Quartz Daily Brief—Bitcoin wipeout, Ukraine president search, Japan nuclear power, selfie head lice

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What to watch for today

Ukraine searches for presidents, new and old. The country opens the campaign to select Viktor Yanukovych’s replacement, even as the hunt for the deposed former president continues. Interim leader Oleksander Turchinov set a Tuesday deadline for parliament to form a new government.

Macy’s sheds light on seasonal shopping. Analysts will be watching to see how the department store fared this holiday season. Home Depot is also set to post quarterly results.

EU emissions targets. Brussels is set to announce new regulations that would require automakers to reduce emissions by 30% by 2021.

US housing update. Fourth-quarter S&P Case-Shiller home price data is due, along with the Conference Board’s consumer confidence index.

While you were sleeping

Bitcoin’s biggest wipeout. The high-profile Mt. Gox exchange is offline and reportedly insolvent, leaving hundreds of millions of dollars worth of deposits in limbo and inflicting what could be a mortal wound for the digital currency.

South African GDP climbed. The country’s economic growth beat analysts’ expectations in the fourth quarter, up 3.8%, though this year is under threat from continued mine and factory strikes.

China’s currency wobbled. The yuan saw its biggest plunge in more than a year, down 0.25% against the dollar. Analysts think the central bank wants to end the currency’s steady appreciation and ward off speculators before possibly widening its trading band.

Japan isn’t done with nuclear power… Despite the Fukushima disaster, prime minister Shinzo Abe said nuclear power is vital to Japan’s energy future, announcing plans to restart reactors that are deemed safe.

…And Tepco isn’t done with radioactive blunders. The utility responsible for the Fukushima nuclear plant is re-analyzing old water samples because previous readings “significantly undercounted” radiation levels.

More JP Morgan job cuts. The bank is planning several thousand more cutbacks in its mortgage business, in addition to the 13,000-15,000 layoffs it has already announced, according to the Financial Times (paywall).

Quartz obsession interlude

Leo Mirani on Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to bring the internet—including Facebook—to the next billion people. “‘People need a reason to get online and Zuckerberg’s idea is to provide a suite of free ‘basic services’ such as messaging, food prices, Wikipedia, weather and, it goes without saying, Facebook. This is the next step in Zuckerberg’s plan for world domination.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

China will never have a Lehman moment. If push comes to shove, lenders will ignore profitability and follow the government’s orders.

Mark Zuckerberg massively overpaid for WhatsApp. The secret to its growth means users can leave just as quickly.

Whole Foods is a shrine to pseudoscience. The homeopathy-laden shelves of the high-end supermarket chain are no more accurate than a creationism museum.

Blame your ancestors if you’re poor. An analysis of surnames shows that social mobility is a very, very slow process.

German austerity is a myth. The country is booming, but it’s not because of budget cutbacks.

Surprising discoveries

A Chinese robot vanquished Flappy Bird. Developers in Shanghai spent a week hacking a solution to the notoriously difficult cult-hit video game.

A US patent application has been pending for 43 years. Inventor Gilbert P. Hyatt patented the microprocessor, and he’s looking for a sequel.

Science can be gibberish. Publishers had to withdraw over 120 papers that turned out to be computer-generated nonsense.

Selfies spread head lice. It’s just one unpleasant side-effect of teenagers sticking their heads together to take photos.

You don’t really understand the Higgs boson. But this comic strip might just explain it for you.

Baby poop makes sausages tastier. Spanish scientists used bacteria from dirty diapers to make cured meats.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Flappy Bird robots, and cured meats to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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