Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Indian elections, MH370 signal found, BlackRock reshuffle, Steve 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, with the Hindu nationalist candidate Narendra Modi enjoying strong support in national polls. Modi has styled himself as an economic reformer in his home state of Gujarat, but the data actually tell a more complicated story.

…while other election results roll in. The Euroskeptic Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban was re-elected, as was Costa Rican president Luis Guillermo Solis. Meanwhile, millions of Afghans voted in the country’s presidential election, despite intimidation and violent attacks from the Taliban; preliminary results are due at the end of April.

Will tech stocks keep plunging? Last week’s stock market rout of US technology firms has extended to Asia, as Japanese and Chinese firms suffered significant sell-offs (paywall). Market sentiment toward high-flying companies like Netflix, Tencent, and LinkedIn has soured due to fears they may be overvalued.

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

Over the weekend

An Australian ship may have detected signals from MH370. A search team has detected sustained signals that are consistent with those from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane’s black box, from the depths of the southern Indian Ocean.

Cement companies set their merger in stone. Switzerland’s Holcim will merge with 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 billions of dollars worth of assets (paywall).

Pope Francis ruled out closing the Vatican bank. The leader of the Catholic church approved a series of reforms instead of shutting down the scandal-ridden lender.

Government buildings were stormed in eastern Ukraine. Pro-Russian groups in Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv raised the Russian flag and demanded an independence referendum.

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

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

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

Dropbox stored up more cash. A $500 million loan led by JP Morgan took Dropbox’s total funding to more than $1.1 billion (paywall), which will help it expand globally and 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.

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

Beijing needs to step it up. Most of the country’s problems stem from too much market and too little government.

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

The MH370 search needs a chief data officer. With more 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 start-ups (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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