Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Samsung-BlackBerry talks denied, India’s surprise cut, new smartphones galore, Star Wars prosthetics

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What to watch for today

Xiaomi launches two new phones. The Chinese smartphone maker will be snapping at Samsung’s heels as it unveils the successor to the Mi 4, and possibly an updated version of its Redmi Note phablet.

BlackBerry bets on India. The struggling company launches its new “Classic” smartphone—a throwback to older designs—in a country full of BlackBerry loyalists. In the US, the Classic’s $500 price tag and limited features failed to impress reviewers.

US banks post earnings. Bank of America and Citigroup—the second- and third-largest US banks by assets—will reveal fourth-quarter numbers. Investors are hoping not to be surprised again by mounting legal fees.

Intel opens its books. Investors in the chipmaker will look for evidence of increasing demand for PCs in the company’s fourth-quarter earnings, while Intel will try to focus attention on its expansion into making chips for tablets, as well as its progress in powering wearable technology.

Pope Francis lands in the Philippines. The Catholic leader will prepare for a public mass on Friday likely to draw a record attendance of over 6 million people, assuming there aren’t any tropical storms. Security is especially tight, given the country’s history of papal assassination attempts.

While you were sleeping

BlackBerry and Samsung denied talks of a takeover. BlackBerry said it has not engaged in buyout discussions with the South Korean manufacturer; Samsung said reports that it recently offered to buy BlackBerry were “groundless.” Reuters first reported that Samsung had made a buyout offer valuing BlackBerry at $7.5 billion.

India made a surprise interest rate cut. Central bank governor Raghuram Rajan reduced the repo rate to 7.75% and the reverse repo rate to 6.75% in an unscheduled meeting. Rajan said lower inflation meant the rate could come down ahead of the next planned meeting in February.

A Chinese taxi app raised $600 million. Japanese internet giant Softbank is partnering with online shopping giant Alibaba to invest in Kuaidi Group. The app, which competes with local Didi Dache for dominance in China’s ride-hailing market, started by connecting users to city-run taxis, but is moving into Uber-style private ride hailing.

Carlos Slim became the New York Times’ biggest single shareholder. The world’s second-richest man increased his ownership of Class A stocks in the newspaper to 16.8%, after exercising options given when he lent the paper $250 million in 2009. But the Sulzberger family still controls 90% of Class B stock, giving them control over voting rights.

A major boost for Australian jobs. The number of people employed rose by 37,400 in December and by a revised 45,000 in November, the most in any two-month period in eight years. The rise eases pressure on the central bank to lower interest rates.

Oil prices claimed another scalp. Shell and Qatar Petroleum called off a $6.5 billion petrochemical joint venture, the second such plant in the emirate to be canceled recently. According to one estimate, oil firms canceled or delayed over $200 billion in projects (paywall) from January 2013 to November 2014.

Quartz obsession interlude

Marion Maneker on the formula for a multi-billion-dollar startup. “I don’t think of Uber as a force that dis-intermediates—as we olds used to say—transportation, but one that creates value for itself, its drivers, and its users, by developing a new layer that integrates them all with maximum utility. A very talented developer once told me that the secret to a world-beating service like Dropbox was to make something very, very complicated seem devastatingly simple.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Political dynasties are good for women. They often need a nudge to run for office.

Community college in the US should be free. Tom Hanks says he wouldn’t be where he is today (paywall) without it.

Afghanistan’s first priority should be its relationship with Pakistan. That means bringing the Taliban into the fold.

Germany has become a victim of its own austerity. Its core small- and medium-sized businesses paint a grim picture for the future.

Boko Haram is as destructive as the Islamic State. It threatens to plunge Nigeria deeper into chaos after next month’s general election.

Stop telling kids to follow their dreams. They should develop a useful skill that applies to a practical job.

Surprising discoveries

Conscientious men live longer. Emotionally stable and “agreeable” women also beat death better, according to one long-running study.

Americans spend an average $280,000 in interest payments. That typically includes nine car loans.

A 7-year-old boy was given a Star Wars Stormtrooper prosthetic arm. The 3D-printed gift is to encourage him to use his prosthetic more.

Science is coming after bird poachers. Scientists say they can now get fingerprints off of feathers and eggs of rare birds.

Burning cow dung near the Taj Mahal is now banned. The smoke was turning the white-marble landmark yellow.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, prosthetic arm designs, and marble cleaning ideas to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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