Quartz Daily Brief—Asia Edition—Italians scramble, Draghi stands firm, Pope’s farewell, Pohnpei parenting

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

The unknown is still unknown in Italy. Politicians try to figure out what next after comedian Beppe Grillo and his Five Star Movement refused to back either the leftist coalition of Pier Luigi Bersani (whom Grillo dismissed as a “dead man talking”) or the rightists under Silvio Berlusconi (a “political stalker”).

Does Monti have any ideas? The political crisis has already increased borrowing costs for Italy and could affect the rest of Europe. Outgoing prime minister Mario Monti is scheduled to give the keynote speech today at the European Competition Forum.

Clues to Japanese monetary policy. With Asian Development Bank president Haruhiko Kuroda slated to be the next central bank head of Japan, bank board member Takahide Kiuchi will give a speech on policy.

What austerity looks like in India. The finance minister, P. Chidambaram, presents a budget that will attempt to tame a ballooning deficit. India’s credit rating and Chidambaram’s prime-ministerial prospects depend on this budget—and they pull in opposite directions.

Troubled retailers report earnings. Barnes & Noble and Best Buy, which are both facing management-led buyouts, report income. Also reporting: Deutsche Telekom, which is trying to merge T-Mobile with Metro PCS.

While you were sleeping

Mario Draghi didn’t back down. The European Central Bank president said the burden is on governments to restore responsible finances, showing he was not going to lighten up on unpopular austerity measures, even though the Italian election was in large part a vote against austerity.

Ben Bernanke spoke; markets rejoiced. The Fed chairman testified before a US House committee after making a similar appearance the day before at the Senate. Despite worries about sequestration and the crisis in Italy, Bernanke mainly presented good news on the economic recovery and housing market. US stocks liked the housing data too, rising for a second day after Monday’s Italy-related slump.

Peace out from the Pope. Pope Benedict XVI gave an emotional farewell speech before he officially resigns today. He talked about the joys of the papacy but alluded to the scandals that have hit the church, saying “there were also moments in which the waters were agitated and the wind contrary.”

Apple’s Tim Cook says Einhorn is still silly. The Apple CEO said at the annual meeting that the company was in active discussions about returning cash to shareholders, while dismissing hedge fund manager David Einhorn’s campaign to make it do just that as “silly”. The markets didn’t seem totally convinced.

Iran says something nice about nuke talks. Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator said its current talks with world powers could be a “turning point,” as the US, France and other countries softened their position on some demands. The Western countries weren’t as upbeat, saying they still needed proof Iran isn’t building a bomb.

American Cold War musical hero dies. In 1958, Van Cliburn won top place in the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow at the age of 23, becoming America’s most famous classical pianist. When he came home, he was greeted like a member of the Beatles.

Quartz obsession interlude

Ritchie King on what Apple and Google’s planned new headquarters say about them. “Last week, Google released an illustration of its next corporate campus, a complex of nine rectangular buildings, mostly adorned with green roofs, and all connected by a series of elevated walkways….  [Apple’s] design couldn’t be more different. It’s a single, circular structure that people have described as a doughnut or the touchwheel of an iPod and that Steve Jobs once likened to a spaceship.” You can look at them here.

Matters of debate

Americans aren’t at the center of the universe. But they may be the weirdest people in it.

To save the world, work for Wall Street rather than a charity

Shrinking population is actually great news.

The US is just as responsible for international crime, so stop blaming others

Surprising discoveries

Scientists measure how fast a supermassive black hole spins for the first time, explaining how it got so big.  

It’s easier to be a single parent on the island of Pohnpei than in the Western world

Physicist creates Oreo cookie separator, as part of “Cookies vs. Creme” campaign.

Dog shoots owner, but the canine is not arrested.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, videos of Pope Benedict XVI on vacation or Marrisa Mayer working from home  to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.