Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Greeks reject austerity, Northeast blizzard, BA-Aer Lingus tie-up, genetically modified mosquitos

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What to watch for today

A huge blizzard looms. Airlines have canceled more than 800 flights after the US National Weather Service said two to three feet of snow could fall between New Jersey and southern Maine over the next two days—the heaviest snowfall in more than 100 years.

Remembering Auschwitz. German chancellor Angela Merkel speaks on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the notorious Nazi concentration camp in Poland.

Bitcoin goes legit? The first licensed bitcoin exchange, run by the start-up Coinbase and backed by investors including the New York Stock Exchange, is due to start trading. Financial regulators in 25 states, including New York and California, have given their blessing.

Earnings and data. Microsoft releases its latest quarterly earnings, just days after unveiling Windows 10 and some holographic virtual reality goggles. Texas Instruments and homebuilder DR Horton also reports quarterly results. For data, look for the US PMI figure as well as the Congressional Budget Office’s annual forecast, and the Israeli central bank’s interest-rate decision.

Over the weekend

Strange bedfellows in Greece’s new government. The far-left Syriza party, which won yesterday’s general election in a landslide, said it would partner with the right-wing Independent Greeks to form a majority coalitoin. The parties have almost nothing in common beyond their shared animosity for EU-imposed austerity measures. Trading in Greek stocks and the euro has been volatile in early trading.

Mixed economic news from Germany and Spain. Germany’s monthly business climate index from the Ifo Institute rose to a better-than-expected 106.7 in January, the highest point in six months, raising confidence in the overall health of the euro zone’s largest economy. But Spain’s producer price index fell by 3.7% in December from a year earlier, after a 1.5% decline in November.

Dalian Wanda is investing $1 billion in Sydney Harbor. The Chinese commercial property giant will build a luxury hotel, residential, and retail developments in the city’s prime business district. Dalian Wanda has been on an international investment spree timed as China’s property market goes through a correction.

The owner of British Airways is close to landing Aer Lingus. The Irish flag carrier is reportedly set to accept a €1.3 billion ($1.45 billion) buyout offer from IAG as soon as this week, giving the company additional landing and take-off slots at Heathrow airport. Any deal would need the sign-off of the Irish government and budget carrier Ryanair, which both own large Aer Lingus stakes.

Japanese exports surged. A weak yen and a spike in demand from the US led to a 12.9% growth in exports in December, the largest in a year, cutting Japan’s trade deficit in half from a year earlier.

Boko Haram extended attacks in Nigeria. Dozens of people were reportedly killed and tens of thousands have fled after the Islamist militants took control of the northeastern town of Monguno and gained on the strategically important city of Maiduguri. US secretary of state John Kerry is in Nigeria to support the fight against the group.

ISIL killed a Japanese hostage. Prime minister Shinzo Abe said a video showing one of two Japanese hostages holding a picture of the body of the other is probably authentic. The Islamic State proposed a prisoner swap for the second Japanese hostage, demanding the release of a female prisoner currently on death row in Jordan.

The “invisible” 2016 Republican primary began. Undeclared presidential hopefuls—including past candidates Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, and Sarah Palin, and rising stars Scott Walker, Chris Christie, and Ted Cruz—courted Christian conservatives in Iowa. Meanwhile, a private gathering of wealthy conservative political donors hosted by the influential brothers Charles and David Koch is underway in Florida.

Quartz obsession interlude

Kabir Chibber on why Obama should not meet the new Saudi king this week. “Public beheadings are common in the kingdom—87 people were executed last year, mostly by decapitation. Saudi Arabia is also one of just four countries that still execute offenders who are minors. Recently, the website Middle East Eye pointed out that the punishments meted out by Saudi Arabia are almost identical to those inflicted by ISIL.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

We shouldn’t idolize “makers.” Caregivers, fixers, and teachers are the true heroes.

Vaccine holdouts shouldn’t go to Disneyland. It’s wrong to inflict dangerous choices on other peoples’ children.

Davos could solve the gender inequality problem. The World Economic Forum is where connections are made to effect change.

Donating money, clothes, and food is passé. Soon you can donate your personal data to save the world.

It’s time to buy a really good camera. Do you really want your best moments captured on your “good enough” cameraphone?

Surprising discoveries

There’s an app for using other people’s toilets. Airpnp lets you pay to use a stranger’s bathroom.

Breakfast began in the 1500s. Little attention was paid to the morning meal before the Tudors made it fashionable.

Genetically modified mosquitoes may be released in Florida. Over 130,000 people have signed a petition protesting the experiment.

Tonal languages require humid climates. Researchers think drier climates render vocal chords less elastic.

Jihadi hackers have a twisted sense of humor. They displayed a message on Malaysian Airlines’ website saying “404 – Plane Not Found.

Ancient Mesopotamian soldiers had PTSD. Assyrian soldiers found themselves being “visited by ghosts.”

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, camera recommendations, and Mesopotamian PTSD cures to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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