Quartz Daily Brief—Europe and Africa edition—US Fed optimism, Facebook’s big quarter, David Bowie giraffe

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What to watch for today

Taiwan’s outgoing president visits a contested island. Ma Ying-jeou is flying to the South China Sea island of Taiping, also claimed by Vietnam and other neighbors, despite objections from the United States. Taiwan has spent large sums equipping the island with a new port, airstrip, and hospital.

France and Iran are back in business. French president François Hollande is hosting his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani for trade talks in Paris. It’s the second leg of the Iranian president’s historic return to Europe after international sanctions were lifted.

Alibaba tries to rise above Chinese market woes. Jack Ma’s e-commerce giant is expected to post a significant jump in revenue and profit (paywall). Investors will expect updates on Alibaba’s plans to buy online video firm Youku Tudou and Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper.

Is North Korea preparing a long-range-missile test? Weeks after apparently detonating a nuclear bomb, Pyongyang is said to be readying a launch site. The action comes one day after the US convinced China to increase pressure on North Korea over the recent detonation.

While you were sleeping

Facebook registered a record profit. The social networking giant posted a $1.6 billion profit for the three months ending December, up from $701 million a year earlier. That leap cemented Facebook’s ad model, which is successfully monetizing more mobile users; its share price popped.

EBay tanked after posting disappointing earnings… The online auction website reported zero growth in fourth-quarter revenue from the same period a year earlier and a 50% drop in net income. It also forecast a lower-than-expected income for the year ahead, sending its share price down by over 12%.

…while its former unit PayPal beat expectations. The online payments company increased its user base by almost a quarter in the final three months of last year, and reported a net income of $367 million, from $286 million for the same period in 2014.

The US Fed turned markets red. The central bank said it remained upbeat about the domestic economy, frustrating investors who were hoping that global turmoil might result in a pause to interest rate hikes. US stocks turned negative after the Fed’s statement.

Google’s AI cracked the game that supposedly no computer could beat. Researchers at Google’s DeepMind unit created an artificial intelligence system that can beat a professional Go player. The ancient board game is highly complex: One researcher noted that “there are more configurations of the board than there are atoms in the universe.”

Quartz obsession interlude

Adam Epstein on why Netflix’s TV lineup is intentionally vague. “Netflix is the world’s chameleonic TV channel. It wants to be everything to everyone… To be sure, Netflix’s intentional lack of a ‘brand’ doesn’t mean the company has a problem with brand awareness. Quite the contrary.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Mexico is an example of how to discuss marijuana. Other countries could learn from its national approach to the issue of legalization.

Hedge funds need to up their game. They aren’t doing enough to prove they are worth their excessive fees.

Fur is becoming manly again. Hollywood has helped bring the grizzly fur coat back to men’s wardrobes.

Surprising discoveries

A Tanzanian giraffe is famous for looking like David Bowie. “Omo” is a rare white breed with a red mane.

A white British man is playing Michael Jackson in an upcoming movie. Joseph Fiennes will portray the King of Pop in a Sept. 11 road trip comedy.

UK censors had to sit through a 10-hour film of paint drying. It was submitted by an activist protesting censorship.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, fur coats, and Michael Jackson screenplays to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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