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Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Japanese whaling, sovereign debt slump, Samsung vs. Apple, the Barbie effect

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

What to watch for today

Japan’s sales tax jumps. Prime minister Shinzo Abe is behind Japan’s first sales tax hike in 17 years, from 5% to 8% today and then to 10% next year. Sales tax rises have been the downfall of two previous leaders, but it’s seen as the only way to rein in public debt (and even it might not even be enough).

Russia bumps up Ukraine’s energy bill. Russia’s Gazprom is set to raise the price it charges Naftogaz (paywall), Ukraine’s state energy company. The bailout Russia offered in December, before Ukrainians kicked out their pro-Russian president, included a discounted gas price of $268.50 per thousand cubic meters, which could now rise to $480.

Anything slightly dodgy. Today is April Fool’s Day, and everyone enjoys a spot of mischief. Last year, Google revealed YouTube to be a competition that was coming to an end; Netflix unveiled some unconventional genres; Twitter said it would start charging for consonants; and even The White House got involved. This year, Google’s seems to be up already.

While you were sleeping

Sovereign debt is becoming less trustworthy. A Financial Times report found that more countries now have an AA than an AAA debt rating (paywall), showing the toll the financial crisis has taken on the world’s top economies. The size of the top-ranked pool has shrunk by 6% in the past year.

Japan got told to stop whaling. The International Court of Justice said the Japanese government’s “scientific research” excuse for whaling was unjustified and ordered a temporary halt. That won’t stop the Japanese hunting whales, though—even though domestic demand for the edible blubber is sinking.

Scientists detailed what climate change could do. At 32 volumes, the most in-depth report yet from the UN on the impacts of climate change said that food stocks and human security will soon suffer as a result of extreme weather, many effects of which are already visible.

Israel’s ex-PM was found guilty of taking bribes. Former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert was convicted of accepting about $161,000 in bribes relating to a controversial housing project while he was mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003. It’s his second conviction; sentencing will be in four weeks.

Pictures of the iPhone 6 leaked. Images allegedly taken at Foxconn and posted to Weibo suggest that the next iPhone will be thinner with rounded edges and have a protruding camera. There’s no way of confirming the pictures, but they do line up with other expectations for the new iPhone design.

Quartz obsession interlude

Matt Phillips on how Michael Lewis’s new book shows the markets are too complex for even the world’s top investors. “The book attempts to lay out how high-frequency trading firms effectively skim pennies off millions of stock trades each day. ’If it wasn’t complicated, it wouldn’t be allowed to happen,’ he says. ‘The complexity disguises what is happening. If it’s so complicated you can’t understand it, then you can’t question it.’ This problem goes beyond stock markets: The US financial system is awash in unnecessary complexity. And the reasons are simple: Complexity is profitable and it keeps regulators at bay.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Increased regulation is killing the stock market. Investor Marc Andreessen said so in a series of tweets.

Russia’s energy leverage in Europe won’t last. The market will soon fix that; oil prices are set to plunge.

Media outlets should use swear words. Their job is to deliver information, not to hide it behind outdated comfort levels.

Rich countries need M-Pesa. The mobile money system developed in Kenya would be a lot better than bitcoin or even a regular bank account for most things.

America’s attitude to clothing is unsustainable. The cheap, unethical clothing may be indirectly costing more than we realize.

Digital advertising needs a major overhaul. Mobile is the future and traditional advertising just won’t cut it.

Surprising discoveries

Women invest less than men, even though they’re better at it. The reason for both is the same: women are more cautious.

The bridges of Paris are at risk from “love locks.” City infrastructure is groaning under the weight of some 700,000 padlocks engraved with lovers’ names.

You can see anyone’s email address on LinkedIn. This plugin scours the web for publicly available information, so you don’t have to.

Samsung’s execs earn more than Apple’s. Samsung reported this information for the first time on the very day that the two companies embarked on another legal battle.

Playing with Barbies is bad for a girl’s career aspirations. The sexualized dolls make young girls think they can’t achieve as much as men.

Changing fonts won’t save the US government millions. The 14-year-old we told you about yesterday who calculated the government’s ink consumption forgot one or two things.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, investment strategies, and love locks to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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