Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Indian elections, eastern Ukraine strife, BlackRock reshuffle, Jobs’ “Holy War”

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What to watch for today

The world’s biggest democratic exercise kicks off… A six-week voting process to select India’s new parliament begins, as the polarizing Hindu nationalist candidate Narendra Modi is demonstrating strong support in polls. A victory by his Bharatiya Janata Party could reduce the scandal-ridden ruling Congress party to its smallest parliamentary presence ever.

…while other election results roll in. Exit polls suggest a return to office for Hungary’s current prime minister, Viktor Orban, whose Eurosceptic attitude has won him favor with many Hungarians. Meanwhile, Costa Rican president Luis Guillermo Solis is on track to stay in office, after opponent Johnny Araya dropped out of the race.

Will tech stocks keep plunging? Last week’s rout of US technology stocks has extended to Asia, as Japanese and Chinese firms suffered significant sell-offs (paywall). After a sustained run of heady gains, market sentiment toward high-flying companies like Netflix, Tencent, and Netflix has apparently soured.

Cement companies set their merger in stone. Switzerland’s Holcim is set to announce it will buy France’s Lafarge to create the world’s biggest cement maker, with a market value around $55 billion. To appease competition regulators, the combined company will unload about $1 billion worth of assets (paywall).

Russia could cut off Ukraine’s gas. The Ukrainian government has rejected Gazprom’s recently announced 81% price hike. Russia has cut off gas supplies to Ukraine twice before and could do so again if it refuses to pay up.

The US and China work on their military relationship. US defense secretary Chuck Hagel visits Beijing. This weekend, he said China needs to have more respect for its neighbors, comparing territorial disputes in the Pacific to Russia’s takeover of Crimea.

Over the weekend

An eastern Ukraine government building was seized. Pro-Russian groups in Donetsk,  Luhansk, and Kharkiv raised the Russian flag and demanded a referendum over whether or not the region should become independent.

Nigeria became Africa’s biggest economy. The West African country’s GDP is now $510 billion, after a data revision added previously-excluded sectors, including telecom, entertainment and airline businesses. That relegates South Africa, with a GDP of $353 billion, to second place, though it still boasts higher per-capita income and lower levels of poverty.

BlackRock started an executive reshuffle. At least 10 senior staff  are moving into new or expanded positions to prepare for the eventual departure of Larry Fink, the asset management firm’s  61-year-old co-founder and CEO, who oversees $4.3 trillion dollars worth of investments .

Altice won the SFR bidding war. Vivendi agreed to sell France’s second largest phone company to Altice for €13.5 billion ($18.5 billion) and a 20% stake in the new company that combines SFR and Altice’s Numericable Group.

Daiichi unloaded Ranbaxy to Sun Pharma for $3.2 billion. The Japanese drug maker sold its majority stake in the Indian generic pharmaceutical firm, which is currently banned by US regulators. Daiichi will receive a 9% stake in the combined company, which will be the world’s fifth-largest generic drug company.

Dropbox stored up more cash. A $500 million loan led by JP Morgan takes Dropbox’s total funding to more than $1.1 billion (paywall), which will help Dropbox expand globally and allow it to delay an IPO until next year. Separately, Jack Dorsey’s payment start-up Square secured a new payment facility “in the low hundreds of millions,” according to CNBC.

Afghans voters defied Taliban threats. Millions of Afghans voted in the country’s presidential election, despite intimidation and violent attacks from the Taliban, which killed 20 people and injured dozens more. Preliminary results are set to be announced at the end of April.

Quartz obsession interlude

Lily Kuo on China’s attempt to change its attitude toward death—and stop using prisoners as organ donors. “Making up for the even-larger organ transplant shortfall will mean changing Chinese views of death and distrust of a system that has been rife with corruption. Chinese tradition holds that a person’s body must remain intact after death so that their soul can be reincarnated. Taboos surrounding speaking about death and organ donation are another obstacle. In one study of 298 adults, 88% said they did not want to talk about their organ donation preferences with family members.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

India’s young voters care more about politicians than policies. They also care about gender equality, political corruption and social mobility.

The 12 steps are a myth. Alcoholics Anonymous is based on bad science and weak logic.

A chief data officer might have found MH 370. With more data expertise, the search could have yielded faster results.

The UK’s digital sector is at risk of ruin. The government’s stance toward business could kill off fledgling companies (paywall).

Surprising discoveries

The present moment lasts 15 seconds. Your snapshot of “now” is really a composite of moments already in the past.

Whales garden the ocean to grow food, mainly by fertilizing the seas with their iron-rich poop.

How to survive without breathing. Scientists invented an oxygen-filled microparticle that can be injected into your blood stream.

Steve Jobs declared “Holy War with Google.” A strategy letter written a year before his death was recently unearthed in court proceedings.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, plans for technological holy wars and Indian election forecasts to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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