Quartz Daily Brief—Ackman investigated, Spanish terror arrests, Jobs transplant offer, prematurely-aged bourbon

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What to watch for today

Will Russia lower its sky-high interest rates? When the ruble started spiraling downward last year, the central bank raised its benchmark rate to an astonishing 17%. It’s since been lowered to 15%, and there may be room to trim it even more.

Brussels considers Greece’s poorest citizens. Humanitarian aid is needed for many Greeks who are hanging on by a thread. Prime minister Alexis Tsipras will discuss their plight with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

SXSW Interactive kicks off in Austin, Texas. The technology conference once helped to popularize Twitter, but now organizers say they are aiming much lower.

Tomorrow is Pi Day. Calendars in the US will read 3/14/15—the first five digits in the mathematical constant. At 9:26 am (the next three digits), applicants to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will discover whether they have been accepted.

While you were sleeping

The FBI is investigating Bill Ackman’s anti-Herbalife campaign. Agents want to know if Ackman’s employees made false statements about the nutritional products company, the Wall Street Journal reports (paywall). Ackman’s Pershing Square hedge fund has placed a massive bet that Herbalife’s stock will fall.

Samsung vowed to go up-market. Co-CEO Shin Jong-kyun told shareholders that the electronics giant will improve its high-end smartphones with premium materials, slim designs, and high-def displays. Samsung lost its lead in the smartphone market to Apple last year, and posted its first revenue decline in nine years.

Spanish police arrested eight suspected Islamic militants. Authorities conducted a dawn raid on a group suspected of planning a domestic attack and recruiting members to fight in Syria and Iraq. Police have arrested 21 people linked to Islamic militant activity so far this year.

US refinery workers neared an end to their strike. Oil companies and the United Steelworkers union reached a tentative agreement which, if ratified, would end the longest US refinery strike in over 30 years. The four-year contract includes wage raises and addresses issues such as worker fatigue and the use of non-unionized labor.

Western health workers tested positive for Ebola. One American and one British aid worker fighting the ongoing outbreak in Sierra Leone were flown to their respective countries for treatment (paywall). The number of deaths from the epidemic crossed 10,000 this week.

A Chinese state-owned company was linked to a Bangladeshi factory collapse. CNBM International, part of China’s biggest cement maker, was responsible for the construction of the collapsed factory, according to Bangladeshi authorities. At least eight people died in the collapse, and dozens more are feared dead.

Michael Graves died. The US architect and designer created more than 350 buildings, along with some 2,000 household items (paywall) that were sold through mainstream retailers like Target. Graves, perhaps most famous for his iconic teakettle, passed away at his home in New Jersey at the age of 80.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on China’s attempt to control the afterlife. “Tibetans believe that when a Dalai Lama—their preeminent political and spiritual leader—dies, his spirit reincarnates in a newborn’s body, carrying on the lineage. But the 79-year-old current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, has long said the line could end with him. The Chinese government disagrees.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Public shaming is enjoying a renaissance. Social media lets us revel in something terrible and even feel good about it.

Narendra Modi is no ally to Indian women. Hundreds of rapes in Gujarat were ignored when he was the state’s chief minister.

Some venture capital firms have a conflict of interest. They are taking investors’ money to fund their partners’ own pet projects.

Baby Boomers are the lazy generation. Middle-aged politicians shamelessly relish their disdain of basic technologies like email.

America needs to fix its railroads. Decaying infrastructure is to blame for a recent uptick in accidents (paywall).

Surprising discoveries

Tim Cook offered Steve Jobs a partial liver transplant in 2009. Jobs refused and got a controversial full transplant several months later.

Bourbon makers are trying to speed up the aging process. A spike in demand is wiping out their stocks.

A Colombian mayor apologized for hiring male strippers. They performed at a public Women’s Day party, to some controversy.

60 tons of cosmic dust falls to Earth every day. Remnants from meteorites and comets may help form clouds and fertilize plankton.

There’s a stunning new island in the Pacific. The scorching-hot volcanic islet near Tonga will likely wash away in a few months.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, naturally-aged bourbon, and cosmic dust bunnies to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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