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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Microsoft’s virtual reality, Foxconn gets Sharp, underwear economics

By Quartz

What to watch for today

The UN discusses refugees. Officials will meet in Geneva to debate solutions to the refugee crisis, including pledges by developed countries to take in displaced Syrians. The UN warns that 10% of 5 million Syrian refugees are particularly vulnerable, and need to be resettled permanently by the end of 2018.

US employment numbers. Payrolls processor ADP is expected to report that private employers in the US added around 200,000 jobs this month, after adding 214,000 in February.

Microsoft’s Build 2016 kicks off. Chief executive Satya Nadella will address developers at the three-day conference in San Francisco, where the focus will be on HoloLens, the world’s first large-scale rollout of an augmented-reality headset. Tweaks to the newish Windows 10 operating system will also get attention.

While you were sleeping

Tata Steel put its UK business up for sale. The Indian steel giant will end its decade-long involvement in Britain’s struggling steel industry. Tata, which employs about 15,000 people in the UK, blamed heavy financial losses on high manufacturing costs, increased competition from Chinese producers, and a weak domestic market.

The scale of Takata’s airbag recall spooked investors. The Japanese auto-parts supplier estimated its airbag recall of some 287 million inflators could cost ¥2.7 trillion ($24 billion). That is about $7 billion more than a recent projection by analysts, driving down the company’s share price to a record low.

The euro zone’s economic confidence crumbled. A key gauge of consumer and executive confidence slipped for the third month in a row, to the lowest level in more than a year. And the survey was conducted before the deadly terror attacks in Brussels last week.

Foxconn and Sharp finally reached a deal. After weeks of back and forth, the Taiwanese company will pay around $3.5 billion for a 66% stake in the 100-year-old Japanese electronics giant. It is the largest acquisition by a foreign company in Japan’s tech industry and bolsters Foxconn’s leverage as a supplier to Apple, which uses Sharp’s screen technology.

Air New Zealand said it might sell its stake in Virgin Australia. The Kiwi carrier is the biggest shareholder in its struggling Australian counterpart, with a 25.9% stake worth $322 million (paywall). Trading in Virgin Australia’s shares were halted ahead of the announcement.

Quartz obsession interlude

Alice Truong on the developer who has Airbnb-hopped for the past three years. “He sets a monthly budget of roughly $1,400 to $1,500 for the Bay Area… the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco was $3,500, the highest in the country, according to apartment-listing site Zumper.” Read more.

Matters of debate

The FBI-Apple showdown is a disaster for the Feds. The government sought a legal precedent, but only exposed its own incompetence (paywall).

The return of old diseases is not just because of anti-vaxxers. Governments aren’t doing enough to make vaccinations available.

The difference between a Christian gunman and a Muslim jihadist is racism. The media has its own definition of terrorism.

Surprising discoveries

The “not” face is identical across cultures. Scientists identified the same disapproving scowl among speakers of English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and American Sign Language.

An Angolan rapper was imprisoned for plotting a coup at his book club. The group was discussing nonviolent resistance.

Men’s underwear is an economic indicator. Former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan posits that men put off buying undies if money is tight.

Rats are being trained to sniff out tuberculosis. The rodents will screen for the disease in crowded jails in Tanzania and Mozambique.

One in five employees would happily sell their work passwords. Beware, corporate security managers—some workers will do it for less than $100.

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