Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—David Bowie has died, “The Revenant” does well, celebrating Stalin

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What to watch for today

How will US investors react to further Asian stocks falls? China’s CSI 300 dropped by 5% after Australia’s ASX 200 wobbled, ending the day down by 1.2%. Aussie stocks were spooked by further falls in commodities prices, sending them briefly to a two-and-a-half-year low. But European stocks were marginally higher in early trading.

A Freddie Gray murder trial begins in Baltimore. Jury selection begins on Monday in the trial of Caesar Goodson (paywall), who faces the most serious charge of any of the six officers accused of killing Gray, who died of a spinal injury sustained after officers took him into custody in April.

Earnings season starts, but don’t get too excited. Alcoa unofficially kicks off the latest quarterly earnings reports, with JP Morgan, BlackRock, and Citigroup announcing later in the week. Analysts forecast a 4.2% decline in earnings for S&P 500 companies in the fourth quarter.  

UN aid arrives in Syria. Residents in the rebel-held town of Madaya and two government-held villages are expected to receive emergency food aid, after reports suggested people have been dying of hunger.

The North American International Auto Show opens. The annual car show in Detroit, which runs until Jan. 24, will likely focus more on passenger and electric cars, over trucks and SUVs. Separately, GM will face a trial to decide whether injuries sustained in a 2014 car crash were the result of a faulty ignition switch.

Over the weekend

David Bowie died at the age of 69. The British musician had been fighting cancer for 18 months, before passing away “peacefully today surrounded by his family.” Bowie had consistently redefined himself and his music throughout his career, which spans both decades and genres.

“The Revenant” won big at the Golden Globes. The drama won awards for director Alejandro González Iñárritu and lead actor Leonardo DiCaprio, as well as earning “best picture” in the drama category. British comedian Ricky Gervais roasted many of the celebrities at the event.

Spain’s princess Cristina went on trial. She is the first member of the country’s royal family to be put on trial, charged with being an accomplice to an alleged fraud scheme involving her husband’s non-profit sports foundation. Cristina faces up to eight years in jail if convicted; her husband could face 19 years.

Greece’s opposition got a new leader. Kyriakos Mitsotakis—who has called prime minister Alexis Tsipras a liar in the past—was voted president of the center-right New Democracy Party. Mitsotakis, who’s had to fend off accusations of being a Thatcherite from his own party, has hinted that he could work with Tsipras on certain issues.

Egypt had its first parliament in three years. The legislative body met for the first time yesterday to begin the process of ratifying presidential decrees issued by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Those up for debate include a “terror law” that restricts press freedom and gives police wider powers.

Elon Musk offered more hints on autonomous cars. Tesla owners will soon be able to summon their cars from across the US, using their phones, the electric car maker’s CEO said yesterday. Musk made that announcement as current vehicles received an upgrade enabling them to park themselves and prepare for drives.

China bought a major German machinery maker. ChemChina, a state-owned chemicals giant, agreed to pay $1 billion for KraussMaffei, currently owned by a Canadian investment company. The transaction would accelerate ChemChina’s massive push to buy up European businesses.

Quartz obsession interlude 

Olivia Goldhill on the evidence that suggests “baby brain” makes you more intelligent. “Kinsley tells Quartz his research was inspired by watching his own wife’s behavior shortly after giving birth. ‘I noticed my wife becoming much more efficient and able to do everything she did before, plus take care of a new baby. I put these ideas into the lab and started testing them and it was just like finding a gold mine,’ he says.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

France is still in denial over its terror attacks. Its government won’t properly address the troubling reality that deadly attacks were carried out by its own citizens.

El Chapo will escape again. Public officials’ collusion with organized criminals will ensure that Mexico’s drug kingpin is out before long.

Obnoxiousness is the new charisma. The two frontrunners in the Republican primary are unreservedly smug and unabashedly mean (paywall). And this seems to appeal to short attention spans.

Surprising discoveries

A US constitutional amendment once suggested that acts of war go to a national vote. Should it have passed, it would have required pro-war voters to join the army.

Russia now has a cultural center celebrating Stalin. The mass murderer is lauded in the town of Penza.

Dinosaurs danced as a form of foreplay. Scrape marks left by the creatures add to evidence that dinosaurs danced to woo mates.

Allergies may have developed when humans mated with Neanderthals. The offspring had a higher chance of suffering from asthma and hay fever.

Sugar gliders are taking over Instagram. The cute flying squirrels are popping up all over people’s feeds.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, sexy dinosaur dance moves, and Bowie classics to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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