Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Egypt’s death sentences, the US budget, the love of cars, Her Majesty’s corgis

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What to watch for today

Rate decisions all round. The Reserve Bank of India is likely to announce that it’s going to trim the current base interest rate of 7.75% in a bid to increase growth. Australia is also set to cut its interest rate, despite worries that it will damage the housing market. Turkish inflation data today may also lead to a cut by its central bank.

Italy swears in its new president. Sergio Mattarella, age 73, is replacing 89-year-old Giorgio Napolitano, who resigned last month because of his age. Mattarella is prime minister Matteo Renzi’s nomination, and he’s known for putting the screws on organized crime after his older brother was shot and killed by the Mafia in 1980.

Bob Dylan’s new album. Shadows In The Night comes out today—it’ll be Dylan’s 36th album. The 73-year-old gave away 50,000 copies last month to a random subset of the 35 million subscribers to AARP The Magazine, the US senior citizens’ bimonthly.

Numbers, numbers, and more numbers. Companies reporting earnings include BP, Walt Disney, Lenovo, Banco Santander, Chipotle, Sharp, and LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

While you were sleeping

Egypt passed a mass death sentence. A court upheld the convictions of 183 Muslim Brotherhood members for the killing of 16 police officers in a protest in August of 2013—one of several mass sentencings after president Mohamed Mursi was toppled. This comes a day after Egypt released a jailed Australian journalist.

RadioShack’s future is uncertain. The iconic American electronics retailer may sell half its stores to the US wireless operator Sprint and close the rest as a part of a bankruptcy deal. Hedge fund Standard General LP may serve as the lead bidder in RadioShack’s bankruptcy auction.

Lafarge and Holcim cast off $7 billion in assets. Building supplies group CRH agreed to buy some of the two cement giants’ assets—which they must sell in order to complete a merger—for €6.5 billion ($7.4 billion). That puts a recent resurgence in mega-mergers back on track, even though such deals often flop.

Obama’s budget rejected “mindless austerity.” The nearly $4 trillion budget request for fiscal year 2016 includes spending increases and tax hikes for the wealthy—which won’t be popular in a Republican-controlled Congress. It also increases military, education, child-care, and infrastructure spending, and has an incentive plan for corporations to bring back billions from overseas tax shelters.

Americans didn’t spend their Christmas bonuses. Data showed that consumer spending in December declined by the most since late 2009, suggesting that households pocketed the surplus from lower fuel prices instead of blowing it on holiday shopping. But economists expect them to start spending it soon.

You can now get a Windows PC for $35. A new version of the Raspberry Pi hobbyist computing kit, designed to help schoolkids learn to code, is six times more powerful, according to the British charity that makes it. It will even run Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 10 operating system.

Quartz obsession interlude

Leo Mirani on the end of the Western world’s love affair with cars. “The majority of the world’s population now lives in cities. And young people are increasingly willing to stay there, unlike their parents, who flocked to the suburbs as their families grew. Nearly two-thirds of American ‘millennials,’ or people born after 1984, live in cities today and some 40% say they’re not leaving.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Ukraine needs firepower. Diplomacy is all well and good, but it’s time to show Putin what’s what by arming the Ukrainians and engaging in counter-propaganda.

Obama’s Israel strategy is backfiring. The US president is trying to prevent Binyamin Netanyahu’s re-election in March, but it’s only bolstering the Israeli prime minister’s lead.

There shouldn’t be oil drilling off America’s east coast. Environmental risks aside, with oil prices this low, why bother (paywall)?

Welfare is good for families and communities. Without it, people in poverty are forced to move to look for work.

There’s no Plan B for Greece. If its creditors don’t forgive some of its debt, the country’s unemployed youth certainly won’t be in a position to pay it back.

Surprising discoveries

Bulletproof fashion is now a thing. A company in the Netherlands sells armored clothing in a wide range of trendy styles.

Used power plant, one careful owner, free shipping included. German utilities are offering some tempting terms to get rid of their old gas-fired plants.

The father of Star Wars doesn’t like sci-fi. George Lucas says today’s movies are “more and more circus than substance.” He also doesn’t like cat videos.

Her Majesty doesn’t want any more corgis. She’s owned over 30 during her lifetime, but now she’s afraid she’ll trip over one and hurt herself.

Afghan rugs now have drones on them. It’s only the latest phase in a tradition of the country’s weavers depicting war.

You can finally buy McDonald’s Big Mac sauce. Though only in Australia, and only in small tubes. (But don’t fret, McDonald’s also has a video showing you how to make it.)

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, bulletproof fashion designs, and unwanted corgis to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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