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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Taiwan’s election, Volkswagen’s skidding sales, Facebook for whales

Quartz
By Quartz

qz.com

What to watch for today and over the weekend 

Taiwan goes to the polls. The island elects a new president and legislative leaders on Jan. 16. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party is widely expected to win, thanks to a new generation of voters and an economy that is going nowhere. Relations with China, which considers Taiwan a rogue province, could suffer.

The pope meets Eric Schmidt at the Vatican. Google hasn’t said what its former CEO will discuss with the pontiff. Pope Francis has previously called the internet “a gift from God.”

How do you solve a problem like North Korea? At a meeting in Seoul, officials from South Korea will lobby their Chinese counterparts to rein in Pyongyang, which conducted what it said was a hydrogen bomb test earlier this month. South Korea has said China should not “allow the situation on the Korean peninsula to deteriorate further.”

Bank earnings on deck. Citigroup is expected to announce a small increase in revenue but a big jump in earnings from last year, when it set aside $3.5 billion for litigation and other charges. Wells Fargo is expected to report relatively flat earnings despite an uptick in revenue. PNC, US Bancorp, and BlackRock also report quarterly results (pdf).

While you were sleeping

Haier agreed to buy GE’s appliance unit for $5.4 billion. The Chinese appliance maker outbid all others for the century-old business unit, according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall).

China officially fell into a bear market, again. State intervention to boost the country’s stock markets has failed, as the Shanghai Composite Index closed the week more than 20% below its December high. By some measures, it is the third bear market—a prolonged fall of 20% of more—since June.

Volkswagen hit the skids in Europe. New data show that the automaker’s EU market share dropped for the first time since 2007, to 24.8% of new cars sold in 2015, from 25.5% the previous year. The German car giant’s emissions-testing scandal continues to tarnish its brand.

The biggest foreign investor in US shale announced a massive writedown. Australian mining group BHP Billiton said it would slash $4.9 billion from the value of its US shale assets due to the prolonged slump in oil prices. A short-lived rally in oil reversed itself in trading today, with prices dropping below $30 a barrel.

Indonesia identified a probable terror mastermind. Officials said Bahrun Naim, a radicalized Indonesian believed to be living in ISIL’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, was likely behind the bomb attack in Jakarta yesterday. Meanwhile, ordinary Indonesians showed solidarity and humor on social media in the aftermath of the attacks.

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz gets the inside story on a stakeout aimed at the world’s wealthiest crooks. “What are corrupt government officials and drug cartels to do with their ill-gotten cash? All too often, according to US officials, the answer is to buy expensive real estate through an anonymous shell corporation.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Is saving the planet a legal defense? Activists charged with blocking a trainload of shale oil say they did it to stop climate change.

A luxury handbag is a better investment than the stock market. The Hermès Birkin has a better long-term return than the S&P 500.

Hollywood refuses to celebrate female protagonists. Unless they’re victims, or choosing between male suitors.

Surprising discoveries

Scientists are building a Facebook for whales. Facial-recognition software will help measure dwindling populations.

Germany has an app to help refugees fit in. Ankommen (“welcome” in German) helps immigrants find a job and learn the local language and customs.

“Spermbots” could solve male infertility. Micromotors attached to sperm can help them reach the egg.

A woman that went missing 1974 is a hit on Spotify. Connie Converse recorded some stunning songs before she disappeared, never to be heard from again.

Three little girls performed an insane song-and-dance routine at a Donald Trump rally. “Cowardice / Are you serious / Apologies for freedom / I can’t handle this.”

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, investment-grade handbags, and whale friend requests to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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