Quartz Daily Brief—Americas Edition—Euro zone shrinkage, Air France-KLM, Pistorius verdict, fishy tuna, the tragicomifarce of Italian politics

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

What lies ahead for Afghanistan. A summit of NATO defense ministers focused on the status of international forces in central Asia concludes today, with ministers considering a plan to pay for a larger Afghan army. That will no doubt thrill NATO’s finance ministers.

Barack Obama sees his fifth Japanese prime minister in as many years. A summit meeting between the leaders of the world’s biggest and third-biggest economies in Washington, DC will focus on disputed islands, North Korea, monetary policy and the trans-Pacific trade pact.

Boeing tries to get off the ground. The maker of the 787 Dreamliner will present a 10-point proposal to the Federal Aviation Authority for dealing with its flammable battery problem. Among the measures proposed are redesigned lithium-ion batteries and a fireproof container around the battery.

A verdict in the Pistorius bail hearing. A magistrate will decide whether sports champion Oscar Pistorius, accused of murdering his girlfriend, should be granted bail. In a strange twist, the detective on the case turns out to be facing charges of attempted murder himself.

Italy votes on Sunday. The eurozone’s third-biggest economy is deep in the middle of a recession and its politics are a joke—literally. Beppe Grillo, a comedian, faces off against Silvio Berlusconi, about whom the less is said, the better. Neither will become prime minister but both promise to make parliament, um, interesting. Cyprus will also go to the polls for the second round of its presidential election.

While you were sleeping

The euro zone economy will shrink for another year. The European Commission said the 17-member bloc would see a 0.3% contraction in 2013. That’s better than the 0.5% contraction in 2012 (pdf) but pretty gloomy compared to the EU’s forecast in November that predicted 0.1% growth for the year

German businesses looked bullish. Business confidence among German executives jumped to a 10-month high in February according to the IFO index. Other signs are encouraging too: the DAX benchmark index has gained 10% in the past three months and despite a 0.6% contraction in Q4 GDP, economists expect growth to return in the current quarter.

Air France-KLM is still losing money. The Franco-Dutch airline company posted a full-year net loss of €1.19 billion ($1.57 billion) for 2012, some €300 million more than the previous year. Meanwhile, Air Berlin declared a net profit for the first time in five years. Germany’s second-largest carrier made €6.8 million in 2012, a refreshing change from 2011’s €420 million loss.

Singapore posted robust growth figures. The city-state grew an annualized 3.3% in the last quarter of 2012, a big reversal from the 4.6% contraction the previous quarter. Analysts are reading the numbers as a sign of an Asian recovery.

Tata may take the Nano to Malaysia. This week Tata announced it was joining up with AirAsia to get back into aviation 60 years after its last airline was nationalized. Now it looks like the partnership may yield other dividends as well: talks are on to build and sell the Nano, its small cheap car, in alliance with AirAsia’s Tony Fernandes.

Quartz obsession interlude

Lily Kuo on China’s efforts to control pollution by banning barbecue. “As one would say in Chinese with emphasis, fangpi–which means rubbish (or, literally, ‘fart’). True, charcoal-burning grills that make Xinjiang-style meat skewers dot many small streets in Chinese cities. But they are far from the real root of China’s pollution: resistance from state-owned companies and local governments, poor regulation, and the country’s large population. However, when pollution in Beijing in January reached more than 20 times international standards deemed as safe, it was blamed mostly on emissions from coal-burning power stations and car exhaust.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Can Japan spend $100 billion in just fifteen months? If not, we’d like to give it a shot.

While the world focuses on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Iran itself is preoccupied with a dramatic power struggle 

Can food companies make food addictive? It’s all about flavor optimization.

Responding to China’s cyber attacks. “Name and shame alone will not work.

Surprising discoveries

Egyptian protestors want to send President Morsi to space. And he will be sent there by the makers of Axe body spray.

There’s no shortage of PhD-holders in America. Newly credentialed scientists are having a hard time finding jobs.

59% of America’s “tuna” isn’t tuna. Do you really want to know what it actually is?

Germans hate the smell of Abercrombie & Fitch. In Munich, citizens complained to authorities (German) about the heavily perfumed retailer, which announces its earnings today.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, undervalued doctorates and $100 billion cheques to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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