What to watch for today and over the weekend
G20 finance ministers meet in Shanghai. Talk is expected to turn to China’s slowing economy, and perhaps its ridiculous stock market, during the two-day conference. British finance minister George Osborne will be cajoling his peers to come out against a Brexit.
FIFA votes on its next president… There are five candidates to replace Sepp Blatter and 207 delegates are in Zurich to decide who it will be. They are all are vowing to restore the international soccer body’s tarnished reputation—which seems to involve promising more money and travel for FIFA members.
… and Iran holds elections… Voters will choose legislators and a clerical council (paywall) that will help elect the country’s next supreme leader. President Hassan Rouhani hopes to put more moderates in power in the first test of his appeal since the historic accord with the US and EU over its nuclear program.
…as does Ireland. The Irish are voting in a general election on Friday, with polls showing the existing Fine Gael-Labour coalition will fall short of the seats needed to maintain its government. Independent MPs could be a deciding factor. The IRA-linked Sinn Fein is also expected to do well (paywall).
Warren Buffett sums up a terrible year. Saturday’s annual letter to shareholders may contain hints about who will take over at Berkshire Hathaway when the legendary 85-year-old CEO retires.
While you were sleeping
The Republican candidates went for Donald Trump’s jugular. Senator Marco Rubio stood out for aggressively attacking the billionaire Trump, who clearly leads in polls, over his anti-immigration stance. “If he builds the wall the way he built Trump Towers, he’ll be using illegal immigrant labor to do it,” said the Florida lawmaker.
The UK’s Royal Bank of Scotland reported its eighth annual loss. The £2.7-billion ($3.8-billion) loss was due partly to litigation over mortgage-backed securities. That said, the fourth quarter of the majority-state-owned British bank—bailed out during the 2008 financial crisis—wasn’t nearly as bad as the previous year.
Sharp’s stock dropped another 11.4%. Foxconn had agreed to buy Sharp but delayed its acquisition of the troubled Japanese firm after new financial liabilities came to light (paywall), sending Sharp’s share price down steeply two days in a row.
Baidu delivered a strong quarter. The Chinese internet giant reported fourth-quarter revenue of 18.7 billion yuan ($2.9 billion), marking a 33% increase compared with a year earlier. That sent share prices up as much as 12%. The company forecast first-quarter revenue of up to 16 billion yuan—less than the 16.3 billion yuan expected.
US-China sanctions against North Korea were revealed. The US submitted to the UN a China-backed draft resolution that could bar the country from importing aviation fuel and small arms. It could ultimately end all North Korean exports to UN member states.
Quartz obsession interlude
Michael Erard on why people distrust foreign accents. “’We’re less likely to believe something if it’s said with a foreign accent,’ one expert explained. In her view, negative judgments are the result of the additional effort that our brains must make to process foreign speech. Our brains then shift the blame for this effort onto the veracity of the speaker.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
America doesn’t like women who seek power. Hillary Clinton’s approval ratings soar when she’s on the job, but plummet when she’s campaigning.
Please don’t add the suffix “-splaining.” A once-useful term to criticize sexism has become nothing more than a lazy joke.
Good customer service occurs inversely to economic health. In happier times, expect service to decline.
Apple has hired the developer of Edward Snowden’s favorite messaging app. The tech giant is really interested in privacy.
Homesickness was once considered a fatal medical condition. Luckily, it was easily curable.
Colorado’s emergency rooms are full of weed tourists. Visitors are overdoing it a bit.
Sperm are a virus’ best friend. The body’s defenses give them a free pass, helping them spread Zika and HIV.
Mexico City is shaming litterers on Periscope. The social media app broadcasts their misdeeds in real time.