Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Obama wants war, Walmart wants Canada, mass deaths at sea, city bees

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

A new page in the nut rage story. A court will issue a verdict on the former vice president of Korea Airlines, Cho Hyun-ah, who forced an airplane to turn around and go back to the gate because of the way she was served macadamia nuts. Prosecutors want her to get three years in jail.

A retrial begins for al-Jazeera’s journalists. A Cairo appeals court judge has harshly criticized the convictions of the three men last June for terrorism and ”spreading false news.” One of the three, Australian citizen Peter Greste, was recently released; the other two will probably have to face the court.

An architect of the US bank bailouts testifies. Deputy associate attorney general Geoffrey Graber will be speaking to the House Judiciary Committee (paywall) about the US Justice Department’s handling of the $37.5 billion bailouts that were handed down to JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, and Citigroup.

The Bank of England talks deflation. Analysts expect its monthly inflation report to include a warning that prices may fall for the first time in over half a century. Most also expect the bank to keep interest rates at 0.5%, where they’ve been for six years, at least until early 2016. (Negative rates, à la Sweden and Norway, don’t seem to be on the cards.)

Any glimmers of hope from Ukraine? The Russian, Ukrainian, German, and French leaders were huddled in talks in Minsk, Belarus, on Wednesday, which were expected to continue late into the night (paywall). Even as they met, fighting intensified between rebels and Ukrainian troops.

Earnings and economic data. The former: Baidu, Kellogg, CBS, Groupon, Telstra, Asahi Group, Christian Dior, Renault, Société Générale, Commerzbank, and Zynga are among the firms reporting. And the latter: Malaysia’s fourth-quarter GDP, Australian unemployment in January, and the euro zone’s industrial production in December.

While you were sleeping

Three young Muslims were killed in North Carolina. A 46-year-old man turned himself in and has been charged with shooting dead a husband and wife and the wife’s sister. The father of the sisters (and much of the internet) said they were killed for being Muslim, but police (and the alleged killer’s wife) said it was due to a dispute over parking.

Walmart took over from Target in Canada. The US big-box chain will spend C$340 million (US$270 million) to build 29 new stores and expand its distribution network, creating almost 5,000 jobs. Less than a month ago Walmart’s rival, Target, announced it would shutter its 133 Canadian locations, with roughly 17,600 employees.

Barack Obama asked Congress for permission to fight ISIL. The US president wants to begin a three-year campaign against the Islamic State, but says this won’t be the ”large-scale ground combat operations” seen in Iraq and Afghanistan. The last time Congress approved the use of force was in 2002, to bomb Iraq.

Hundreds of migrants are feared dead in the Mediterranean. Only a handful were rescued and at least 300 are missing after their boats sank on the way from North Africa to Europe, according to the UN. Such tragedies have become alarmingly frequent, and an Italian program to rescue seaborne migrants was ended in November.

The Costa Concordia captain got 16 years and his freedom. An Italian court found Francesco Schettino guilty of manslaughter for running aground in 2012 and abandoning his capsized ship instead of making sure his 4,200 passengers got off safely; 32 people died. However, Schettino is a free man pending appeal, which could take years.

Quartz obsession interlude

Matt Phillips sets the record straight on India’s economy. “News that India’s GDP growth rate may be on track to overtake China’s has prompted a fair number of subcontinental victory laps. Color us skeptical. India’s supercharged growth rate is the product of a fairly radical overhaul of the country’s GDP statistics.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

China’s middle class will soon feel the squeeze. Wage increases have mostly been confined to low-income migrant workers, whose influx to the cities is causing urban wages to stagnate.

Western media stoke up anti-Muslim feeling. They mentioned the religion of the victims in the Chapel Hill shooting, so why not the religion of the killer?

Nigeria shouldn’t postpone its upcoming election. The six week delay being blamed on poor logistics and Boko Haram will only cause civil strife.

The US Congress is cutting off its nose to spite its face. By blocking IMF reform it’s weakening the US’s influence in the world.

The leader of the free world should be Angela Merkel. She’s the only Western leader still capable of championing Western ideals (paywall).

Fax machines will never die. A mixture of security concerns and old-fashioned inertia will ensure their survival.

Surprising discoveries

Bull semen is expensive. The owner of a prize bull in India makes approximately $3,000 each time the bull ejaculates.

Bees like cities as much as the countryside. In the UK, at least, bee species are even more diverse in urban areas.

Serbia is holding a Soviet-era sale. It’s getting rid of outdated surplus military equipment to buy the latest toys (link in Serbian).

Semantics matter. Chinese students at a Harvard model UN meeting flipped out when they saw Taiwan was listed under “countries.”

Yoga pants are not clothes. One US lawmaker wants to ban people from wearing them—and other tight-fitting garments—in public.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, urban honey, and spare Soviet weapons to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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