Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Ukraine’s future president, Vatican finances, Mark Zuckerberg, grad school

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What to watch for today

Ukraine starts looking for a new president. The country is still looking for its old president, who’s gone into hiding (see below), but will today officially open the campaign for his replacement—in advance of elections set for May 25. Interim president Oleksander Turchinov set a Tuesday deadline for parliament to form a new government, including an acting prime minister.

Macy’s sheds light on seasonal shopping. Since the US retailer far exceeded expectations in the fourth quarter of 2012, analysts will be watching to see how the department store fared this holiday season and whether it continues to dominate rivals.

The weak rand boosts South Africa’s economy. South Africa is set to post fourth-quarter GDP growth of 3.4%, compared to 0.7% in the previous quarter, as the rapidly tumbling rand has boosted exports and narrowed the country’s current account deficit.

Will Oscar Pistorius’s trial be even more of an international spectacle? South Africa’s High Court will rule today on whether to allow live televised broadcasts of the trial of Pistorius, the athlete charged with murdering his girlfriend in February 2013. Pistorius’s lawyers have contended that televising the trial would lead to an unfair process. The murder proceedings go to court on March 3.

Europe reduces its inflation outlook. The European Commission publishes its winter economic forecast today and is expected to cut its 2014 inflation outlook from its current level of 1.5%, since the actual figure fell to 0.8% in January. The European Parliament also votes today on rules that will make it easier for European Union member states to confiscate criminal assets.

While you were sleeping

Viktor Yanukovych became a wanted man. Ukraine issued an arrest warrant for its former president—who has declined to relinquish his role despite fleeing Kiev this weekend—on allegations of “mass killings” of civilians. Meanwhile, interim finance minister Yury Kolobov appealed for international aid, saying Ukraine will need $35 billion in foreign assistance over the next two years, particularly if Russia declines to unfreeze funds it had promised.

Egypt triggered another change of government. Prime minister Hazem Beblawi and his military-backed cabinet stepped down from office, after weeks of strikes and several years of political instability. The mass resignation paves the way for Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who was defense minister, to run for president in April.

The pope ordered a Holy See into the Vatican’s finances. Pope Francis appointed Australian cardinal George Pell as head of a new 15-strong committee of experts charged with cleaning up the Vatican’s scandal-ridden finances. It’s part of the pope’s crusade to focus his ministry on helping the needy.

The US Army’s plan to downsize. Defense secretary Chuck Hagel outlined a new budget for the military that proposed cutting the number of active-duty soldiers by around 15%, which would take the army to slightly lower than 1999 levels. Under the proposal, the U-2 spy plane would also finally be replaced by drones. 

Uganda clamped down further on gay rights. Uganda passed a law that criminalizes the promotion of homosexuality and declares same-sex marriage and gay sex offenses worthy of life imprisonment. The bill, which president Obama called “a backward step,” also includes lesbians for the first time, although an original clause warranting the death penalty was removed due to international pressure.

Quartz obsession interlude

Leo Mirani on the $25 smartphone and Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to bring the internet—including Facebook—to the next billion people. “Mark Zuckerberg’s answer to all this is to provide a ‘dial tone for the internet.’ ‘Why should people spend one or two or three dollars to get basic data,’ he said at the Mobile World Congress, if they don’t know what’s in store for them. People need a reason to get online and Zuckerberg’s idea is to provide a suite of free ‘basic services’ such as messaging, food prices, Wikipedia, weather and, it goes without saying, Facebook. This is the next step in Zuckerberg’s plan for world domination.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Graduate school is a sort of institutionalized depression. It’s years of work, possibly in a place you don’t want to live, for poor job prospects and low financial security.

Whole Foods is America’s greatest shrine to pseudoscience. The homeopathy-laden shelves of the high-end supermarket chain are no more scientifically accurate than the Creationism Museum.

History is powerless. The slightest change of minuscule events could have avoided World War I, yet even the Great War itself did little to change the course of history.

Venezuela’s real inflation is six times the official rate. Calculated based on black market prices, it’s running at 330%.

Surprising discoveries

A US patent application has been pending for 43 years. This inventor patented the microprocessor chip, and he’s waiting for more.

Science publishers had to withdraw over 120 papers that had been published in official conference proceedings. The papers were gibberish generated by computers, and uncovered by a French researcher.

Selfies are spreading head lice. It’s just one unpleasant side-effect of teenagers sticking their heads together to take photos with their phones.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, metaphors for graduate school, computer-generated papers, and long-pending patent applications to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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