Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Iran and Japan, Halliburton hearing, Shack shaken, zombie academia

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What to watch for today

Europe sides with Ukraine. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton travels to Kiev, after postponing the trip earlier this week, to discuss how much foreign funding Ukraine needs. European authorities could loan the country up to €1.6 billion ($2.2 billion), but might ask for certain reforms in return.

The US plays with Ukraine. A friendly soccer match in Kharkiv between the two countries’ national men’s teams was at risk of being canceled because of the unrest in Ukraine, but will now go ahead in Cyprus.

Australia posts modest growth. Analysts expect fourth-quarter GDP growth of around 0.7%, but they don’t sound hopeful about the economy’s underlying strength, citing the projected decline of private demand. Though a weak Aussie dollar is good for exports, the fallback from the mining boom is taking its toll on the economy.

The first look at US jobs. The monthly employment report from private payroll firm ADP is set to show an increase of 153,000 jobs in February, compared t0 175,000 the previous month, setting the stage for the more important government figure that comes out on Friday.

Iran and Japan talk nuclear. Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif meets with senior Japanese officials today, including prime minister Shinzo Abe, to discuss how the two countries can boost their economic and cultural ties. Iran’s nuclear capabilities are likely to be high on Japan’s agenda.

A crucial hearing for company shareholders. The US Supreme Court hears the case of shareholders who are suing Halliburton for misleading the public through falsified accounts. Halliburton claims public information doesn’t really sway investors anyway. If the judges agree, it could cripple future securities class-action lawsuits.

While you were sleeping

Obama’s liberal budget set the tone for election year. The US president unveiled his proposal for a $3.9 trillion budget, including new taxes on big businesses and the wealthy, and extra spending on preschool education and tax credits for the poor. It’s unlikely to pass Congress, but the point is more to set an agenda for his party.

A shuffle at Apple. The company announced its first chief financial officer rejig in a decade. Luca Maestri—formerly CFO of General Motors, Nokia Siemens and Xerox—joined Apple in 2013 and will take over when its current CFO, Peter Oppenheimer, who has overseen the growth of a massive cash pile, retires in September.

America extended a hand to Ukraine. US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kiev with a $1 billion loan package, as well as the promise of technical experts to support the central bank and finance department. Kerry’s team also hinted that economic sanctions against Russia are likely within the week.

Spanish job prospects looked up. Spain posted its first annual increase in employment since 2008 (paywall), reporting 16.2 million workers in February—an increase of 60,000 from the same month last year. After 68 consecutive months of decline, the jobs increase points to recovery for the recession-bruised economy.

Radio Shack got shaken. The electronics retailer said it would close 1,100 stores, or nearly a fifth of its total street presence, after its losses more than doubled to $400.2 million in 2013. Internet shopping has hurt Radio Shack’s business, and knocking its revenues by 10% last year. The case for Amazon to buy it looks better than ever.

Quartz obsession interlude

Rachel Feltman talks to the designer of Cone, the loudspeaker that aims to change music streaming. “Though the device lacks any kind of screen, it works on its own. Users only need the accompanying app if they want to go looking for information on a track they hear. Otherwise, using the personal DJ is as easy as twisting the face of the speaker. A short turn changes songs, a spin breaks into a different kind of music, and voice recognition helps you make specific requests.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Starbucks is the new local bank. Nearly one-third of transactions are done on pre-paid Starbucks cards, and that’s just the beginning.  

Vladimir Putin is losing it. His latest press conference showed him to be rambling, paranoid, and detached from reality.

Microsoft is hinting at the end of the Windows Phone. Its recent moves suggest it may quietly be conceding the mobile operating system battle to Android.

Thailand’s human-trafficking problem is really an overfishing problem. Dwindling seafood stocks are pushing skippers to become more unscrupulous about conscripting migrant workers.

You should be buying beach property in Somalia. That is, if you’re investing for the year 2100.

Everyone’s forgotten Venezuela. With all eyes on Ukraine, no one is stepping in to avert another pending disaster.

Markets aren’t that efficient. If they were, journalism articles based on public information wouldn’t have such a big effect on stock price.

Surprising discoveries

Melting icebergs are fueling floating greenhouses. It’s like an oil rig that grows fruits and vegetables.

Silk might revolutionize surgery. Silk screws and plates could mend broken bones better than metal.

A predatory flatworm has invaded France. Turns out worms have a taste for escargots, too.

Zombies are now a serious academic subject. One professor has built his career on them.

Full fat milk isn’t all that bad. Some believe it’s better at keeping the weight off than fat-free milk.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, zombie thesis proposals, and escargot recipes to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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