Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Netanyahu’s speech, Nemtsov’s funeral, BlackBerry’s new phone, filthy Everest

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What to watch for today

India’s spectrum auction. The country holds its largest ever auction of wireless spectrum, expected to put 8.2 trillion rupees ($13 billion) in the government’s coffers. A lot is at stake for the mobile providers too: Most of it is spectrum they already hold that’s up for renewal, so they depend on it for large shares of their revenues.

The US Senate tries again to push Keystone XL… The controversial pipeline legislation, which Congress approved but the president rejected, needs 60 supporters in the Senate to begin the process of overriding the presidential veto. If it gets them, there could be a full Senate vote on Thursday.

… and Obamacare reaches the Supreme Court—again. Republicans looking to undo the president’s healthcare reforms will try to argue that one short phrase in the 900-page law bans the federal government from subsidizing health insurance for the poor, even though that was the whole point. A decision isn’t expected until June.

Shell tries to end a strike. Talks resume today between the company and the United Steelworkers union after being abandoned last week. Over 6,500 workers at 15 plants in the US hung up their hard hats a month ago because they want to see non-union workers replaced with union members.

While you were sleeping

Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech on Iran got a mixed reception. Israel’s prime minister spoke to Congress, urging the US to make Iran dismantle its nuclear program completely rather than freezing it. In reaction, Republicans applauded raucously; Democrats were furious; Israelis were divided; and the New York Times was unconvinced (paywall).

Ukraine ratcheted its interest rate up to 30%. The previous rate—19.5%—wasn’t high enough to keep the country’s currency from collapsing. Since April of last year, shortly after Russia annexed Crimea, the hryvnia has lost 80% of its value. Russia used a similar tactic in December to buttress the ruble, raising the rate from 10.5% to 17%; it’s now at 15%.

Europe may go the other way on net neutrality. Days after the US Federal Communications Commission instituted net neutrality, banning preferential treatment for different kinds of internet content, the Financial Times reported (paywall) that European regulators are thinking of letting internet service prioritize certain data services. The head of the FCC, meanwhile, stoutly defended its ruling.

Russians mourned Boris Nemtsov. Thousands lined up at the Sakharov Center in Moscow to view the body of the Russian opposition leader, who was murdered on Friday. Polish and Latvian politicians who wanted to come said Russia denied them entry, though British and American officials were able to attend.

Best Buy announced a share buyback. The electronics retailer is spending $1 billion on its first share buyback since 2012 (paywall), after unexpectedly strong profit in the fourth quarter (though revenue was below expectations). Online sales were up nearly 10%, a sign the struggling company is finding a way to retain the customers abandoning its physical stores.

BlackBerry took a great Leap forward. The Leap, the first of four new BlackBerry smartphones, has a 5.0-inch touchscreen and 8-megapixel camera, and runs Amazon’s App Store. Though BlackBerry’s operating system runs apps written for Google’s more popular Android OS, it doesn’t feature access to Google’s app store.

Quartz obsession interlude

Bobby Ghosh on Iran’s real firepower. “Netanyahu’s Ahab-like fixation with his white whale—Iran’s nuclear program—draws attention away from the many other ways that the regime in Tehran represents a clear and present danger to the world. He is right that sanctions relief will empower that regime, but it’s hardly a given that the billions of dollars unlocked ($1.6 billion a month in oil income, by some estimates) will be poured into a clandestine program to build The Bomb.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Japan’s government needs to invest in innovation. The country that invented the bullet train, instant noodles, and the Walkman needs some help.

High schools should teach pupils about rape. We shouldn’t be waiting until people reach university to start explaining what “consent” means.

McDonald’s unhealthy food is just the first of its problems. The company’s labor practices are abhorrent, so much so that consumers are taking notice.

Hit ISIL where it hurts—in the pocketbook. It takes roughly $10 million a month to run the terrorist group, and governments can do more (paywall) to make sure it doesn’t get that money.

The world’s social-security systems are broken. People are getting older and having fewer children, a combination that’s dangerous not only to welfare states but to national economies.

Surprising discoveries

Seattle makes transport cheaper for the poor. The US city has cut standard fares by more than 50% for low-income travelers.

Finland makes fines more expensive for the rich. Traffic violations there are tied to your salary—one man got a €54,000 ($60,400) ticket for going 14 miles per hour over the limit.

Scientists are creating cows that don’t get sick. Chinese researchers used a gene found in mice to create cattle that are resistant to tuberculosis.

Mount Everest is dirty—really dirty. The head of Nepal’s mountaineering association says climbers aren’t disposing of their poop properly.

More good news for coffee addicts. Korean scientists say three to five cups a day may give you cleaner arteries and make you less prone to heart attacks.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, outrageous traffic fines, and bulk coffee orders to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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