Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Pfizer’s big deal, the Greek-German showdown, Swatch’s smartwatch, performance eating

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What to watch for today

Putin meets Merkel and Hollande. The leaders of Russia, Germany, and France will convene in the latest diplomatic push to end the conflict in Ukraine’s east, as the EU looks to expand sanctions against Russia next week.

A good month for US jobs. Labor department figures are expected to show that the country’s economy added 230,00 jobs last month, versus 252,000 in December, and that unemployment was 5.6%, a more than six-year low. It’s worth noting that those numbers don’t account for chronic unemployment.

Petrobras chooses its new leaders. Brazil’s state-owned oil company lost its CEO and five top executives earlier this week due to a corruption scandal that may have involved as much as $800 million in bribes and kickbacks. Today the company’s board meets to elect replacements.

SpongeBob SquarePants makes a comeback. Viacom will release The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, the sequel to the 2004 The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, in theaters across the US. The cartoon, which has been translated into more than 50 languages for more than 185 markets, is still the most watched animated show on TV, according to Nickelodeon Networks Group.

The numbers game. On the economic calendar: Canada’s January jobs report, Germany’s December industrial production, France’s December trade balance, and the Swiss National Bank on January’s foreign-currency reserves. Earnings: Singapore Airlines, Statoil, and Alcatel-Lucent.

While you were sleeping

Pfizer bought Hospira for $16 billion. Pfizer, which is losing patent protection (paywall) on some of its most profitable drugs, is looking to Hospira’s injectable drug business to drive growth. The company agreed to pay a 39% premium for Hospira shares. The move comes after Pfizer failed to buy AstraZeneca for more than $100 billion last year, which would have saved Pfizer in taxes by allowing it to reincorporate abroad. Political pushback killed the deal.

Greece and Germany sparred over the terms of Greece’s recovery. Greece’s main stock index fell as much as 9% after the European Central Bank unexpectedly announced it would stop accepting Greek bonds as collateral from banks. A terse meeting in Berlin between Greece and Germany’s finance ministers followed, where the two “didn’t even agree to disagree” on next steps.

Swatch said its smartwatch is coming soon. The swiss watch maker says it will have something on the market in two to three months, though it provided no details about its plans for the product. After dismissing smartwatches as less than luxurious, Swiss watch makers are now scrambling to compete with the Apple Watch, which Apple CEO Tim Cook has said will ship in April.

Sony Pictures distanced itself from Amy Pascal. The co-chair of Sony Pictures Entertainment is stepping down, after emails leaked online in December revealed racially insensitive comments she made about US president Barack Obama. Pascal will launch a new movie studio in May financed by Sony Pictures, which will operate on Sony’s property in Culver City, California.

Oil prices started creeping up again. Crude oil futures on the New York Mercantile Exchange closed at above $50 a barrel after gaining more than 4% in one day. Futures are up by almost a fifth if you include the past four trading days, helped by promising US job numbers and the EU’s improving growth outlook.

Quartz obsession interlude

Mike Murphy on the mobile technology driving RadioShack’s demise. “RadioShack was once the playground of the inventor, the maker and the tinkerer. In the ’70s, Steve Wozniak—Apple’s co-founder—built a device to hack long-distance phone calling out of parts he bought at RadioShack. It was where amateur electronic engineers could pick up computer chips and build their own computers. It smartly saw the mobile revolution coming, and started selling cellphones and service early. The company first listed mobile communications as a separate revenue line in its earnings in 2001, where it accounted for 27% of sales.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

People hate selfies because they’re mass-produced. If we think of selfies as self-portraits made with low-cost media, then they should be deemed an art form that has merit and value.

Long commutes are holding women back. Compared to men, women find getting to and from work four times more stressful.

Bill and Melinda Gates don’t address why poverty exists. The billionaire couple has proposed breaking the cycle of poverty with mobile banking, more vaccines, and agricultural technology. But without addressing what drives poverty, they’re largely missing the point.

Silicon Valley is warming up to Microsoft. Thanks to Satya Nadella, startups and venture-capital firms that once ignored the tech giant (paywall) are collaborating with it and championing its cause.

Germany isn’t bossing Europe around. It’s hard to grasp how the economic powerhouse could be controlling Europe’s destiny, considering that it isn’t a homogeneous bloc.

Surprising discoveries

Performance eating is a thing in Korea. People in the country are staging their meals in front of thousands of viewers on internet television channels.

Malaysia is poking fun at Indonesian maids. The Malaysian government is under fire for a vacuum cleaner ad that slights the hundreds of thousands of Indonesian maids working in the country by saying it’s time to “Fire your Indonesian maid now!

Mummies aren’t all about that museum life. Egyptian mummies were found floating in a sewage canal in a northern part of the country, most likely unearthed through illegal digging.

Denmark is more bike-obsessed than ever. The Danish Cyclists’ federation and ten Danish municipalities are developing bike playgrounds for children to improve their cycling skills.

Russia wants to make censorship cool. It launched an online competition to find the right superheroes to act as a mouthpiece for its propaganda.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Russian comic bureaucrats, and stray mummies to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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