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Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Alibaba’s woes, Sky’s mobile ambitions, Cuban vacations, trademarked lyrics

By Stefan Constantinescu

What to watch for today

The first estimate of fourth-quarter US GDP growth. Data from the US commerce department will likely show that America’s economy grew by 3.2% during the last three months of 2014, according to a consensus forecast by FactSet. That would follow a 5% GDP reading in the third quarter.

Europe checks in on deflation. The European Central Bank’s monthly data on consumer prices will likely show an annual 0.5% decline, according to a Bloomberg survey, as the eurozone struggles to fend off deflation. The ECB’s last economic forecast in December said consumer prices would rise 0.7% in 2015.

Coal India shares go on sale. The Indian government will begin selling up to 10% (paywall) of its state-controlled mining company, Coal India, in an effort to shore up cash to address its gaping deficit. The company, which accounts for roughly 80% of the country’s coal production, hasn’t kept up with rising domestic demand.

Numbers, numbers, numbers. Companies reporting earnings today: MasterCard, Chevron, Honda, BT, CaixaBank, and Mattel. The day’s economic data includes: South Korean and Japanese industrial output for December, and Q4 GDP numbers for Spain, Taiwan, and possibly Ukraine.

While you were sleeping

Alibaba’s stock got hammered. The Chinese e-commerce giant posted a 40% increase in revenues, for a total of $4.22 billion. But that didn’t satisfy investors, who were aiming for $4.42 billion. The stock fell 8% in pre-market trading following the news. The reaction is likely related in part to the scandal surrounding the Chinese government’s Jan. 28 release of a secret white paper condemning (paywall) Alibaba for illegal activity.

Sky said it wants to enter the mobile phone market. With over 10 million customers in the UK, Sky—39% owned by Rupert Murdoch—will piggyback off of Telefónica UK’s wireless network, equipping the satellite broadcaster to offer mobile and data services. The move, known as a ”quad play” (TV, internet, landline, wireless), is considered a big growth area for the country’s telecom companies and broadcasters.

Nickelodeon went online and Showtime went north. The head of Viacom—Nickelodeon’s parent company—says the children’s channel will be offered directly to consumers over the internet starting next month, though no pricing information was revealed. Separately, CBS-owned Showtime has signed a deal to bring its content to Canada, marking the first time Showtime has gone outside the US.

Vacations in Cuba took a step towards becoming an option for American tourists. A bipartisan group of senators has introduced legislation that would let any American visit Cuba. Currently, even under recently relaxed rules, Americans can only visit if their trip falls into one of 12 special categories (not including tourism). The travel booking site Kayak also just announced the addition of Cuban routes.

Oil hasn’t been this cheap since 2009. The price of a barrel of crude—specifically front-month West Texas Intermediate futures—is now less than $44 (paywall). That’s a 60% decline since June 2014. A senior OPEC official says prices will rebound soon, and he even predicted a spike to $200 per barrel if investment in new supply capacity is too low.

Quartz obsession interlude

Alice Truong on the Bay Area’s organic marijuana movement. “San Francisco is a town full of snobs. People who live here expect restaurants to accommodate their local, organic, sustainable, vegan, gluten-free, no-MSG, Paleo diets. And when they go shopping for weed at posh dispensaries, they also expect variety: prerolled joints, flowers, concentrates, brownies, cookies, caramel corn, cheese crackers, pretzels, you name it.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Shutting down The Silk Road was a mistake. The online illegal drug marketplace was far safer than the back-alley deals that usually take place.

Russian “propaganda” actually isn’t. European and American points-of-view have dominated the media for a long time. It’s time we take a solid look at what the East thinks of global events.

Greece’s new far-left government will change Europe. The new anti-austerity agenda will inspire other countries to not play by the EU’s rules.

Public transportation should be free. Recent experiments with the concept in Estonia and Singapore show it can work, after numerous failed attempts elsewhere.

Surprising discoveries

A coder unveiled the world’s smallest computer chess game. The program takes up just 487 bytes.

Lyrics are the next frontier in trademarking. Taylor Swift is moving to protect lyrical phrases in her songs—including “this sick beat.”

It’s still hard to get out of Auschwitz. The leader of Rome’s Jewish community and his film crew were locked inside the Polish concentration camp by accident.

We’re one step closer to curing baldness. Scientists have figured out how to use stem cells to grow human hair.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, genius lyrical phrases, and toupée substitutes to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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