Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Draghi’s QE announcment, Gates banking disruption, Disneyland measles outbreak, meth drone crash

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What to watch for today

The euro zone’s €550 billion injection. Central bank chief Mario Draghi is expected to announce the start of quantitative easing, though many think it is too little and too late to kick-start the euro zone’s lagging economy. According to leaked details, the plan is to buy back €50 billion ($58 billion) of government bonds per month for at least one year (paywall).

Davos, day two. Today’s keynote speakers are the Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, German chancellor Angela Merkel, and Indian finance minister Arun Jaitley. Two topics to watch out for:

  • Economics. Christine Lagarde and others talk about how major markets are preparing for the end of US quantitative easing.
  • Tech. Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer and Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee discuss how trust can be maintained in a hyper-connected world, and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Google’s Eric Schmidt talk about how to ensure an open and secure digital economy.

The Dollar Wars come to an end. After nearly a year of jostling between US discount retail chains Dollar Tree and Dollar General, Family Dollar shareholders will vote on Dollar Tree’s bid—potentially ending a saga that embodies everything wrong with American capitalism.

Starbucks offers a peek at its margins. The global coffee chain reported 11% annual revenue growth in 2014 despite coffee bean prices more than doubling in the period. Prices have now fallen back significantly, and investors will want to know whether that means even better margins for the company’s fiscal first quarter.

Data, data, data. Capital One and Verizon are reporting financial results, as are several US airlines, which may disclose whether plummeting fuel costs will translate into bigger profits or cheaper tickets.

While you were sleeping

The Feds prepared to arrest a legendary New York politician. The New York Times reports that Sheldon Silver, the longtime speaker of the New York State Assembly, will be arrested on corruption charges (paywall), citing people with knowledge of the matter. The charges are reportedly related to undisclosed payments he allegedly received from a law firm specializing in real estate taxes.

Bill and Melinda Gates are taking on the banking system. In their annual letter, the couple lays out a plan to provide banking services to the world’s poorest people via mobile phones. They argue that mobile payment systems would result in lower transaction costs and lead to wider adoption of savings accounts and other wealth-building tools.

Hyundai’s fourth-quarter earnings fell 22%. The South Korean auto maker reported a quarterly net income of 1.66 trillion won ($1.53 billion), falling far short of analysts’ expectations of a 2 trillion profit. Hyundai blamed unfavorable exchange rates, but it has also fallen behind rivals in adding new production capacity.

California’s “Disneyland” measles outbreak spread. Nearly 60 cases of the highly infectious disease have been reported since mid-December, mostly from people who visited the iconic Disney theme park. Cases have now been reported throughout the state, and some school systems are ordering unvaccinated students to stay home.

A ceasefire in Ukraine was broken before it started. At least nine people were killed by shelling in rebel-held Donetsk, just hours after ministers from Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany called for an end to hostilities. Fighting between Ukrainian soldiers and pro-Russian separatists has intensified in recent weeks.

China’s business sentiment fell. The MNI China Business Indicator dropped to 53.7 in January (paywall), its lowest level since October, but is still above the 50 mark that separates optimism from pessimism. Separately, China said its massive state-owned businesses posted a 3.4% increase in annual profits (paywall), down from a 5.9% gain the year before.

The Sun’s Page Three is not dead after all. The Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid taunted its detractors as the controversial topless photo spread returned (link SFW)

Quartz obsession interlude

Bobby Ghosh shines a flashlight on Iran’s dark side. “On the same day that US president Barack Obama warned Congress not to push for more sanctions against Iran, the regime in Tehran demonstrated why its threat to the world is not limited to nuclear weapons. The Houthi insurgents who have run amok in the Yemeni capital Sana’a have been backed with weapons, money, and training by Iran.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The West trashes Islam for its own gains. So says Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei, in an open letter to Europe and America’s youth.

China is responsible for Venezuela’s collapse. Irresponsible and opaque lending made a bad situation worse (paywall).

Obama’s Russia strategy is a sham. The US is still trading with Russia, and international sanctions are not really working.

The ECB is implementing the wrong type of QE. Buying bonds will make banks even more hesitant to lend money.

North Korea will be a better place to live in 2015. New rules on farming are increasing food yields (paywall).

Surprising discoveries

A drone carrying 3kg (6.6lb) of meth crashed in Mexico. Someone was likely trying to fly it over the US border.

Cleaners broke the beard off Tutankhamun’s mask. They hastily glued it back on.

Finnish newborns sleep in boxes. The government gives new mothers a cardboard starter kit that can be used as a bassinet.

There could be two Earth-sized planets hiding in our solar system. Astronomers suspect they are among the asteroids beyond Pluto.

The sewage of one million people can produce a fortune in precious metals. $2.6 million a year can be found in gold and silver alone.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, meth drones, and baby boxes to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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