Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Ukraine in the balance, HSBC results, China’s growth, electrifying birth control

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What to watch for today

Ukraine teeters between Europe and Russia.  Acting president Oleksander Turchinov meets with EU leaders in Kiev to discuss economic assistance, following a weekend of political upheaval (see below).  The United States and EU are trying to put together a financial bailout package without antagonizing Russia, which has a major military presence in the country.

Italy approves its latest prime minister. Matteo Renzi, the third consecutive Italian prime minister to be appointed, not elected, will outline his policies and face a vote of confidence after being sworn in on Saturday.

Greece appeals to its creditors, meeting with its troika of international lenders to discuss economic reforms in the hopes of unlocking another round of financial aid (paywall) without having to make new spending cuts.

HSBC’s oversize profits. Europe’s biggest bank is expected to report  a sharp climb in full-year profits to $35.15 billion, along with a somewhat more modest increase in its bonus pool. Investors will be looking at how HSBC’s operations are faring amid the emerging markets slowdown (paywall), particularly in Asia.

US defense cutbacks. US defense secretary Chuck Hagel will reportedly announce a limit on pay raises, higher healthcare fees and lower housing allowances in an attempt to save billions and protect other budget priorities.

Over the weekend

Ukraine’s revolution. Ukraine’s parliament voted to dismiss Viktor Yanukovych, who fled Kiev but refused to resign. Parliament seized Yanukovych’s luxury mansion and freed imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

The G20 pledged to boost global growth. The finance ministers of twenty major economies will aim to increase global economic growth by two percentage points, or $2 trillion, over the next five years. The countries said they would encourage competition, trade, job creation and investment, although they failed to provide much detail.

China maintained its growth targets. Finance minister Lou Jiwei said that the Chinese economy can sustain growth of between 7% and 8%, and dismissed recent financial product defaults as not a “big problem.”

More violence in Thailand. A bomb blast killed at least three people, including two young children, at an anti-government protest in Bangkok, as demonstrators continue their months-long bid to unseat prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Netflix coughed up the cash for faster streaming. Netflix agreed to pay Comcast for a direct connection to its broadband network, cutting out intermediaries that led to a 27% decline in streaming speed since October.

Wearable technology turned out to be not so wearable. Fitbit voluntarily recalled its wristband activity trackers after 1.7% of users complained of skin rashes. The company blamed allergic reactions triggered by either the nickel in the device or the adhesive that holds the band together.

Deutsche Bank is pulling money out of the US, unveiling a plan to cut its balance sheet there from $400 billion to around $300 billion (paywall) by moving some of its American business to Europe and Asia due to the Federal Reserve’s new regulations on foreign banks.

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on whether the capture of the world’s most powerful drug trafficker will change anything. “Guzmán has been a top target for so long—certainly since 2001, when he escaped detention in a prison laundry cart—because of how good he is at his job. His life’s work has been to build the Sinaloa cartel into the world’s most efficient drug business, with billion-dollar revenues to rival Western blue-chip companies; he earned comparisons to CEOs for mastering the art of supply chain management, exploiting the massive demand for illegal drugs in the United States and Europe. He’s a key example of of the power of so-called “deviant globalization.” But it’s precisely this level of sophistication that has experts predicting the Sinaloa cartel will survive its mastermind’s detention; if Guzman is is the Steve Jobs of coke, he probably groomed a Tim Cook to take his place.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The media’s quest for objectivity is failing readers. Facts are meaningless and boring without the context of “intelligent bias.”

Italy’s fashion reflects its changing politics. Designers ditched sex appeal for mature confidence (paywall), just as the country unveiled its first ever half-female cabinet.

Climate change could kill the Winter Olympics. In just a few decades, some previous venues—including Sochi—will be too warm to host the games.

Ukraine shouldn’t idolize ex-PM Yulia Tymoshenko. She’s been cast as an icon of democracy, but her past is less than rosy.

Pain is an essential part of sports. Enduring suffering is both a tactical advantage and a sign of achievement.

Surprising discoveries

There’s a condom that gives you electric shocks. It’s supposed to be quite nice, actually.

How Olympic time-keeping works. When a fraction of a second determines the winner and loser, precision is key.

Russia has a sense of humor. Performers in the closing ceremony took a dig at themselves by recreating  the mucked-up opening of the fifth Olympic ring.

Robots will be smarter than humans within 15 years. So says Google’s director of engineering.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Russian jokes, and digital condom designs to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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