What to watch for today
Facebook kicks off its F8 developer conference. The social network is expected to tout improvements to its Messenger app, which could allow it to better compete with rivals WeChat and Snapchat. Facebook will also unveil something called a “Teleportation Station.”
Afghanistan’s president speaks to the US Congress… Ashraf Ghani is scheduled to give a talk at 10:45am EDT. He’s expected to address the severity of the threat posed by the Islamic State, Afghanistan’s relationships with its neighbors, and negotiating with the Taliban.
…and Congress mulls a block of any Iran deal. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee could discuss a bill giving Congress the power to approve or reject any agreement the US reaches with Iran over its nuclear program. The Senate will vote on the bill on April 14. The notional deadline for a nuclear deal is the end of this month, though that is looking unlikely.
US mortgage data released. Spring buying season could usher in a rebound in US home sales, after cold weather suppressed house purchases; today’s mortgage application data will show whether that is the case.
While you were sleeping
Search teams found the crashed Germanwings flight’s voice recorder. French air investigators are examining one of the plane’s two “black boxes” to try to determine the cause of Tuesday’s crash, and why its pilots maintained radio silence during an eight-minute drop. The voice recorder is damaged, but it is still expected to work, sources told the AFP.
Hermès beat a China slowdown. The French luxury scarf and bag maker’s operating profit rose to €1.3 billion ($1.4 billion) in 2014, up 7% compared with a year earlier. Hermès’ high prices and limited supply helped it outperform competitors that are struggling as Chinese demand slows.
Kraft neared a $40 billion takeover. Brazil’s 3G Capital Partners, which bought HJ Heinz with Warren Buffett in 2013, is in advanced talks to buy the US packaged foods giant. America’s changing food tastes have dampened demand for Kraft’s processed brands, which include Cool Whip and Cheez Whiz.
More support arrived for China’s challenger bank. Takehiko Nakao, head of the Philippines-based Asian Development Bank, said the ADB would consider co-financing deals with Beijing’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Australia is “well and truly disposed” to join the bank, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said, but requires clarity on how decisions are made.
UK property demand boosted Bellway. The homebuilder said a rise in demand for property pushed its fiscal first-half pre-tax profit to £158.9 million ($236.3 million), up 53% compared with a year earlier. Bellway increased its full-year earnings forecast to £330 million, from £246 million in 2014.
Moody’s cut Ukraine’s credit rating. The ratings agency lowered its credit rating by one level to Ca, its second-lowest, and changed the country’s credit outlook to negative, adding that a default is almost certain. The downgrade comes as Ukraine begun talks to restructure its debt, which Moody’s says will lead to “substantial losses” for private creditors.
Quartz obsession interlude
Vasudevan Mukunth on the world’s largest experiment. “Before it shut down in late 2013, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) became famous for helping discover the elusive Higgs boson, a fundamental—that is, indivisible—particle which gives other fundamental particles their mass through a complicated mechanism. The find earned two of the physicists who thought up the mechanism in 1964, Peter Higgs and Francois Englert, a Nobel Prize in that year. Two years later, the world’s single largest science experiment is about to be restarted.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Feminism isn’t just about the right to make choices. It’s about ending patriarchy.
Silicon Valley loves Wall Street. Hiring east coast finance execs gives tech companies bragging rights.
The US should raise the smoking age to 21. Nicotine affects young brains the most, making younger age limits unacceptable.
We should eradicate mosquitoes. They are a public health danger and there is no downside to getting rid of them.
Economic growth alone won’t fix Europe. The continent has to contend with political extremism that the recession boosted (paywall).
In 1965, a NASA astronaut smuggled a sandwich into space. It happened during a trip meant to test newly-created space food.
US authorities gave Amazon permission to test an obsolete drone. The online retailer says that is proof regulators are moving too slowly.
Russia is developing a tank that chooses its own targets. The 25-ton Kurganets-25 is also amphibious.
One of the fathers of the hydrogen bomb is spilling secrets. Kenneth W. Ford’s upcoming memoir includes 5,000 words the US government wanted cut.
Researchers discovered a frog whose skin can change texture. It morphs from smooth to spiky for camouflage.