What to watch for today
The Iowa caucuses begin. The US presidential primary season gets started in earnest in the Hawkeye State. On the Democratic side, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders is neck-and-neck with former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. For the Republicans, unexplainable phenomenon Donald Trump has a sizable lead over Texas senator Ted Cruz.
Google completes its metamorphosis into Alphabet. The internet search and advertising giant will report earnings under its new umbrella name for the first time. It’ll break out the legacy Google businesses (search, YouTube) in one collective bucket and all the experimental stuff (Nest, self-driving cars, Google X) in the other.
A few other companies are reporting as well. Toy maker Mattel, insurance giant Aetna, and food conglomerate Sysco will also be updating investors on their respective businesses.
Greece’s lenders stop in for a check-up. The International Monetary Fund and the country’s euro zone creditors will examine its progress towards economic reforms that were conditions for its emergency bailout earlier this year.
Black History Month begins in the US. February is typically when Americans focus on the struggles and contributions of black citizens. Although the month is typically an exercise in the rote recitation of basic facts, president Barack Obama and others have been pushing the country to better grapple with its racist past and present.
Over the weekend
Masked men beat up refugees. A gang of disguised men in Sweden were captured on video marching through a Stockholm train station, assaulting refugees, and handing out fliers threatening North African children. Four people were arrested, one for assaulting a police officer.
Boko Haram killed scores in Nigeria. The terrorist group burned down the village of Dalori and tried to attack a camp for displaced victims of previous Boko Haram attacks. The Guardian initially reported that the death toll was in the 50s, though the Associated Press had the body count at nearly 90.
Iran awarded some controversial medals. The country’s Revolutionary Guard honored the soldiers who arrested American sailors found in Iranian waters in January, further complicating the diplomatic response to the incident.
Serena Williams missed another shot at a grand slam. The world’s no. 1 female tennis player lost to Angelique Kerber in the finals of the Australian Open, precluding a sweep of the sport’s four major tournaments.
More big bank fines. Credit Suisse and Barclays will split a $154.3 million tab owed to the New York attorney general and the US Securities and Exchange Commission for improperly disclosing the role of high-frequency traders in their so-called “dark pool” exchanges for institutional clients.
Quartz obsession interlude
Janet Guyon on how digital media became dependent on Donald Trump: “In revenue terms, that 10x means if a website earns $20 for every thousand page views, it can make, say, $20,000 on a Trump story, but only $2,000 on an article about Cruz, Clinton, Sanders or Rubio. Given those dynamics and the pressure on many digital media outlets to come up with content that generates page views, more and more stories are likely to be written about Trump, giving him even greater leverage over the media. Thanks to his value on the web, even the smallest items of Trump-related news gets covered.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Bernie Sanders fans are ignoring the lessons of the past eight years. Promises of a “political revolution” won’t lead to anything of the kind.
American colleges should introduce economic-based affirmative action. Currently, children from low-income families have a more arduous application process than those with wealthy parents.
Trump has emphasized a new dividing line among Republicans. The party was once split by religion, but voters now seem to be divided according to their education.
Starships must become a reality. If they don’t, the scientific and cultural rewards of interstellar space will forever remain a mystery.
Ancient Babylonians had a sophisticated understanding of astronomy. A small clay tablet dating from 350 BC to 50 BC shows they were able to track Jupiter’s movements with mathematical precision.
Wearing a bike helmet can make you far more likely to take risks. This, in turn, potentially makes you more likely to get into accidents.
Child prodigies don’t grow up to be world-changing geniuses. They learn to conform to excellence, instead of becoming original creators in their own right.
Humans ate a 500 lb bird into extinction, 50,000 years ago. Charred fragments of the birds’ melon-sized eggshells suggest our ancestors harvested and cooked the eggs until there were no more left.
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