Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Putin “ordered” London execution, Foxconn eyes Sharp, sarcasm detectors? Yeah, right

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What to watch for today

Vladimir Putin is accused of ordering a hit in London. Look for official Russian reaction as a British inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, an ex-KGB man living in London, concludes that the Russian president “probably” approved of the 2006 killing. The announcement could also pressure UK prime minister David Cameron to increase sanctions against Russia.

Prime ministers preen at Davos. UK leader David Cameron, Greek PM Alexis Tsipras, and Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu will all speak at separate panels at the World Economic Forum. With world leaders about, these are the 27 CEOs who are conspicuously absent. And who won Day 1 of Davos, anyway?

The European Central Bank’s rate decision. The bank introduced a stimulus package just six weeks ago, so analysts expect it will hold off on further changes for now. But weak inflation and low oil prices could prompt it to take action.

Starbucks reports its earnings. The US coffee shop chain is expected to announce a large increase in fourth-quarter profit, on strong seasonal sales and a popular food menu. It is also succeeding in China, where other fast-food companies are struggling.

Dov Charney gives it one last try. The disgraced founder of American Apparel is making a final attempt to regain control of the company by trying to derail its bankruptcy proceedings. If the court approves a restructuring plan backed by a hedge fund, the company will go private and Charney’s shares will become worthless.

While you were sleeping

No respite for Asian stocks. Major stock markets in China, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea ended down, despite early rallies, after global share indexes suffered heavy losses yesterday as crude oil fell below $27. European markets held steady in early trading, but volatility is expected.

Foxconn offered to buy Sharp for $5.3 billion. The Taiwanese manufacturing giant best known for assembling iPhones said it would also take on all of the Japanese company’s debt, according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall). It hopes the outsized offer for the struggling gadget maker will convince shareholders to drop concerns about selling to a foreign owner.

Barclays announced 1,200 job cuts… The roles will be cut from the British bank’s investment-banking division, as part of CEO Jes Staley’s shakeup of the institution. The cutbacks will see Barclays stop investment banking in at least eight countries.

…and Pearson also slashed its workforce. The educational publisher said it is cutting 4,000 jobs—10% of its total staff—after issuing a profit warning for the year ahead. Pearson said it expects an underlying operating profit of around £600 million ($850 million) this year, down from £720 million in 2015.

SABMiller reported better-than-expected sales. The European mega brewery reported a 7% rise in fiscal third-quarter revenue, beating expectations of a 5.5% increase. Most of the extra sales were in Africa and South America; Europe’s mild winter also boosted earnings.

Remy Cointreau had something to cheer about. The French distiller said it expects to return to full-year profit growth this year, after sales rose in its fiscal third quarter by 3.2%, ahead of expectations. Remy was hit by a corruption crackdown in China, but is now seeing a return to growth there.

Quartz obsession interlude

Kevin Delaney on the radical optimism of Canada’s prime minister. “His electoral mandate is to ‘provide a positive and good government for Canadians,’ Justin Trudeau says, ‘rather than focusing on what we’re scared of.’ But what about the prospect of terrorism attacks on Canadian soil? ‘People are open to not choosing to live in constant fear,’ Trudeau says. ‘We have to make a choice about how much we’re going to close and limit and crack down on our society in order to protect it.’” Read more here.

Matters of debate

There’s nothing wrong with mourning on social media. Let’s ditch the assumption that grief is only sincere if it’s private.

Gossiping isn’t a flaw, it’s a skill. Being a good gossip means being a team player, and reading your peers correctly.

Davos is a farce cooked up for the masses. The super-rich play by different rules than the rest of the world.

Surprising discoveries

Brazil is deploying genetically modified mosquitoes. The weaponized insects are the best hope against dengue and the Zika virus.

Japan plans to drop the swastika from its tourist maps. The symbols, for Buddhist temples, are being replaced with pagodas.

Researchers have developed an extremely effective “sarcasm detector.” They trained their algorithms by reading #sarcasm tweets.

A group of Frenchmen once tried to establish a communist utopia in Texas. The 1848 commune quickly failed.

By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. Pound for pound, manmade trash will outweigh marine life.

Live Slack chat

Chris Sheldrick is founder and CEO of what3words, a global grid of 57 trillion 3mx3m squares that gives every location in the world an easy-to-use address. Following his standout presentation at The Next Billion: New York, Chris will join Quartz on Slack for our first live chat Q&A with our editors and readers. Sign up now to join us today from 1-2pm EST.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, weaponized mosquitoes, and algorithmic sarcasm to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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