Quartz Daily Brief—Americas Edition—Cyprus votes, Britain builds, China grows, Francis prays

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Cyprus continues to dominate the headlines. Cyprus’s parliament will vote this afternoon on the controversial proposal to impose levies on every bank account to help bail out the country’s banks, though smaller depositors may be exempt. A former governor of the central bank warned that if parliament rejects the bill, “Cyprus will turn into Libya.” The banks will remain closed until Thursday to prevent what might otherwise be a massive bank run.

Is America building yet? Data on new construction in the US (housing starts) will be released—last month saw a drop of 8.5%.

A boost to British housing. Prime minister David Cameron and his deputy, Nick Clegg, will announce a set of measures today—a day before the budget—to get Britons building and buying houses again. The incentives include supporting new buyers, shared equity programs and, possibly, very large mortgages.

A result in Zimbabwe’s referendum.  Results of a referendum to adopt a new constitution in Zimbabwe, which will open the door for a challenger to take Robert Mugabe’s place as president, will be announced today.

While you were sleeping

Episode CCLXVI: A new Pope. Pope Francis was inaugurated and held his first mass. Guests include US Vice President Joe Biden and—why not?—Robert Mugabe.

A smartwatch in the works at Samsung? Reuters reports the Korean electronics giant is working on a wristwatch-like device with many of the features of a smartphone. Apple is also reportedly creating a similar gadget.

Signs of optimism in China. Foreign direct investment to China climbed to $8.21 billion in February, up 6.3% from last year. This is the first time in nine months that numbers have gone up, suggesting renewed faith in China’s growth.

Fresh allegations against HSBC. A few short months after paying a $1.9 billion fine to US authorities for money laundering, the bank now faces allegations from Argentina, which says it allowed money laundering of some $44 million and helped tax evaders hide another $77 million.

India’s central bank leapt into action. After the weakest economic growth in a decade, the Reserve Bank of India cut rates by 25 basis points, as expected.  

Syria’s first prime-minister-in-exile is… American. Ghassan Hitto, a naturalized US citizen, was elected prime minister by opposition parties who met in Beirut. Hitto and his government hope to emerge as an alternative if Bashar Assad falls. Meanwhile, New York might get its first Asian-American mayor after John Liu—named for John F. Kennedy—threw his hat into the ring.

First they came for the bankers… Yesterday’s revelation of an EU proposal to cap fund managers’ bonuses has triggered fears that a regulation-happy EU, having also just imposed caps on bankers, could push for much wider executive pay limits. The European Parliament votes on the proposal on Thursday. Over in America, eBay CEO John Donahoe saw an 80% jump in pay to $29.7 million, largely in the form of stock.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gina Chon on how bankers will deal with pay cuts: Get a more normal life. ”A managing director at one bank said he’ll use the pay cuts as an excuse to work less and spend more time with his family. He traveled more than 310 days last year, which paid off in business, and his bank was on a lot of deals in his sector. But because of problems with other parts of the bank, his compensation was still cut, so now he questions whether it’s worth it. “We’re not getting rewarded for the work we do,” he said. “Instead, we’re actually being punished. So what’s the point in killing myself for my job?”” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Now is the time to buy US stocks. One-time bear Meredith Whitney declares herself the most bullish she has ever been in her career.

Is de-extinction a good idea? When we wipe out species, we’re only human, but when we try to revive them, are we playing God?

Even German austerity hawks think the Cyprus bailout was a mistake.Bankruptcy is one thing, but taking money from grandmothers doesn’t satisfy even the staunchest critics of bailouts.

The Middle East has had a lost decade. And it’s mostly America’s fault.

Surprising discoveries

The See-Through Yoga Pants Crisis of 2013 hits earnings. Clothing maker Lululemon’s stock is down 9% because of a “level of sheerness” problem. Here’s the company’s excessively helpful FAQ.

The new way to commute in Rio de Janeiro. Just plummet between the buildings.

The ideal praise-to-criticism ratio. For best results from both your colleagues and your spouse, compliment them about five times as often as you tell them off.

Fairness is in our genes. Monkeys reject food from humans who behave selfishly, suggesting the desire to ostracize cheaters goes back millions of years.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, overly transparent garments and papal Instagrams to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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