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Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Iran’s nuclear talks, Wal-Mart’s wages, Ukraine’s ceasefire, Kim Jong Un’s haircut

  • Hanna Kozlowska
By Hanna Kozlowska

Investigative reporter

This article is more than 2 years old.

What to watch for today

EU finance ministers mull Greece’s fate. Greece wants its euro-zone creditors to grant a six-month extension on its €240 billion ($272 billion) bailout. The proposed deal would be a big stretch for Greece. But it’s not enough for Germany, whose finance ministry dismissed (link in German) the proposal as not “substantive.”

The US and Iran resume nuclear talks. Iranian officials have said that US secretary of state John Kerry will join the negotiations this weekend, though the US side has not yet confirmed. The talks come as a UN watchdog warns that Iran still hasn’t answered questions about its purported nuclear bomb research.

The UK’s retail report card. The UK’s update of January retail sales comes after a bout of positive economic indicators for the UK economy.

The markets digest Venezuela’s exchange rate plan. For the first time in years, the Venezuelan government is permitting its citizens to exchange bolivares for US dollars, in an attempt to weaken the black market and shrink the country’s budget gap amid rampant inflation.

While you were sleeping

Wal-Mart raised wages for 500, 000 workers. Along with its earnings announcement this morning, the company said it would dole out raises in April to ensure that those paid hourly will get at least $1.75 above the US federal minimum wage, or $9.00 per hour. By Feb. 1, 2016, Wal-Mart will raise wages even further, to $10 an hour.

Obama said human rights abuses fuel extremism. In twin speeches Wednesday and Thursday at a summit on violent extremism, US president Barack Obama argued that the roots of extremism traced back to human rights abuses and sectarian conflict, not Islam. Obama’s remarks drew criticism from both the country’s political right and left.

Ukraine’s ceasefire fell apart, again. Fighting has spread in eastern Ukraine despite a truce agreement, with shelling reported around Donetsk and Mariupol. Leaders of the four countries that negotiated the ceasefire last week talked by phone Thursday in an effort to salvage the peace process. Ukraine’s president also called for UN peacekeepers, a proposal rejected by pro-Russia rebels.

Oil prices dropped, US supplies climbed. Crude oil fell to below $59 a barrel, as US crude stocks rose more than expected last week, by 14.3 million barrels. If the figures are confirmed today by the US energy agency it would be the largest weekly increase since 1982.

Photoshop turned 25. The Adobe suite program whose name is practically synonymous with photo-editing is a quarter-century old. Over the years, it has served a plastic surgeon, a weapon of propaganda, and a tool for artists.

Quartz obsession interlude

Annalisa Merelli on the dream home Jackie O designed for JFK. ”According to one of his wife’s letters, president Kennedy was skeptical about the house but ended up “loving it.” She confided in her friend Bill Waxton that Wexford was a sign of success in her marriage: “I think we’re going to make it. I think we’re going to be a couple. I’ve won,” she told him during a dinner. Sadly, the family only spent a couple of weekends there in 1963—the last reportedly on Nov. 10, shortly before the president was assassinated.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The Ukraine deal is seriously flawed. The roadmap to peace outlined by France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine isn’t enforceable, and suffers from Russia’s outsized influence in Europe.

Greece will have to pay in negotiations. Berlin will likely make concessions, but Greece’s far-left government will suffer, or be ousted, in the process.

Sony should ditch everything except for Playstation 4. Because that’s what it’s good at.

Siblings are the worst bullies. Worse than those big brats on the playground.

Surprising discoveries

One in four Americans wouldn’t take a free trip to space. Seriously?

Unhealthy eating is plaguing the globe. Sugary, salty, and processed foods are bringing down people everywhere.

Arctic owls are camping out in New York. They’ve migrated south to enjoy the freezing cold.

Scientists are making a Google Maps for the brain. So that brain surgeons can explore your mind in 3D.

Kim Jong Un has a new haircut. And it’s a show-stopper.

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