Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Apple’s earnings, Antarctic icebergs, Big Pharma’s shakeup, Einstein’s brain

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What to watch for today

Is Apple still going strong? As always, iPad and iPhone shipments will be closely scrutinized, but pressure is mounting on the world’s biggest company and its CEO Tim Cook to release some new products. 

Is Facebook slowing down?  Its recent blistering pace of revenue growth might drop in today’s earnings, but it’s been a big quarter for the social-media company, in which it spent a total of $21 billion on messaging service WhatsApp and virtual-reality company Oculus VR.

A close shave for Procter & Gamble. The growing ubiquity of beards has been hurting razor blade sales at P&G’s Gillette division (which is reportedly due soon to unveil its latest bizarre creation), but there could be a bit of a boost from emerging markets.

Soundings of China’s economic engine. The closely watched HSBC flash purchasing managers’ index for China’s manufacturing sector is due out, providing a gauge of the economy’s health amid mounting concerns about a slowdown.

Britain says belt-tightening works. The UK releases official public-sector borrowing figures amid signs that its economy is on the mend. That might allow the Conservative government to take some credit for its controversial fiscal austerity program.

New home sales in the US.  They could add to signs that America’s beaten-down housing market has sprung back to life. Prices were up sharply in February, and the month before, new home sales hit a five-and-a-half year high.

While you were sleeping

Comcast staunched cord-cutting. For the second straight quarter, the cable giant added video subscribers. It also posted its strongest revenue growth in broadband for two years. That’ll hardly dampen antitrust concerns over its proposed takeover of Time Warner Cable.

Aereo had its day in court. The US Supreme court heard arguments for and against the cloud-based TV recording service, which broadcasters want shut down.  The Wall Street Journal described a decision (paywall) as “too close to call”.

Things came out yummy for Yum. The fast-food conglomerate (Pizza Hut, KFC, Taco Bell) reported an 18% jump in profit thanks to a sales bounce in China.

Torture allegations surfaced in Ukraine. The acting president accused pro-Russian separatists (paywall) of torturing people. (There is growing evidence that at least some of the separatists are undercover Russian troops.)

Watch out for a gigantic iceberg. Twice the size of the city of Atlanta at 255 square miles (660 sq km), the berg that broke off Antarctica late last year is on its way into the ocean and could threaten shipping routes during the southern hemisphere winter.

Manchester United fans and investors rejoiced. Shares in one of the world’s richest soccer teams, and most valuable publicly listed sporting organizations, rose by as much as 7% after it parted ways with its manager, David Moyes, after a difficult season.

Quartz obsession interlude

Heather Timmons explains the logic behind the drug industry’s latest massive shakeup. “Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, and Eli Lilly just announced a complicated four-part deal worth about $28.5 billion. When the dust settles, the three companies will look very different from before and, crucially, from each other. Big Pharma is under assault from generic drug makers, legal challenges to patents on blockbuster drugs, and the rise of low-cost drug makers based in emerging markets. To survive, the biggest players are building dominant positions in narrower business lines or pursuing drugs that target rare diseases. Diversification is out, and specialization is in.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

America’s middle class is no longer the most affluent. After-tax incomes are higher in Canada and the poor are better-off in parts of Europe.

Google should buy Dropbox. It’s all about creating the ”internet of you“.

Vladimir Putin is modeling himself on Russian emperors of old. Except that he has their voracious expansionism, but not their love of European culture.

There ought to be a World Environment Organization. We’ve got the WHO, FAO, WMO, UNESCO… so why not a WEO?

Apple is like a movie studio. It releases blockbuster products every few years and then tries to live off their sequels.

Surprising discoveries

Einstein’s brain wasn’t that special. Studies on various pieces of his brain, purporting to show it was different from those of ordinary people, are all flawed.

The government isn’t abusing your data; it’s losing it. “Miscellaneous errors” cause more data breaches in the public sector than insider abuses, criminal activity or theft.

Prisons in Texas are deadly hot. The state has strict rules for how heat should be handled on pig farms; for the incarcerated, not so much.

London’s forgotten fraudster. In the early 1700’s, a blond, blue-eyed “fake Asian” this erstwhile fellow convinced the British he had been kidnapped from Taiwan by  a Jesuit priest.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, prison temperature readings, and fraud stories to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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