Quartz Daily Brief—Europe and Africa edition—Twitter’s shake-up, Bloomberg for president, ethical smartphones

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What to watch for today

Syrian peace talks are due to start in Geneva. Whether they actually do is another question, as is the final list of attendees. But the idea is for the United Nations to broker talks between Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime and many of his opponents.

Egypt is on high alert on the fifth anniversary of the 2011 uprising. Authorities have warned against violent protests, and president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has promised a crackdown on anti-government demonstrations, five years after protests that toppled former strongman Hosni Mubarak.

Twitter patches up its C-suite. Several executives are set to leave the company, according to a Recode report posted yesterday (Jan. 24), and a number have already confirmed their exit. The reshuffle is apparently being led by returning CEO Jack Dorsey, with the company expected to announce a new head of marketing and several new board members.

The US gets back to work after Winter Storm Jonas. The blizzard is over but the US east coast has a lot of shoveling to do. While New York transit is up and running again, the Washington subway will guarantee only a minimum service. Many schools will stay closed today in the affected areas.

US corporates begin a big week of earnings reports. McDonald’s and Kimberly Clark announce their latest set of quarterly results before the markets open. Later this week, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft will also report.

Over the weekend

The US had a lot of snow. Between Friday afternoon and early Sunday morning, the US eastern coast was hit by a blizzard of historic proportions. Eighteen people died—including a good samaritan who was shot while trying to help a man with his stalled car—and New Jersey experienced record flooding. But some still had fun.

Adidas cancelled its sponsorship of the International Association of Athletics Federations. The largest sponsor of the world athletics’ governing body ended its contract four years early, following reports of systemic doping. Investigations into the IAAF have led to accusations of both state-sponsored doping and corruption.

Michael Bloomberg prepared a US presidential run. The self-made billionaire and former New York City mayor is considering a bid as a third-party candidate, according to the New York Times (paywall). He’d most likely run if Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were nominated as the Republican and Democratic candidates, respectively.

Iran published a major European shopping list… Transport minister Abbas Akhoondi said the government wants to purchase 160 European passenger aircraft, including eight “superjumbos.” Speaking in Tehran to reps from 300 companies, Akhoondi announced Iran’s plans to establish an international-level airline.

…After signing billions in deals with China. Chinese president Xi Jinping and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani signed 17 agreements promoting economic and technological cooperation, and announced plans to increase trade by about 1,000% over the next 10 years. China has already agreed to build a railway to Tehran.

Portugal elected a center-right president. Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, a politician and TV personality, has won power from a center-left coalition. With nearly all votes counted, de Sousa had 52% of the ballot, compared to 22% for his nearest rival.

Brazil announced its Zika-virus strategy during the Olympics. The authorities say inspections for mosquitos will begin four months before the Rio games begin in August, and that daily sweeps will be performed during the Olympics. The Zika virus has been linked to several major illnesses.

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on Jeff Bezos’ re-usable rocket: “It’s not clear yet when Blue Origin will begin making money off its rocket. New Shepherd is not powerful enough to carry large cargo, so the company has mainly focused on a space tourism model, promising the ride of a lifetime to ticket-holding passengers, but it’s not clear when you’ll be able to buy a ticket.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Small talk makes the world bearable. There’s more to life than profound conversation.

If you nominate Bernie Sanders, you’ll get president Donald Trump. If Michael Bloomberg runs as an independent third, Trump’s path to victory is assured.

Humans are, and have always been, violent. A 10,000-year-old massacre may be the oldest proof of warfare between humans.

Surprising discoveries

A potential $47-million lottery-winning ticket went through the wash. The British lottery is still offering to look at the faded stub.

A man’s dying wish was to ask others not to support Donald Trump. “In lieu of flowers,” his obituary said.

South Africa has university grants for women who are virgins. Women in the Uthukela region will be given regular virginity tests to qualify for the bursaries.

A Dutch company is planning to build the first ethical smartphone from scratch. But is such a thing even possible?

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, small-talk conversation starters, and washed-up lottery tickets to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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