Quartz Daily Brief—Americas Edition—Cyprus votes, Z10 launches, Slim shrunk, happy Kirkday

March 22, 2013
March 22, 2013

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Cypriot parliament votes as banks remain closed. Lawmakers will votes on nine bills with the aim of finding the €5.8 billion ($7.5 billion) Cyprus needs to secure a bailout, even as the finance minister returns from Moscow empty-handed. For ordinary citizens, most banking transactions remain impossible, and as of last night, it’s not even possible to withdraw more than €260 a day from Cyprus Popular Bank ATMs. Euro-zone finance ministers will continue their negotiations.

Mission to Burma: Eric Schmidt edition. Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, is in Myanmar, where a censorious internet is slowly giving way to the kind of free-information utopia Google likes to sell digital advertising in—if it can only get more people online first. Schmidt brings gifts: the country will get a localized Google search and the Android app store.

To arm the Syrian rebels, or not? EU countries will battle over this issue, with Britain and France virtually the only voices in favor.

Dell buyout drama will enter a new chapter. Friday night (US time) is a deadline for offers for Dell. Blackstone, the private-equity giant, is reportedly considering teaming up with rival TPG to get in a superior bid for the whole enchilada, or teaming up with GE for just Dell’s financial services business (paywall).

BlackBerry’s Z10 comes out in America. Although pre-orders have been slow, analysts seem optimistic on the phone’s chances. BlackBerry reports fourth-quarter results next week, which should reveal whether consumers in places such as India and Canada have taken to the Z10.

While you were sleeping

Carlos’s slimmer slice of Mexico. The Mexican government passed a telecom bill that will introduce greater competition in the country’s communications and television businesses. Measures include allowing more foreign investment and giving regulators wide-ranging new powers. Carlos Slim, whose America Movil and Televisa control more than 70% of Mexico’s telecoms and television markets, will most likely see his empire shrink.

America will not shut down! Congress approved the extension of government funding far ahead (by its standards, anyway) of the March 27 deadline.

BP’s cool cash. The oil major formerly known as British Petroleum will buy back $8 billion worth of shares with the $12.5 billion it made from the sale of its stake in TNK-BP, a joint venture with Rosneft. Separately, the two companies announced yesterday  that they will work together on projects in the Arctic.

Markets at last get jittery about Cyprus. Under the terms of the European Central Bank’s ultimatum, Cyprus has until Monday to find a way out, which might mean the country exits the euro. Paul Krugman suggested the country “do an Iceland,” and let pretty much all the big creditors—including presumably Russia—go hang. Globally, stocks finally started reacting to the threat: A flight to safety sent US Treasurys up.

But really, the whole thing is just a distraction from other countries’ debt woes. Mainly FranceSlovenia and Latvia.

Apple, Adobe and Microsoft appeared before Australia’s parliament. The three companies were summoned to explain why their products are so expensive there—often up to 70% more than in the US. Apple blamed it on archaic rights and inflated wholesale prices while Adobe said the company “can only succeed if we deliver innovation.” Okay, then.

Europe isn’t crazy about Apple either. The European Commission is looking into complaints by carriers that Apple’s contracts to sell the iPhones are anticompetitive, especially for smaller networks.

Quartz obsession interlude

Jeremy Neuner on why 40% of Americans will be freelance by 2020. “In 2006, the last time the federal government counted, the number of independent and contingent workers—contractors, temps, and the self-employed—stood at 42.6 million, or about 30% of the workforce… Following the recent economic downturn, the employment rate has recovered at a frustratingly slowly pace, except in one area: temporary, contingent, and independent workers. Between 2009 and 2012, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of temporary employees rose by 29%.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Global economies are entering the age of deflation. Disinflation (declining inflation) has prevailed so long, what’s to stop prices from actually dropping?

Obamacare is a bonanza for startups. But do they realize it?

The case for making marriage temporary. Unions of limited duration are surprisingly common throughout history.

Surprising discoveries

Trauma over sports losses cost the US stock market 41 basis points. They don’t call it March Madness for nothing.

What the heck is up with bitcoin? Up 57% this week alone. This is a bubble, right?

The malware used to cyber-attack South Korea was called Dark Seoul. Of course.

Apple banned yet another human rights-themed game. This one is called Sweatshop HD.

Captain Kirk’s birthday is today. Have you seen the preview for the new movie starring this beloved Star Trek character? Because it is off the chain.

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