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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas Edition—sequestration nation, WPP, Hungary’s central banker, a pot cannon

What to watch for today

It’s the end of the world as we know it (and we feel fine). OK, maybe it doesn’t end. But today is the deadline when “sequestration” officially takes effect in the US because of lack of political agreement. That means $85 billion in automatic budget cuts, affecting everything from airports to the military. But what you should really worry about is March 27.

Will the Dow break its record? The Dow Jones Industrial Average inched closer to an all-time high on Feb. 28, then fell back again. All eyes will be on the US markets to see if they end the week on a high note after a rocky start over the Italian elections.

Grim GDP figures from Brazil and Canada. Brazil releases Q4 and full-year GDP data today, with expectations of sub-1% growth for 2012. Canada’s fourth-quarter data will confirm slow growth as exports contract.

The Swiss vote on executive pay. The Swiss love a good referendum, and on Sunday they decide whether executive pay should be set by shareholders. If passed, the measure will also put an end to lavish joining and leaving packages. Which raises the question: If ridiculous salaries and unabashed wealth aren’t safe in Switzerland, where are they safe?

While you were sleeping

WPP reported full-year results. The world’s largest advertising group matched analyst expectations with revenues of £10.4 billion ($15.8 billion), up 3.6% from the previous year, and pre-tax profit of £1.53 billion.

Hungary got a new central banker. Prime minister Viktor Orban nominated his close ally, Gyorgy Matolcsy, to run Hungary’s central bank. Hungary is in the middle of its second recession in four years and Matolcsy is expected to try unorthodox measures to get growth going again.

Lloyd’s lost £1.43 billion in 2012. Like most British banks, Lloyd’s 2012 losses were largely down to refunding customers for mis-sold payment insurance. Sound familiar?

Kim Dotcom lost his appeal against US extradition. The Megaupload founder accused of facilitating copyright fraud vowed to take his battle to the Supreme Court of New Zealand.

Chinese manufacturing grew slower in February. The monthly purchasing managers’ index came in at 50.1, down from 50.4 last month due to weakening domestic demand rather than falling exports. (Any number over 50 indicates growth.)

A result in Britain’s by-election in the little-known town of Eastleigh. The Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats faced off for the first time since jumping into bed as coalition partners in 2010—and the Lib Dems came out on top. In a sign of their increasing unpopularity, the Conservatives finished third after the upstart UK Independence Party.

Quartz obsession interlude

Naomi Rovnick on why India’s wealth tax probably won’t work, because it has a tax treaty with Mauritius. “It is therefore popular for rich Indians to illegally park what what would otherwise be taxable income in Mauritius and later re-route it home via tax-free fake ‘foreign direct investment.’ […] The wheeze is so well established that Mauritius is the source of around 40% of foreign direct investment into India.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

While America slept, China got its groove on.

The world needs to act before Syria really threatens an already messed up Middle East.

Feminists should make more jokes.

Don’t work on Wall Street. It could make you evil. (Yes, we know we told you the opposite yesterday.)

Will humanity flourish in outer space or become extinct?

Surprising discoveries

A Mexican marijuana cannon has been built to shoot pot over the California border.

A Japanese woman born the year radium was discovered is the oldest woman in the world.

Steel is the specialty dish at a sword swallowers‘ gathering.

Big in Japan. A self-stirring saucepan.

Scientists link the brains of rats in the first attempt at a real-life mind-meld.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, videos of flying pot or feminist jokes to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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