What to watch for today
Egyptians head to the polls. Former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will face just one opponent, the leftist veteran dissident Hamdeen Sabbahi. Sisi has vowed to crack down further on the Muslim Brotherhood—already a banned organization in Egypt—after ousting its leader Mohamed Morsi last year.
Thailand’s new constitution. Army commander Prayuth Chan-Ocha threw out the country’s existing constitution and he plans to name an interim prime minister and legislative council in the coming days. King Bhumibol Adulyadej endorsed last week’s military takeover, even as anti-coup protests broke out in Bangkok and other major cities.
India’s new prime minister is inaugurated. Narendra Modi will be sworn in following his Bharatiya Janata Party’s landslide election win. Pakistan confirmed its prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, will attend the ceremony—an historic first for the two countries.
The EU discusses Russian gas. European energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger is due to meet his Russian counterpart and the head of Gazprom in Berlin in an attempt to to solve a dispute over gas prices between Russia and Ukraine.
Pfizer’s bid for AstraZeneca is set to fizzle out. Pfizer is expected to walk away when it reaches the regulatory deadline to “put up or shut up” at 5pm UK time. The Anglo-Swiss drug company rejected four successive takeover bids from its US counterpart, most recently a £70 billion, £55 per share informal offer.
Over the weekend
The WhatsApp of South Korea got a backdoor listing. The privately-held messaging app company Kakao agreed to buy publicly-listed internet portal Daum for $3.3 billion in stock. The deal allows Kakao to skip the IPO process and start competing more effectively against its rival Naver, which itself owns South Korea’s biggest internet portal and the messaging app Line.
Euroskeptics took over the EU parliament. European voters embraced the extremes on both the right and the left, voting in a record number of MEPs opposed to the EU project, including the UK Independence Party and France’s National Front.
BP signed on Moscow’s dotted line, agreeing to look for shale oil in Russia with Rosneft—a major win for the state-run oil firm despite the fact that its CEO has been targeted by western sanctions.
Ford warned Europe of overcapacity. CEO Alan Mulally said that European carmakers still need to better match their production to demand (paywall), after European car sales fell by 4 million between 2007 and 2013.
China clashed with the US in cyberspace, and Japan in the skies. Beijing told state-run companies to stop using US-based consulting firms because they could be spies for the US government (paywall). And a Chinese fighter jet buzzed within 30 meters of a Japanese surveillance aircraft near disputed island territory, with each country blaming the other.
India slammed the brakes on an historic car. Hindustan Motors suspended operations at its plant near Kolkata due to a shortage of funds, lack of demand, and low productivity. The Ambassador, the first car to be made in India and once the only vehicle driven by government officials, has been in production since 1957.
The pope and Obama both flew east for peace. Pope Francis called the crisis in the Middle East “increasingly unacceptable” during a visit to Bethlehem, and invited Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli president Shimon Peres to join him in Rome to pray for peace. Obama made a surprise trip to Kabu to meet troops preparing a “responsible end” to the war.
Quartz obsession interlude
Steve LeVine on what Ukraine’s election of chocolate tycoon Petro Poroshenko means. “The main message of today’s presidential election in Ukraine is that war with Russia is off the table—at least for now. Russia and Ukrainian separatists tried hard to prevent the vote—and succeeded in swaths of eastern Ukraine—but now that the election has gone ahead, they will turn to other tactics to press their views.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
The internet enables cultural literacy fakers. It’s never been easier to pretend to know so much without actually knowing anything.
China’s global railway dream isn’t going to happen. Corruption, safety failings, and politics will prevent Beijing from being a true global connector.
The world needs a women’s revolution. We are living in a neopatriarchy that ”tolerates girls being astronauts or bankers, but resists genuine reform.”
Thomas Piketty’s ground-breaking book on inequality got it wrong. The data aren’t reliable, says the FT’s Chris Giles; Giles doesn’t understand the data, says economist Mike Konzcal.
A start-up religion is deifying Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg is the main god, and Sheryl Sandberg is his Minerva.
Someone is selling the word “the.” It’s handwritten, for one-time use, and is going for $10,000 on eBay.
Early Harvard grads “rolled their own” degrees. The university didn’t give out formal diplomas until 1817.
Today’s youth are the best-behaved group of teens ever. Drug use and teen pregnancies are all on the decline.
“LOL” is already 25 years old. ”Laughing out loud,” that is; “lots of love” is even older.
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