What to watch for today
Japan grapples with a hostage crisis. The country says it is doing its utmost to save two Japanese hostages who are claimed to be held by the Islamic State. A video released on Jan. 20, seemingly from IS, demanded a ransom of $200 million within 72 hours.
Zambia gets a new president. If extended polling due to torrential rains doesn’t delay counting, one of the 11 candidates running will become the leader of Africa’s second-largest copper producer. Ruling party candidate Edgar Lungu holds the lead so far with 50.1% of the vote.
Chinese widgets weigh on its shrinking economy. Fresh manufacturing data from HSBC and Markit will reveal whether January was as bad for the country’s economy as December. Last month, China’s PMI fell to below 50, meaning manufacturing contracted, which hasn’t happened since April 2014.
Thailand’s former prime minister faces impeachment. The country’s military leaders will vote on the fate of Yingluck Shinawatra after claims of corruption over a disastrous rice program. The ruling could result in her being banned from politics for five years and provoke more protests.
Yemen’s government falters. The country’s parliament will weigh the resignations of president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and prime minister Khaled Bahah, after Houthi rebels took control of the presidential palace and demanded amending the country’s constitution to give the group greater representation.
While you were sleeping
Obama passed up a visit with Netanyahu in Washington. The White House said the US president won’t visit with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he comes to Washington to address a joint meeting of Congress on March 3, citing a “long-standing practice and principle” of not seeing heads of state close to their elections. The Israeli election is two weeks after Netanyahu’s address, which was scheduled by House Speaker John Boehner.
The European Central Bank detailed its quantitive easing program. ECB head Mario Draghi said the bank is going to purchase €60 billion ($69.5 billion) worth of assets every month until Sep. 2016. The news sent the euro down to $1.14 against the US dollar from $1.16. Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi said he wouldn’t mind seeing the euro reach parity with America’s currency (paywall).
Congolese protesters demanded the internet after the government shut it down. Protesters took to the streets in Goma, a city in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, to demand that internet access be restored after the city lost connection on Tuesday. The government halted online access in an attempt to quell clashes over a proposed law that would delay next year’s presidential election.
Verizon leaned on tablet growth to offset heavy pension costs. The wireless, broadband internet, and TV provider posted a fourth-quarter loss of $2.23 billion, compared with a profit of $7.92 billion a year earlier, thanks mostly to pension and severance costs. Its quarterly revenue rose 6.8% thanks to more subscribers adding devices such as tablets to shared data plans. Verizon is the first telecom company to report results after a bout of aggressive holiday deals.
The Dollar Wars came to an end. After nearly a year of jostling between discount supermarket chains Dollar Tree and Dollar General to buy Family Dollar, shareholders of the latter approved the former’s $8.7 billion buyout offer, closing a saga that we’ve argued embodies everything wrong with American capitalism.
Quartz obsession interlude
Cassie Werber on discussing menstruation in sports. “In the UK, the press is agog after a British tennis player mentioned menstruation, confronting the world of sport with a topic that until now has remained strictly unmentionable. Heather Watson, the UK player who crashed out of the Australian Open, said ‘girl things’ were part of the problem, and became one of the first athletes to raise the issue.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Putin finally did something right. His decision to cancel a planned natural gas pipeline to Europe across the Black Sea and simplify the country’s gas transactions with the EU is good for Gazprom.
For France to grow, it needs to accept Muslims. That means truly letting them preserve their identity rather than forcing Muslims to conform to the French ideal.
Ukraine is a bigger problem and priority than Russia. Western governments should set out to resolve the crisis in Ukraine before addressing relations with Russia.
Gentrification is a myth. When rents rise in a particular part of town that was once rundown, longstanding residents are actually less inclined to move.
Germany isn’t turning back to xenophobia. The Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West—better known as Pegida—is harming the country ‘s image abroad, but in reality anti-foreigner sentiment is at historic lows (paywall).
King Tut’s beard was re-attached with glue. Museum conservators in Egypt say they were ordered to do a quick fix that damaged the relic after its beard fell off last year.
Your child’s teacher can request her Facebook password. That’s the case in the US state of Illinois if the child is being investigated for cyberbullying.
A squid uses its camouflage to socialize. Giant Humboldt squid quickly change color to communicate with fellow cephalopods.
America’s measles resurgence began in Disneyland. California’s worst measles outbreak in nearly two decades is all thanks to people who don’t believe in vaccinations.
China has a giant wall of shame. If you fail to pay your fines in the Chinese city of Changsha, a court will order that your face be displayed on a huge screen for all to see.
Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, conservator’s glue, and underage Facebook passwords to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.