What to watch for today
Iran’s deadline. Time finally runs out for a deal on Iran’s nuclear program. The chances of a last-minute accord don’t look good, and if there isn’t one, expect Iran to ramp up its program and the US to ramp up sanctions.
Taiwan applies to join Beijing’s new development bank. The Taiwanese president’s office said it would submit its application to the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, despite China not recognizing Taiwan as an independent state. Taiwan would join a long list of major world powers in the development bank.
Nigeria’s election results. Votes are being counted in the presidential race between incumbent Goodluck Jonathan and former dictator Muhammadu Buhari, and Buhari has an early lead. Both the US and the UK have voiced concerns about possible vote-rigging.
While you were sleeping
Blackstone paid $1.3 billion for three hotels. The world’s largest real estate private equity company bought two JW Marriott hotels and one Ritz-Carlton, all in the US, according to Bloomberg. The deal is a bet on the value of the hotels’ meetings and conference venues, even as Airbnb’s reach grows.
Alibaba signed a distribution deal with BMG. The Chinese internet conglomerate’s digital entertainment unit will have access to 2.5 million tracks, the first time it has signed with a music publisher outside of Asia. Alibaba and the Chinese government alike are cracking down on piracy as commercial streaming services gain popularity in China.
UK consumer confidence hit a near 13-year high. British shoppers’ morale rose to +4 in March, from +1 in February, the highest level since June 2002, according to a GfK survey. That will be good news for the ruling Conservative party, which is touting economics in its campaign to win a second term in May’s general election.
Confidence keeps surging in Australia. Housing Industry Association figures show new home sales rose 1.1% in February to push sales volumes to a seasonally-adjusted high, driven by an 11.1% rise in multi-unit sales such as apartments. Private sector lending, which includes mortgages, rose 6.2% in February from a year earlier, the fastest in six years (paywall).
A Saudi air strike killed at least 40 Yemeni refugees. The attack was aimed at Houthi fighters—the Iranian-backed insurgents trying to topple Yemen’s government—but hit a camp for internally displaced people instead.
Shots were fired at the US’s National Security Agency. Officials say two men—dressed as women—attempted to drive a sports utility vehicle through the gates of the NSA’s headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. One of the drivers was killed.
Quartz obsession interlude
Steve LeVine on the battle for the future of the battery. “The high-tech patent wars have spread to a new front, engaging two of the world’s largest industrial companies in a multibillion-dollar court battle over lithium-ion batteries. At issue is a battery chemistry that, while little known to the public, many experts believe currently holds the best chance of electric cars penetrating the mass market.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Millennials don’t know how to be adults. There’s no road map to life any more, and most millennials are delaying growing up.
Governments should set up sharing economy apps. Not-for-profit public services would be a good way to balance the disruptive power of services like Uber and Lyft.
Social media is sheltering men from real women. People who post pictures of breastfeeding, menstruation, or overweight women often have their accounts blocked.
It’s time for Singapore to grow up. Some of its laws are so archaic they’re holding back the country’s future.
Volvo created a spray to make cyclists more visible. Put the invisible coating on your clothes or your bike, and it reflects white light.
China jailed a man for growing a beard. Growing a beard is considered a form of trouble-making in some parts of China’s Muslim-majority Xinjiang province.
Parents can’t tell when their children are fat. Just a tiny fraction of parents of “very overweight” UK children recognized their children as such.
Scientists engineered a virus to help boil water three times faster. Originally found on the tobacco plant, the virus can be made into a coating for industrial applications.
“China’s Detroit” is a municipality with a population of 30 million. Chongqing may be the biggest and least-recognized mega-city in the world.