Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Alibaba’s earnings, Google’s tax bill, David Bowie giraffe

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What to watch for today

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. 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

Google may face an EU tax investigation. The Scottish National Party has requested that the European Commission—which is already probing Google over anti-competitive behavior—look into a controversial tax deal (paywall) between the internet giant and the British government. The commission has retrieved $1.4 billion in back-taxes from multinationals in the past three months alone.

H&M blamed lower profits on the weather. The world’s second-largest clothing retailer posted a pre-tax profit of 7.2 billion krona ($846 million) for the fourth quarter. That’s down from last year’s 7.8 billion krona largely because an unusually warm winter forced the firm to cut prices to shift stock.

Premium spirits put a spring in Diageo’s step. The alcohol conglomerate reported a 1.8% rise in organic sales during its fiscal first half, despite recording a 1.5% drop in its first quarter. A significant boost came from upmarket “reserve” brands like like Johnnie Walker Super Deluxe, Ciroc, and Ketel One.

Spain’s unemployment rate inched downwards. The jobless rate fell to 20.9% in the fourth quarter, from 21.2% in the previous three months. That’s the lowest it’s been in almost five years. The year-on-year decline in the number of jobless people was also the biggest on record.

“Abenomics” lost a key supporter. Akira Amari, Japan’s economy minister and a chief driver of prime minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to revive the economy, said he would step down after battling allegations of financial impropriety. He is the fourth minister to resign over the scandal.

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 shows how to have a grown-up discussion about marijuana. Other countries could learn from its approach to legalization.

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

Fur is becoming manly again. Hollywood has helped bring grizzly coats 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 road-trip comedy.

Horse skulls are buried under the floorboards of many European homes. Brits and southern Scandinavians may have used them to improve acoustics.

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 zoological rockstar lookalikes to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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