Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Obama’s tax showdown, Europe’s anti-terror brigade, the pope on climate change, SUV revival

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What to watch for today

Obama proposes taxes on investing. Monday is a US public holiday but expect Republicans to outline their response after reports suggested (paywall) the US president will call on the new Republican-led Congress to raise taxes on investments and inheritance, as well as expand tax breaks for middle-class families.

A global mobile payment alliance? Google is in talks to acquire Softcard, a mobile payments company co-owned by AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and T-Mobile USA, according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall). PayPal is also said to be interested. All of those companies are figuring out how best to respond to Apple Pay.

The EU talks about Russia and terror. Foreign ministers from the bloc meet in Brussels to discuss Russia and Ukraine, their response to the terror attacks in France, as well as other terrorist plots reported throughout Europe.

New forecasts for the developing world. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will update its economic forecasts for 35 countries that it invests in. The International Monetary Fund will give their own updated forecasts on Tuesday.

It is a holiday in the US today. Markets will be closed to observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. His 1963 “Letter from Birmingham Jail” remains relevant reading today.

Over the weekend

Boko Haram kidnapped children in Cameroon. Suspected fighters from the Nigerian Islamist group have taken at least 60 people hostage, according to army and security officials. This would be the first time Boko Haram has targeted villagers in Cameroon, as the group previously attacked only specific, high-profile individuals.

Global powers dallied on Iran’s nuclear program. Deputy foreign ministers from Iran and Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US met in Geneva to toil over Iran’s nuclear program, after meetings between US secretary of state John Kerry and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Jawed Zarif in Geneva and Paris. The Obama administration lobbied against imposing fresh sanctions.

Europe went on high alert. Suspected terrorists were arrested in Belgium, France, and Germany to guard against potential attacks, and troops were deployed alongside police in some European cities. There is no apparent direct connection between the new alleged plots and the earlier attacks in Paris.

The UK’s financial sector had a very good quarter. The Confederation of British Industry said the sector saw the biggest rise in demand for services since 1996 in the final three months of last year. “Overall optimism, business volumes, and profits” were all up, the CBI said.

The pope blamed man for climate change. Six million people attended the outdoor mass held by Pope Francis in Manila, a record for a papal event. The pope said man “continuously slaps nature in the face” in the prepared text of his speech, which the Vatican considers the official record, but abbreviated those remarks in his address to the crowd.

The International Criminal Court opened a probe into Israel. The ICC is looking into the possibility Israel committed war crimes (paywall) in the occupied Palestinian territories—an investigation that Israel has opposed.

Macquarie Group raised its profit forecast. Australia’s biggest investment bank said fiscal 2015 profit could be A$1.4-1.5 billion ($1.15-1.23 billion), a rise of 10-20% on a year earlier.

Quartz obsession interlude

Matt Philips spells out absolutely everything you need to understand what happened to the Swiss franc last week. “But if you’re looking for scary implications, here’s the biggest: The Swiss National Bank has effectively thrown in the towel in the fight against deflation, which is emerging as the major economic bogeyman of 2015.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The future of books looks a lot like the past. We’re still finding and reading in much the same ways.

To end the “war on women,” liberate male sexuality. So says a dominatrix.

France should treat its Muslims like it treats its Jews. France’s care for its Jewish community is almost parental.

LEGO is the Apple of toys. It is a design-driven and profit-making company built around premium hardware.

It may be time to start panicking over Greece. Greek banks’ requests for emergency cash could be a precursor to investors pulling money out.

Pirates are winning this year’s Oscars battle. An alarming number of in-theater movies have flooded onto torrent sites.

Surprising discoveries

The Japanese are buying lying-down desks. The desks enable laptop owners to work comfortably from their bed.

A 132-year-old rifle was found leaning against a tree. Historians aren’t sure how long the Winchester rifle was standing in a Nevada national park.

New York has its first $100 million apartment. It’s a penthouse covering the entire 89th and 90th floors of a luxury high-rise.

Cities on earth evolve in the same way as galaxies in space. Researchers developed a law governing how we live in cities modeled on the spread of galaxies.

West Ham is really cursed. The Premier League soccer club’s shirt sponsors keep going bust.

Americans are addicted to trucks again. Large SUVs are enjoying a post-recession revival.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, spare Legos, and lying-down desks to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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