Quartz Daily Brief—Europe and Africa edition—Iowa caucuses, Boko Haram attacks, Babylonian astronomy

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What to watch for today

Iowa goes to the polls. Democrats and Republicans in the state will vote for their preferred presidential candidate. The biggest question is most likely whether billionaire Donald Trump can transform media attention into actual votes.

Greece’s lenders stop in for a checkup. The International Monetary Fund and euro zone creditors will examine that nation’s progress toward the economic reforms that were conditions for its emergency bailout last year.

Google completes its metamorphosis into Alphabet. The internet giant will report earnings under its new umbrella name for the first time. Analysts will be looking at the new company structure that separates legacy businesses (like Google search) from the experimental stuff (like Nest and self-driving cars).

More earnings. Toy maker Mattel, insurance giant Aetna, and food conglomerate Sysco will also be updating investors on their respective businesses.

Over the weekend

Masked men beat up refugees in Sweden. Up to 70 men marched through Stockholm’s central train station and assaulted refugees and ethnic minorities on Friday evening (Jan. 29). The group also handed out fliers threatening North African children; four people were arrested, one for assaulting a police officer.

Boko Haram killed at least 86 people in Nigeria. The terrorist group burned down a village in the country’s northeast, and launched an assault on a camp for displaced victims of its previous attacks. Three suicide bombs were detonated.

China’s factory activity dropped to a three-year low. The official purchasing managers’ index fell to 49.4 in January, missing expectations of 49.6; any number below 50 suggests a contraction in activity. China’s services sector expanded in January but at a slower pace than in December.

The African Union abandoned its Burundi peacekeeping plan. Leaders decided to work with president Pierre Nkurunziza to end violence that has so far displaced 240,000 people. The AU previously supported sending 5,000 peacekeeping troops to Burundi, which Nkurunziza fiercely opposed.

China busted a massive Ponzi scheme. Police detained 21 executives from Ezubao, a peer-to-peer lending website, for allegedly stealing 50 billion yuan ($7.6 billion) from almost a million investors. It’s the latest fraud to fleece China’s individual investors, who lost $24 billion last year to scams.

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.

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 not fully disclosing the role of high-frequency traders in their so-called “dark pool” exchanges.

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.” 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.

Millennials are changing the stock market. A desire for experiences instead of purchases means tough times for consumer goods companies.

Starships must become a reality. If they don’t, the scientific and cultural assets of outer space will forever remain a mystery.

Surprising discoveries

Ancient Babylonians had a sophisticated understanding of astronomy. They were able to track Jupiter’s movements with mathematical precision.

Wearing a bike helmet can make you more likely to take risks. This, in turn, potentially makes you more likely to have an accident.

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 (227 kg) 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.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, starship designs, and ancient Babylonian astronomy tips to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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