Quartz Daily Brief—Europe and Africa edition—VW’s diplomacy, Obama’s speech, whale bombings

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What to watch for today

The EU debates Poland’s rightward tilt. The European Commission will discuss new laws from Poland’s right-wing government giving it more power over the media and constitutional court. Poland could eventually face sanctions after an EU investigation.

Associated British Foods opens its books. The conglomerate owns businesses from Primark to Twinings, but it reported underwhelming third-quarter earnings and many analysts are now questioning the company’s share price.

GM gives its outlook on 2016. CEO Mary Barra will present the automaker’s expectations for the year ahead at the Global Auto Industry Conference in Detroit.

While you were sleeping

Barack Obama delivered his final State of the Union address. The US president struck an optimistic tone on the country’s military, health care, and economy. Obama also called on citizens to trust each other, in a mild attack on the tendency in the current president race to highlight peoples’ differences.

Iran detained 10 US sailors. Two US Navy boats strayed into Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf after experiencing mechanical difficulties, and the crew was taken prisoner by the Iranian Coast Guard. The US is reportedly negotiating with Tehran to obtain their release.

VW’s apology tour got off to a terrible start. California rejected the German automaker’s plan to fix diesel cars that were installed with software designed to cheat on emissions tests. Volkswagen is still in talks (paywall) with authorities.

Interest in Peroni and Grolsch heated up. San Miguel, the Philippines’ biggest brewer, confirmed its interest in buying the two European brands SABMiller is expected to offload to make its acquisition by Anheuser Busch InBev more palatable to regulators. Japan’s Asahi is also interested.

Yum Brands said its China sales growth turned positive. The owner of KFC and Pizza Hut reported a 5% year-on-year rise in same-store sales in its largest market in December. Yum expects strong sales in the fourth quarter, ahead of a planned China spinoff.

China allegedly detained a human rights activist. Peter Dahlin, a Swede who works with grassroots legal advocates in China, was said to be wrongfully detained in Beijing. Chinese officials denied knowing anything about his whereabouts.

Quartz obsession interlude

Alison Griswold on how Uber might be undermining its own business model: “Uber’s fare guarantees are simply formalizing what’s already dictated by economics…But it’s one thing to leave something to the whims of supply and demand, and another to design incentives that skew the equation.” Read more here.

Markets haiku

A solid showing
Oil’s gushing over a cliff
A need for shelter

Matters of debate

Bronze Age geopolitics look oddly like today: 1177 BC featured crippling droughts, civil wars, and mass exoduses in the Middle East.

Being a victim of discrimination doesn’t mean you won’t discriminate against others. The Bill Crosby saga has proved that.

Ted Cruz is not eligible to be president. The US founding fathers would not have considered him to be a “natural born citizen.”

Surprising discoveries

An Ohio fugitive sent cops a selfie. The man, wanted for arson and vandalism, didn’t like his mugshot.

Researchers made incandescent light bulbs more efficient than LEDs. A unique crystal structure could bring back their warm glow.

The best way to euthanize a beached whale is to blow it to smithereens. Rifles aren’t powerful enough and injections take too long.

NASA opened a “planetary defense office” for doomsday asteroids. If it can’t deflect them, it will alert emergency responders.

The Playboy mansion is for sale—Hugh Hefner included. Buyers will have to rent it to the company founder for as long as he lives.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, fugitive selfies, and asteroid alerts to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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