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Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Vladimir Putin’s whereabouts, Brazil’s public ire, the US debt limit dance, marsupial selfies

What to watch for today

The world waits on Vladimir Putin. The Russian president, whose whereabouts have been a mystery since March 5, could surface for a meeting scheduled with the president of Kyrgyzstan.

Investors live in fear of the Fed. Watchers of the US central bank’s policy meeting on March 18 await word from US Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen about the timing of a potential interest rate hike. According to Reuters, economists expect a rate hike as early as June, while futures traders are betting on September.

Emergency aid arrives in cyclone-stricken Vanuatu. Aid is arriving from Australia and New Zealand after a massive Category 5 storm passed through the Pacific island nation on March 14. More is promised from the UK, France, the UN, and the EU.

The US will hit its debt limit. The country’s legal limit for how much it can borrow—roughly $18 trillion—goes into effect, after a one-year suspension. If Congress does not raise it quickly, Treasury secretary Jack Lew said he would use so-called extraordinary measures to maintain the country’s creditworthiness.

Over the weekend

Tens of thousands marched to protest Brazil’s weak economy and corruption. Relatively peaceful protesters flooded the streets of the Brazilian capital of Brasília (paywall), angered by faltering economic conditions and a massive government corruption scandal involving state oil giant Petrobras. Protesters, some calling for president Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment, were also reported in Rio de Janeiro and other cities.

The largest group yet of Ebola-exposed Americans were sent home. Eleven US aid workers in Sierra Leone who may have been exposed to Ebola were evacuated to the US. Four will go straight into quarantine, while the remainder have been told to “self-isolate” for 21 days, the standard incubation period for the Ebola virus, the CDC said.

GE sold its retail banking business in Australia and New Zealand. General Electric Co. struck a deal to sell (paywall) its consumer-lending arm in Australia and New Zealand to a group of investors including private equity firm KKR and Deutsche Bank for roughly $6.26 billion. The deal, deemed one of the biggest in the Asia-Pacific region this year, reflects efforts by the company to step away from finance and return focus to its industrial roots.

China’s premier warned of painful reforms. At the close of this year’s National People’s Congress, which reduced the country’s growth target from 7.5% to 7%, premier Li Keqiang stressed the need for major economic reforms and harsh governmental intervention that would feel “like taking a knife to one’s own flesh.”

Quartz obsession interlude

Jenni Avins on the craze for secondhand yoga pants. “Lululemon’s corporate culture—calling its store associates “educators” and managers “key leaders,” and sending employees for self-improvement at the Landmark Forum—has earned it comparisons to a cult. But it seems to be a limited-edition manufacturing practice that creates scarcity and drives the deep desire for, say, “Beachscape Wunder Under Pants.” Read more here.

Matters of debate
Fossil fuels will save the world. Recent falling oil prices are a sign of abundance, boosted by innovations in hydraulic fracturing, horizontal drilling, seismology and information technology. Long live the extremely efficient energy source.

There are at least three other numbers as worthy as pi. Pi isn’t the only useful and thrillingly infinite number to memorize. Irrational numbers e, φ, and √2 deserve their days, too.

There is no such thing as peacetime. Critics of US foreign policy can’t admit that a perpetual state of war is inevitable in our lifetimes. To think otherwise will only further erode human rights.

GMOs aren’t that bad. Humans have been genetically modifying plants for more than 10,000 years, and genetically-modified crops have allowed us to farm more efficiently.

Surprising discoveries

Quokka selfies are storming the internet. The charismatic marsupial native to Australia’s Rottnest Island has been appearing in selfies shared on social media by tourists.

Elton John is taking down Dolce and Gabbana. The singer is campaigning against the legendary designers behind the brand for criticizing same-sex families and calling children conceived through in vitro fertilization “synthetic.”

About 6.5 million Americans are 112 or older. The US Social Security office has 6.5 million people on record as having reached the age of 112, even though only 42 people are known to be that old globally.

Women have to wait 43 more years to earn as much as men. According to a new report from the US-based Institute for Women’s Policy Research, American women are closing the wage gap, but salaries won’t reach parity until 2058.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, marsupial selfies, and pi rivals to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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