What to watch for today
Two astronauts start NASA’s first year-long stay in space. At 3:42pm ET, an American and a Russian will travel to the International Space Station to start a 342-day stay. The extended length of the mission is a test for future Mars trips, which could take two or three years.
BlackBerry is expected to disappoint. The company’s fourth-quarter earnings are expected to show a sharp decline in revenue. Investors will look for signs that the company can successfully become a software and services company.
Brazil’s economy is set to shrink. Economists expect fourth-quarter GDP to fall versus the previous quarter, as the country struggles with high inflation, a weak currency, and a big budget deficit. But a new methodology for measuring GDP makes the release highly unpredictable; “I’m in complete darkness,” an analyst told Bloomberg.
Congress goes on holiday. The US legislature will go into recess for two weeks, after the surprising passage of a $214 billion Medicare package in the House of Representatives addressed a massive funding gap.
While you were sleeping
More evidence that the Germanwings crash was deliberate. The autopilot on flight 9525, which crashed this week killing 150, “was manually changed from 38,000 feet to 100 feet,” according to FlightRadar24, an aviation tracking website. FlightRadar24 data is collected from a plane’s automated responses to radar requests.
Japan flirted with deflation. A fall in consumer spending led to a 2% annual rise in Japan’s core consumer price index in February. But stripping away the effect of last year’s sales tax rise, there was no change in prices. Pressure is on the central bank to boost monetary stimulus this year.
Chevron sought a buyer for its Caltex stake. The US’s second-largest energy company hopes to raise A$4.6 billion ($3.6 billion) by selling its entire stake in Australia’s biggest refiner. Chevron is selling the shares at a 10% discount, as part of a plan to offload $15 billion in assets in response to low oil prices.
French consumer confidence rose to its highest since 2010. French households are feeling better about things, and that pushed the nation’s consumer confidence to 93 in March, from 92 in February. That is a welcome sign for the euro zone economy, which was held back by sluggish French growth for much of 2014.
China’s industrial profits fell 4.2% in January-February. Industrial firms reported profits of 745.2 billion yuan ($120 billion) in the first two months of this year, a significant drop from the same period a year earlier. Overcapacity and low demand are forcing producers to cut prices.
Amazon went hyperlocal in India. The e-commerce giant launched a service that allows customers to browse inventories of their nearby mom-and-pop stores, and have their goods delivered to them within two hours. Independent retailers can deliver the goods themselves or use Amazon’s logistics network; so far the service is only available in Bangalore.
Quartz obsession interlude
Jason Karaian on the contradictory expectations of CEOs during a crisis. “The qualities we expect from corporate leaders managing in a crisis—honesty, transparency, accountability, empathy—don’t always square with other demands on them, like maintaining the confidence of investors (measured most bluntly by share price) and of employees (which often means voicing unwavering admiration for them). Carsten Spohr, the CEO of Lufthansa, is now addressing this difficult balance.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
We should care more about dirt. Forget every other epidemic, if we don’t protect the earth’s soil, humanity is doomed.
Media coverage of Africa needs to include more Africans. 60 Minutes has been a great example of how not to cover the continent.
US executions should be more brutal. The sanitizing effect of the lethal injection has allowed a bad policy to become worse.
Income inequality is good for you. It motivates creative people to strive, innovate, and compete, which eventually makes luxuries more affordable.
Silicon Valley isn’t investing in science anymore. Instead, the tech industry backs companies that can scale up and become dominant (paywall).
An astronaut in space for a year will return both older and younger than his twin. Scott Kelly’s cells will age faster than his Earth-bound brother, but time will pass more slowly.
Winged drones can now withstand being beaten by a baseball bat. Scientists developed a drone designed to survive mid-air collision.
Russia wants to connect London to Alaska. Plans for a 12,400-mile super highway have a similar layout to the Trans-Siberian railway.
There is a dating site for UFO-believers. That should eliminate at least one awkward conversation on the first date.
The inventor of American cheese was Canadian. James Lewis Kraft moved to the US as a child.