What to watch for today
Where in the world is Vladimir Putin? The Russian president, who hasn’t been seen in public since March 5, has a meeting scheduled with the president of Kyrgyzstan, as rumors of his possible illness, ouster, or even death gain momentum. Meanwhile, the country’s defense ministry announced that Putin has ordered navy and paratrooper units to go on high alert for snap military exercises.
Emergency aid arrives in cyclone-stricken Vanuatu. Supplies are being flown from Australia and New Zealand after a massive storm tore through the tiny Pacific island nation on March 14. More aid has been promised from the UK, France, the UN, and the EU.
The US hits its debt ceiling. 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 the limit quickly, Treasury secretary Jack Lew has vowed to use measures to maintain the country’s creditworthiness through at least October.
Over the weekend
The former Sears Tower is changing hands. Private-equity firm Blackstone has agreed to buy the Willis Tower for $1.3 billion, according to Marketwatch—a record price for US office space outside of New York City. A group of investors paid $841 million for the Chicago landmark in 2004.
A cement mega-merger got stuck. France’s Holcim said a $44 billion deal to combine with its Swiss counterpart Lafarge ”can no longer be pursued in its present form” due to currency fluctuations between the Swiss franc and the euro since the deal was announced last year. (Don’t say we didn’t warn you about the perils of mega-mergers.)
China became the world’s third-biggest arms exporter. A 143% rise in weapons exports over the past five years allowed China to surpass Germany. Five percent of weapons exports originate in China, compared with 31% from the US and 27% from Russia.
Brazilian protestors called for Rousseff’s impeachment. More than 1 million people took to the streets across Brazil to demonstrate against president Dilma Rousseff, with many calling for her ouster over a corruption scandal involving the state-owned oil company Petrobras. Rousseff ran the company at the time of the alleged kickback scheme.
An HBO documentary series had an explosive real-life finale. Robert Durst, the estranged heir to a New York real estate empire, was arrested in New Orleans for a 2001 murder. The arrest took place hours before the finale of the HBO series The Jinx, in which a microphone caught Durst saying to himself: “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”
Indian wholesale inflation tanked. Prices fell by a record 2.1% in February from a year earlier (paywall), surprising analysts expecting a 0.8% decline. The drop is mainly due to low fuel and power costs, but core inflation is also weak.
A suspect was arrested for shooting police in Ferguson. Jeffrey Williams admitted to firing shots that wounded two police officers during a protest in the Missouri town last week, but says he did not intend to harm the officers. He has been charged with assault and firing a gun from a motor vehicle, and could face life in prison if convicted.
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
Let’s hope Vladimir Putin is a new daddy. If his disappearance is part of paternity leave, it would make the Russian president more human.
Ebola could soften up West Africa for the measles. The interruption of immunizations may create secondary epidemics.
Fossil fuels will save the world. They’ve shown no sign of running out yet, and renewables couldn’t possibly replace them anyway.
America’s drones can defeat ISIL. Sustained unmanned air strikes over Iraq and Syria could change the face of modern warfare.
Why some are ”expats” and others are ”immigrants.” The answer has everything to do with race and class.
Let’s hear it for some other irrational numbers. Pi Day was on Saturday, but there are other infinitely-long numbers worthy of appreciation.
Wellington and Napoleon, together again. The Waterloo enemies’ hats are on display in Belgium for the battle’s 200th anniversary.
Elton John is taking on Dolce and Gabbana. The singer is campaigning against the designers’ criticism of IVF and same-sex families.
Quokka selfies are storming the internet. The cute Australian marsupial is happy to pose for the camera.
Women won’t earn as much as men until 2058. That’s according to a new report from the US-based Institute for Women’s Policy Research.