined anti-government protesters who have been blockading the city for weeks. Meanwhile, Moody’s affirmed Thailand’s government bonds as “stable.”

RBS shakeup. The bank is planning a “monster restructuring” of its international and investment banking operations, according to the Financial Times. A whopping 30,000 jobs could be cut as the state-controlled bank limits its ambitions to domestic retail and business banking.

Air France buys in Brazil. The airline agreed to purchase a small stake in Gol Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes, the country’s second-largest carrier, for $100 million as it seeks to diversify beyond its weak domestic market.

Russia vows to weather the emerging market storm. The country’s foreign minister, bound for the G20 summit, says Russia is better suited than most economies to deal with the US decision to taper its monetary stimulus.

Quartz obsession interlude

Roberto A. Ferdman on how Venezuelan unrest is dividing South America. “Sometimes it takes a crisis to find out who’s got your back. Such is the case for the government in Venezuela, where massive, and at times deadly, protests are being waged against the country’s leadership. On one hand, neighbors like Argentina, Bolivia, and Ecuador have made clear their unconditional support for Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro. On the other, leaders in placed like Colombia, Chile, and Peru have not. These alliances largely—but not always—reflect political and economic interests.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Facebook had to buy WhatsApp. The messaging app is one of the few businesses that could have been a Facebook killer.

Obama missed his chance to save Syria. By failing to act when Syria used sarin gas last year, America’s threats have lost their power (paywall).

Ukrainian unrest is the last vestige of the Cold War. It’s Russia against the West all over again.

Get ready for the next Cold War. There’s one shaping up between the US and China.

Get rid of Ivy League endowment funds. They’re anti-meritocratic and an inefficient allocation of resources.

Surprising discoveries

The powerlessness of positive thinking. Fantasies of success actually lessen your chances of succeeding.

Now you can join the mile-low club. Lovers Deep is a luxury submarine available for £175,000 ($291,690) per couple per night.

Meryl Streep gets more Oscar mentions than God. The actor has racked up four speech mentions in the last decade, compared to the Almighty’s three.

Cat bites are correlated with depression. Are depressed people more likely to be cat owners, or is a cat parasite affecting their brains?

Queen Victoria smoked marijuana. Governmental demonization of cannabis is a recent thing.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Meryl Streep mentions, and royal stoners to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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