Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Abbott perseveres, HSBC’s Swiss leaks, Alibaba’s smartphone buy, vacuum robot rampage

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What to watch for today

The Ukraine crisis rumbles on. How will investors react now that Russia has agreed to a four-way summit with Ukraine, Germany, and France later this week? Angela Merkel has said she opposes a military solution (link in German) that is favored by a growing chorus in America.

Can Frozen save Hasbro? The second-largest US toymaker acquired the rights to make toys for Disney’s latest blockbuster in September, and has ramped up spending on development during its fourth quarter. Those factors could hurt margins when it reports quarterly results, but investors will still be hoping for some Frozen magic.

The G20 meets in Istanbul. Finance ministers and central bankers from the 20 richest nations begin a two-day summit. Elsewhere, the Thai and Japanese prime ministers meet in Tokyo.

Economic data and earnings. India publishes its latest GDP figures and Germany releases export numbers. Carmaker Nissan announces its latest earnings.

Over the weekend

HSBC’s Swiss banking activity was exposed. An investigation into 100,000 account holders turned up drug dealers, royals, terrorists, arms dealers, sanctioned Russian businessmen, and on-the-lam politicians trying to evade taxes—along with music icons Tina Turner, Phil Collins, and David Bowie. The bank acknowledged that its standards “were significantly lower than they are today.”

Tony Abbott survived a leadership challenge. The Australian prime minister’s Liberal Party voted 61 to 39 to keep him in power. But some backbenchers who say Abbott did not consult with the party on some contentious issues—such as giving Britain’s Prince Philip a knighthood—may call for another vote this week.

Alibaba got into smartphones. The Chinese e-commerce giant paid $590 million for a stake in Meizu, a low-cost Chinese handset maker. That could potentially help Alibaba’s mobile OS, which has a market share of less than 1%, to gain some traction in a crowded market.

Iran nuclear talks failed to make progress. Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei signaled Iran could make concessions to reach a deal with Western leaders over Iran’s nuclear capabilities. But Western leaders say Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif has not offered a compromise that would have resulted in a lifting of sanctions on the country (paywall).

Goodbye, John Whitehead. The former senior partner and co-chair of Goldman Sachs died Saturday at the age of 92. Whitehead spearheaded Goldman’s international expansion during a 37-year career at the firm.

The world’s most expensive painting was sold. A portrait of two Tahitian girls by Paul Gauguin brought in nearly $300 million for its Swiss owner. The buyer is reportedly from Qatar, according to the New York Times, which cited two anonymous dealers with knowledge of the matter.

NBC anchor Brian Williams stepped aside, for now at least. The anchor is temporarily leaving NBC Nightly News, citing distractions to the network after it emerged that he lied about a 2003 helicopter incident in Iraq. The network is reviewing the accuracy of Williams’ previous reporting.

Quartz obsession interlude

Kabir Chibber on how the anti-Islamic far-right is spreading in Europe—and going mainstream. “The growing acceptance of far-right subject matter as part of political discourse in Europe may just be a sign of our more polarized times. But it could also mean that Europe will have to come to accept voices like Pegida in the mainstream for the foreseeable future.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Greece’s debt repayment idea is worth listening to. Linking payments to GDP growth should be the future of international lending.

British accents are the world’s most attractive. The American accent came in second in a global poll; French came in a lowly fifth place.

Film is better and cheaper than digital. That’s why some Hollywood auteurs are trying to save the format.

Podcasts can affect the legal system. The true crime show Serial may have helped grant its protagonist an appeal.

The privileged are ruining the arts. Their bland takeover of pop culture must be stopped.

Surprising discoveries

A South Korean vacuum robot tried to devour its owner… Firefighters were called after it consumed some of her hair and refused to let go.

…Yet Japan is still launching a robot hotel. A 72-room getaway will open this summer, staffed by 10 multilingual humanoids.

Holocaust denial has gone mainstream in many countries. Indian history textbooks don’t use the word at all.

The biggest superstar in menswear is a dog. He’s a shiba inu named Bodhi.

Hurricane Sandy brought Antarctic bacteria to New York. And splashed it all over the subway.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, stylish canines, and Serial conspiracy theories to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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