What to watch for today
Japan goes on a diplomatic road-show. Prime minister Shinzo Abe launches a tour of three of the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), seeking a countervailing economic and political alliance to China. The People’s Republic announced plans to survey the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which it disputes with Japan, and several ASEAN members have coastlines on the South China Sea, where China has also been throwing its weight about.
Some American ideas for gun safety. President Barack Obama will present proposals for reducing gun violence developed by vice president Joe Biden in the wake of December’s school massacre. They include closing loopholes that allow gun buyers to avoid background checks—a move that would have widespread support—as well as various measures Obama could take without consulting Congress, which would oppose many of them. The announcement comes just after the state of New York passed new restrictions on guns.
New price data from Europe and the US. Forecasters expect US inflation for 2012 to be at 1.8%, slightly below the Fed’s target, after a mildly deflationary December. The Fed will also release its Beige Book, a collection of anecdata about the US economy. European inflation data from Eurostat are expected to be low too—which could raise more questions about the European Central Bank’s decision to stand pat in the face of the continent’s recession.
While you were sleeping
More misery for Boeing. Japan’s All Nippon Airways, the first airline to send a Boeing 787 Dreamliner into the skies, has grounded its 17 Dreamliners after one was forced to make an emergency landing. Japan Airlines has reportedly followed suit. US and Japanese regulators are already looking into the Dreamliner’s safety, after years of well-documented problems.
Is Syria’s Bashar Assad using chemical weapons on his people? The State Department now believes so, according to a leaked report. This news comes on the heels of reports that explosions have torn through Syrian universities, killing over 80 people on the day exams began. More than 50 countries have urged the UN to refer the Syrian crisis to the International Criminal Court. But Russia, Assad’s main backer and Syria’s longtime arms supplier, blocked the initiative.
Hurricane Sandy victims got some relief. Despite staunch Republican opposition, the House of Representatives has passed a bill giving the states most damaged by October’s superstorm $17 billion worth of federal aid. Most money will go to New York and New Jersey, which bore the brunt of hurricane damage. Total relief funding has now reached $60 billion.
China tells Beijingers to be “patient” with smog. Though the level of smog particles in the air has fallen more than five-fold from its record-breaking high on Jan 12, incoming premier Li Keqiang has asked for patience in resolving the problem, though he did not offer specific plans. Even China’s tightly controlled state media have commented on the choking atmosphere, with the China Daily saying the nation’s capital is becoming better known for the “Beijing cough” than for Peking Opera or Peking Duck.
India turns to Japan for help on infrastructure. The nation’s infrastructure deficit is down to political paralysis, terrible weather, bad procurement practices and lack of cash. But India hopes Japan, a gleaming example of how to get infrastructure right, can help.
Facebook announced a new search engine. “Graph Search,” the clunkily-named new feature at Facebook, hopes to compete with Google on many kinds of search and offer users a robust new way to track their social lives. It might also be a good tool for recruiters. Or just an easier way of stalking people.
Quartz obsession interlude
Gwynn Guilford on China’s questionable trade data. “If the problem is big enough for the government to acknowledge, surely the preponderance of fake invoicing means that China is edging into the danger zone, right? Nah, argue Martin Kessler and Nicholas Borst of the Peterson Institute for International Economics. There is a crucial distinction between round-tripping designed to game taxes and the sort of capital flight that reflects a “sell” rating on the Chinese economy. The difference is crucial.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
It’s too early to canonize Mario Draghi. Sure, he helped stop the European financial crisis, but what about that recession?
If you can’t get into a top-5 MBA program, don’t even bother. On the plunging value of the MBA.
A Dell leveraged buyout could make it this year’s tech success story. It starts with Dell killing off its most successful business.
Did the Wall Street Journal get spun? Parsing the reporting on Apple’s supposed component ordering shortfall. (Which, we admit, we linked to too in yesterday’s email.)
Xi Jinping’s stated corruption crackdown has not depressed China’s luxury goods sales. Perhaps it is all talk.
Brazilian shower habits are a leading indicator of economic trouble. The country’s over-leveraged middle class—and their expensive grooming habits—spell trouble.
Some tricky questions for Lance Armstrong’s biggest backer. How much did legendary Silicon Valley banker Thomas Weisel know about drug use in cycling—and did he try to bribe an official of the International Cycling Union?
China busted 670 secret gun manufacturers and distributors last year. They also seized 2,780 tonnes of explosives during the crackdown, which seems like a lot.
The US Department of Defense wants to predict the future using Twitter. They should cut it out—that’s a job for journalists.
A Swedish cleaning lady commandeered a train and crashed it into a house. She has been detained on suspicion of “public devastation.“
Vegan food can be really unhealthy, as all this animal-friendly junk shows.
Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, questionable trade data or suggestions for helping Beijingers survive the smog to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.