What to watch for today
China moves to squash bubbles. New rules take effect on the two mainland stock exchanges, Shanghai and Shenzhen, reducing how much investors can borrow against their existing holdings. The goal is to limit leveraged bets and cut the risk of dangerous speculation.
Pfizer and Allergan seal a mega-deal. The two are about to agree a merger worth $150 billion, creating the world’s biggest drug firm by sales, according to several reports. The deal would be a ”tax inversion” to benefit from Ireland’s low corporate taxes, and likely structured so as to get around US Treasury rules adopted only last week to stop just such deals.
Brussels remains on lockdown. Schools, universities, and the metro are expected to remain shut, possibly all week, as Belgian police and troops search for at least two men they suspect of being involved in the Paris attacks. France has asked for help identifying another attacker who was killed, and says its aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, dispatched to the eastern Mediterranean, will be “ready to act” against targets in Syria from Monday.
A new broom for Argentina. Voters in Sunday’s runoff election are expected to swing away from the left-wing populism of the outgoing president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner; the center-right mayor of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri, had a slight lead in polls. Early results are expected Sunday evening local time.
Britain sets out its defense priorities. Prime minister David Cameron presents the five-yearly Strategic Defense and Security Review. This will give a sense both of British thinking on risks ranging from Islamist terrorism to Russian belligerence, and also of where the lucrative defense contracts are likely to be.
Over the weekend
Mali launched a manhunt for the Bamako attackers. The country declared a state of emergency as well as three days of mourning after Friday’s siege on a hotel in the capital that killed at least 27 people. Al-Mourabitoun, a jihadist group based in northern Mali affiliated with Al-Qaeda, has claimed responsibility.
Iran sentenced a US journalist to prison. Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post reporter accused of espionage, was given a sentence of unspecified duration, according to Iranian state media. The Post, which denies the US-born Rezaian is a spy, has a timeline of his arrest and captivity.
Crimea was plunged into darkness. Saboteurs blew up the power lines from Ukraine supplying the now Russian-held peninsula, leaving the population of some 2 million people without power. Russia declared a state of emergency there. Ukrainian activists have also blockaded commercial truck traffic to Crimea.
Air India sold the rest of its Dreamliners. The struggling national carrier, with 400 billion rupees ($6 billion) in debt, sold and leased back nine Boeing 787-800s, on top of the 12 it had sold and leased previously. The money will go to pay off the bridge loan it took out to buy the aircraft in the first place.
A Myanmar mine disaster killed at least 100. Some 100 people are still missing and around another 100 bodies have been recovered after a landslide of debris dug out from jade mines in the country’s north. Global Witness, an NGO, reported recently that jade mining is worth $31 billion a year, half Myanmar’s GDP, and controlled by a shadowy elite.
Quartz obsession interlude
Akshat Rathi on “gene drive,” the next potential weapon of mass destruction. “It allows scientists to, essentially, hijack the process of evolution, spreading a new gene through a population with incredible speed. And while it was developed with peaceful uses in mind, such as eradicating mosquitoes to end malaria, it could be used for ill too—it’s cheap and easy enough to master that bioterrorists could get their hands on it.”
Matters of debate
The finance industry has lost sight of its purpose. Which is to connect money with borrowers, not generate financial products for their own sake.
There’s a simple reason the Paris attacks gained so much sympathy. France receives the most tourists in the world.
Belgium is a failed state. That jihadism could take root in a Brussels suburb says a lot about the country’s institutional weaknesses.
Global deflation is still a problem. The Fed will want to be very careful when it starts raising interest rates next month.
It’s immoral to have more than four children. After that point, the added benefits to parents don’t outweigh the child’s future risks.
One in five British kids believe everything they see on search engines. The silver lining: four years ago it was one in three.
Rome is taking desperate measures against starlings. It’s brought in five Texan falcons to hunt down the guano-dropping birds.
“Badass” is now a feminist word. It’s become a celebration of female achievement, describing independent, powerful women.
A Singapore megachurch leader was jailed for fraud. He was given eight years for using church funds to help his wife’s singing career.
Pigeons can spot breast cancer in X-rays. After two weeks of training, they could identify breast tumors with 85% accuracy.
Zimbabwe’s “Mr Ugly” was accused of cheating. The winner of the country’s annual male un-beauty contest is ”too handsome,” said his rival’s supporters.
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