Quartz Daily Brief—Europe and Africa edition—South China Sea escalation, Sarkozy investigated, cockroach robots

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What to watch for today

Australia and China spar over the South China Sea. Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop will press her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi over controversial manmade islands during her visit to Beijing. She has already received a frosty reception, and now faces a military escalation (see below).

Taiwan reports its GDP. Preliminary figures showed a 0.3% decline in the fourth quarter compared with a year earlier, putting the country in a technical recession.

T-Mobile opens its books. After struggling with subscriber losses for years, the wireless carrier is expected to report higher customer numbers thanks to an aggressive marketing campaign.

Marriott reports on its fourth quarter. The US-based hotel chain is expected to show higher profit, revenue, occupancy, and room rates. Investors should also get a closer look at the company’s $12.2 billion acquisition of Starwood.

While you were sleeping

Satellite images revealed a Chinese missile deployment in the South China Sea. Over a dozen missiles and a radar system have been established on Woody Island, part of the contested Paracel Islands, Taiwan’s defense ministry confirmed. The news broke as ASEAN leaders and the US conducted talks in California.

Authorities put Nicolas Sarkozy under investigation. Prosecutors will look at whether the former French president broke campaign funding rules. The campaign costs for his unsuccessful 2012 reelection bid might have been double the legal spending limit.

Okay Airways signed a $1.3 billion Boeing deal. The Chinese carrier agreed to buy a dozen 737 Max jets, and secured an option to purchase a further eight. The country’s first privately held domestic airline plans to grow its fleet from 18 to 80 by 2020.

Groupon got another shot in the arm. The group-buying company’s share value jumped by 41% after Alibaba bought a 5.6% stake. Groupon’s share price had lost 80% since it went public in 2011, but a recent retreat from global markets is reigniting investor interest.

Singapore’s exports were worse than expected. Non-oil shipments dropped by 9.9% in January compared with a year earlier, far more than ​the expected 7.6% fall​. The poor ​performance could impact a monetary policy decision, coming up in April.

Quartz obsession interlude

Corinne Purtill on the highly profitable but complicated world of Instagram’s famous animals. “Animal Instagram makes perfect sense, the place where America’s $60 billion pet industry and obsession with curated moments come together in an adorably fuzzy ball. And as with most things pet-related, the way we relate to it says a lot more about us than it does about the animals.” Read more here.

Market haiku

A quiet market

Then giants appear—hungry

Business to be done

Matters of debate

High-denomination banknotes should be abolished. Even the $100 bill is too high, and it facilitates crime.

Anti-vaxxers are making a self-interested choice. They are valuing their own children over the public good.

Donald Trump won’t become US president. Americans realize that it’s “a serious job. It’s not hosting a talk show,” says president Barack Obama.

Surprising discoveries

China is displacing thousands of people to hunt for aliens. A 500-meter radio telescope will dwarf the current record holder.

Researchers studied cockroaches to create an indestructible robot. It can survive crushing pressures and scurry through small spaces.

Grocery stores are selling Parmesan cheese laced with wood pulp. The cellulose is added to cut costs.

Some white noise is actually pink. Sound engineers have a rainbow of noises at their disposal.

Gender bias in science and math is not just a theory. Women who get A’s are rated on par with men who get B’s.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, real Parmesan, and pink noise to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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