Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Spaniards protest, Brazil’s oil mess, tech bubbles, peak punctuation

March 23, 2014
March 23, 2014

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

President Obama’s Eurotrip. Over the next few days, President Obama will meet with G7 leaders, NATO representatives and EU officials to discuss how to present a unified front against Russia’s expansion into Ukraine. Obama will also meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is in Europe for the first time as leader of China.

French voters say “meh.” Final results of this weekend’s local elections are set to show a record low turnout of 65%, which does not bode well for French President Francois Hollande. His popularity has plunged since his election in 2012. Disillusioned voters could help boost local representation of the far-right National Front.

More bad news for bitcoin traders. Vircurex, the cryptocurrency exchange, will freeze all user accounts and stop withdrawals of bitcoin and other virtual currencies. It’s but the latest in a string of bitcoin exchanges to collapse or halt trading in recent weeks. Vircurex has been hit by both hackers and what amounts to a run on its virtual bank.

Over the weekend

Spaniards protested high unemployment. An anti-austerity demonstration in Madrid turned violent when youths clashed with police. Tens of thousands traveled to the Spanish capital to protest unemployment and poverty, claiming that cutbacks in spending on health and education are causing irrevocable harm.

An oil deal muddied the Brazilian president’s re-election campaign. President Dilma Rousseff is taking heat over allegations that the state-owned oil company Petrobas overpaid for a refinery in Pasadena. She is accused of paying 28 times what its original owners had paid for the plant (paywall) while she was head of Petrobras’s board. The scandal could harm Rousseff’s presidential re-election chances later this year.

Russia expanded its presence in Ukraine. A build-up of Russian troops along the eastern border of Ukraine has prompted concern among NATO and White House officials that Russia could make a move on Moldova’s separatist Trans-Dniester region. Meanwhile, Russia continued to take over Ukrainian military bases, including a ship in Crimea that came under a “two hour assault” (although no one was injured).

IMS Health Holdings is nearing its stock market debut. Sources close to the matter said IMS Health will soon embark on an IPO roadshow (paywall), aiming to raise around $1 billion from selling shares at around $21, making it the third-largest US flotation this year. The company is thought to be heading for a $7 billion valuation.

Turkey shot down a Syrian war plane. Turkey said it fired a missile at a Syrian fighter jet after the plane ignored warnings to turn back before entering Turkish airspace. A Syrian military spokesperson criticized the attack, which brought the plane down 1,200 meters inside Syrian territory, as “blatant aggression.”

Quartz obsession interlude

Christopher Mims on how Twitter needs to grow up. “As a public company, the pressure is on Twitter to grow. That means getting people to spend more time on the site, and getting more people to show up in the first place. This is no doubt what’s behind recent rumors that Twitter is eliminating some of its conventions, like @ replies and hashtags, because they’re “arcane.” Twitter CEO Dick Costolo has admitted that Twitter can be confusing and “opaque” for new users. But the question for Twitter is, can it solve its problems without wrecking what’s best about the site?” Read more here.

Matters of debate

We have reached peak punctuation!! The overused exclamation point could soon lose out to image-based communication such as emojis and gifs.

Investors are worried about another tech bubble. They think low interest rates are bumping up the valuations of companies with no revenues and no profits.

America’s industrial revolution is not over. We might be nearing the end of the Fossil Fuels era, but we’ve hardly tapped the potential of alternative energy.

Millennials are facing a serious crisis. Generation Y is a victim of “a new economic disenfranchisement” that isn’t being addressed.

Don’t blame Pandora for musicians’ low compensation. It’s merely a symptom of a broader issues in the music industry.

Surprising discoveries

The proportion of women in senior business roles isn’t growing. This, despite the fact that the number of female CEOs is (paywall).

Solar panels could be grown from bacteria. Scientists are using living cells to create materials you wouldn’t find naturally.

Germans intercepted a cocaine shipment headed to the Vatican. It was packed in 14 condoms.

This teacher figured out how to keep students in order. Detention’s got nothing on the threat of Game of Thrones spoilers.

Americans are so over bubble gum. If you’re not sugar-free mint-flavored chewing gum, your chances don’t look good.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments and sticks of gum—but no TV spoilers, please—to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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