Quartz Daily Brief—Asia Edition—Ukraine, Pistorius trial, Google Doodle diversity, free money

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What to watch for today

The Pistorius trial kicks off. Oscar Pistorius, the South African sprinter who overcame the fact that he was a double-amputee to compete in the 2012 summer Olympics, goes on trial today in South Africa. He faces murder charges over the death of his girlfriend, who died after Pistorius shot four bullets through the bathroom door of his home in February 2013. Pistorius says he thought she was a burglar. He faces charges of premeditated murder.

Tymoshenko travels to Moscow, with baggage. Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko is expected to meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow today. Tymoshenko—Ukraine’s most charismatic political leader who only recently emerged from prison—has a long history of deftly managing the nation’s relationship with Moscow. So her appearance on the scene is something of a bright spot amid the rapidly deteriorating situation. But she is also deeply distrusted by many Ukrainians, bringing her ability to cut a durable deal into question.  Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers hold an emergency meeting on the situation in Ukraine.

Britain ditches its bitcoin tax. HM Revenue & Customs, the UK tax department, is set to repeal its 20% VAT tax on bitcoin transactions (paywall), after entrepreneurs  complained the tax made business in the UK uncompetitive.

US high court considers low IQ and execution. The US Supreme Court will clarify its 2002 prohibition against giving the death penalty to mentally disabled people when it delivers its verdict on Freddie Lee Hall, a man convicted of the 1978 murder of a pregnant woman in Florida. The 2002 ruling had effectively left it to individual states to determine who should be considered mentally disabled, and therefore ineligible for the death penalty. Florida uses a hard cutoff of an IQ level of less than 70 to determine who is mentally disabled. According to the state, Hall’s most recent IQ test results have wavered between 69 and 74.

Will this be Leo’s year? The 86th Academy Awards kick off at any moment. Historical drama 12 Years A Slave is thought to be a top contender for best picture honors.  The actor who played the title role, Chiwetel Ejiofor, is also nominated for best actor. But some wonder if Leonardo DiCaprio could bag his first Oscar for his turn as a financial con man in The Wolf of Wall Street.

Over the weekend

Tensions rise and troops mobilize in Ukraine. “This is actually a declaration of war against my country,” (paywall) Ukraine’s prime minister said after Russia’s government gave Putin the green light to move troops into Ukraine. Nato accused Russia of violating the UN charter, while Ukraine’s new navy chief defected and swore allegiance on Sunday to the pro-Russia Crimea region.

Kerry suggests Russia could be ejected from G8. France, the UK and the US said they would not attend the G8 summit scheduled to take place in Sochi this summer. US Secretary of State went so far as to say that Russia could be kicked out of the group and face sanctions unless Putin stops his “incredible act of aggression.”

China suffered a deadly terrorist attack. Chinese authorities are hunting a group of Muslim Uighurs slashed their way through a railway station in Kunming, killing at least 29 people and injuring dozens more. The attacks could signal new escalation in tensions between China and its ethnic Uighur minority.

Last year was a boom year for Buffett. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway banked record profits of $19.5 billion in 2013—trumping analysts’ estimates of $18 billion and earnings of $14.8 billion the year before. Even so, Buffett failed to meet his target of beating the S&P 500—but we don’t really think that matters.

RBS will downsize in US. Royal Bank of Scotland said it will cut its New York operations by more than half (paywall), taking its US balance sheet below $50 billion, after the Federal Reserve imposed stricter regulations on foreign banks in the US. Other banks, including Deutsche Bank, are also planning US cutbacks

Quartz obsession interlude

Steve LeVine on how Putin surprised everyone by claiming Ukraine. “Time will tell how the Ukraine street responds to Putin. He is banking on a Georgian answer, that shock and awe will dissuade Ukrainians—their forces no match for Russia’s—from engaging in a drawn-out conflict such as Moscow faced in Chechnya, or any conflict at all. In this sense, Putin’s brinksmanship is short-sighted. He has already squandered the good feelings earned at the Sochi Olympics. If Kiev keeps to its independent course, he will possess another spit of territory in a foreign land, perhaps with added strips of eastern Ukraine, as well, if his men keep marching. But he will lose the heartland of Kiev to the West, and perhaps end up in a bloody new guerrilla conflict.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Google Doodles need to be more diverse. Out of 445 individuals celebrated, 357 were male, 77 were female and only 19 were women of color.

We need a new way of talking about “developed” countries. “Fat” and “lean” (paywall) could do the trick.

It’s a fallacy that start-up culture is killing the MBA. The “hoodie-wearing college-dropout CEO” is an anomaly

Our climate change rhetoric is all wrong. To fix global warming, we first have to fix how we discuss the issue

Surprising discoveries

The world’s biggest bookworms. India spends the most time reading: the average person reads for 10 hours and 42 minutes per week.

There is such a thing as free money. Cryptocurrency sites are handing out free coins to hook new users.   

Hanging out with Mickey Mouse is getting more expensive. A ticket to Disney World costs five times as much as it did in 1970.

GrubHub and Seamless make a 13.5% commission on online orders. Here are some other gems from their IPO prospectus. 

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