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Quartz Weekend Brief—Asia edition—Ukraine’s democracy, Tesla’s batteries, Mexico’s fracking, WhatsApp’s pricetag

  • Kevin J. Delaney
By Kevin J. Delaney

Founding editor

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

When the ground moves, the timing of the reverberations can be unpredictable—you know only that they are coming. So it has been for Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych, who yesterday agreed to early elections that presumably will result in his departure from power.

It has been clear since at least Jan. 28 that Yanukovych’s days were numbered.  That is when opposition protesters poured into Independence Square in loud defiance of a law pushed through by Yanukovych that effectively outlawed public dissent. An axiom of such situations is that strongmen are in trouble when protesters stop fearing bullets, and so it was for Yanukovych on Jan. 28—shots were fired, but his opponents stayed put and stubbornly demanded his resignation. To defuse the situation, he had parliament reverse itself, and he pushed out his prime minister. But events already were set in motion. Yesterday, Yanukovych agreed to accelerate elections that were scheduled for next February.

And the play is not over. The likelihood is that worse is coming for Yanukovych. Parliament yesterday also voted by a veto-proof margin to free his arch enemy, Yulia Timoshenko, from prison. Yanukovych sent her there on the laughable charge of negotiating a bad natural gas deal with Russia. The poetic irony is that Yanukovych’s main crime, according to his opponents, has been to erode no small part of Ukrainian sovereignty by accepting a $15 billion bailout from president Vladimir Putin in exchange for abandoning a planned economic partnership with Europe. With Timoshenko out of prison, do not be surprised to hear official corruption charges leveled against Yanukovych. His outright resignation is still possible.

This is not an ideal outcome. Just a year remains in Yanukovych’s elected term and democracy ordinarily means that an opposition waits its turn and tries to win the next election; hence its own candidate stands a better chance of serving out his or her own term. In that sense, Ukrainian democracy is ill-served by the brinksmanship. Now it is up to Yanukovych’s successors to start over. —Steve LeVine

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Mexico’s drug cartels are standing in the way of a fracking bonanza. If all goes well, drillers responsible for a shale-oil boom in Texas will soon extend the hydraulic fracturing boom to Mexico. But, as Steve LeVine reports, before any drilling starts the Mexican government, foreign oil companies, or some combination of the two will have to neutralize some of the most savage gangsters in the world.

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WhatsApp’s anti-ad philosophy is really a broad new vision for mobile. With its $19 billion purchase of the messaging startup, Facebook is getting a company that has vowed never to sell advertisements. Zachary M. Seward examines the disquieting theory that, in the long run, advertising simply might not work for the mobile web.

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How to wrap your mind around WhatsApp’s purchase price. Nobody broke down that confounding $19 billion valuation like NYU finance professor Aswath Damodaran, who explains where the number came from, with a key distinction between investors and traders.

What’s next for the euro zone’s biggest basket cases? Ireland seems to have put its multi-billion-euro bailout behind it, Portugal could probably use a helping hand when it returns to markets, and Greece may not be able to borrow on its own until 2030, at the earliest. Those are the conclusions of a dense but readable paper by Guntram Wolff, Zsolt Darvas, and André Sapir of think-tank Bruegel, a useful reality check about how the effects of euro zone’s debt crisis are likely to linger for years, if not decades, to come.

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Why time travellers might not want to kill Adolf Hitler. Given access to a time machine, you might well think the highest good would be to return to the past to take out Hitler before he perpetrates any crimes against humanity. But, as Dean Burnett argues in a Guardian thought experiment, the decision as to when exactly to kill him, and the unpredictable impact on history that would follow, is more complicated than it might seem.

How Finland has come from nowhere to produce some of the world’s top hockey goaltenders. National Hockey League goalies until recently have been overwhelmingly Canadian. But over the past decade Finns have emerged as some of the top goaltenders and now represent one-sixth of the NHL’s starting goalies. Chris Koentges in the Atlantic profiles the 70-year-old coach in Turku who has unpredictably built the world’s goaltending factory.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, analysis of WhatsApp’s pricetag, and time travel schemes to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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