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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Ukraine-Russia conflict, Pistorius trial, bitcoin in Britain, tree-climbing crocodiles

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

What to watch for today

Yulia meets Putin. Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko is expected to sit down with the Russian president in Moscow, just weeks after she was released from prison. Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting on the tense Ukranian situation (see below).

US manufacturing data is due. Analysts are hoping for a rebound to January’s dismal ISM survey, likely caused by the frigid weather.

Britain ditches its bitcoin tax. The UK tax department is set to repeal a 20% VAT on bitcoin transactions (paywall), effectively confirming the digital currency’s status as a negotiable financial instrument. The Bitcoin Foundation is also relocating to London.

A US ruling on the death penalty. The US Supreme Court will clarify its 2002 prohibition against executing mentally disabled people in the case of Freddie Lee Hall, convicted of the 1978 murder of a pregnant woman in Florida.

Over the weekend

Russia consolidated control. 15,000 Russian troops in the Crimean peninsula blocked roads, telephone lines, and surrounded two Ukrainian military bases. Ukraine’s newly-installed government called up military reservists and enlisted the help of billionaire oligarchs to head off further Russian encroachment into its eastern provinces.

Microsoft’s post-succession shake-up. Tony Bates and Tami Reller, two top executives and erstwhile CEO candidates, are leaving as Satya Nadella takes the reins.

China suffered a deadly terrorist attack… A group of Muslim Uighurs slashed their way through a railway station in Kunming, killing at least 29 people and signaling that terrorism is spreading beyond the western province of Xinjiang.

…And its manufacturing slump worsened. A Markit/HSBC survey put February’s purchasing managers’ index at 48.5, the third straight month of declines, in a growing challenge to the government’s ability to reposition the economy.

Euro zone, UK manufacturing on a roll. Britain’s February PMI surpassed expectations by rising to 56.9 from 56.6; the euro zone dipped slightly to 53.2. Any number over 50 indicates expansion.

A boom year for Warren Buffett. Berkshire Hathaway banked record profits of $19.5 billion in 2013, easily beating analysts’ estimates. Buffett failed to meet his target of beating the S&P 500—but we don’t really think that matters.

The Oscar Pistorius trial got under way. The South African double-amputee sprinter pled not guilty to murder charges in the shooting death of his girlfriend.

Quartz obsession interlude

Steve LeVine on how Putin surprised everyone by claiming Crimea. “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

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a dud. The trade treaty would mainly give Big Pharma and Hollywood more power.

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

Tesla could be the next GE. If the company’s new battery factory works out, it could power pretty much everything you own.

There are no real grown-ups. Everyone’s just winging it—you’ll understand when you’re older.

Surprising discoveries

Indians are the world’s biggest bookworms. The average citizen reads for 10 hours and 42 minutes per week.

Crocodiles can climb trees. So look up, as well as down, in crocodile territory.

How monogamous animals stay together: From time to time, they cheat.

Hanging with Mickey will cost you. A ticket to Disney World costs five times as much as in 1970, even after adjusting for inflation.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, adulterous animals and Disney World tickets to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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