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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas Edition—Cyprus saga, British budget, Korean cyberwar, CIA’s servers

By Quartz Staff

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Cyprus in limbo. Banks and the stock market in Cyprus will remain closed, possibly until March 26, after its parliament said no to the plan for a one-time tax of all bank accounts in return for a system-wide bailout. The government and international bodies will continue to discuss potential solutions to the crisis—including intervention by Russia. But with the ECB saying it will continue to provide liquidity to Cyprus within existing rules, it’s crisis averted—for now.

More gloom for Britain. George Osborne, Britain’s finance minister, presents the “bleakest budget in years” (paywall), as he admits that it will take significantly longer for Britain’s debt-to-GDP ratio to fall, growth will be slower and much more pain will be needed. Perhaps today was not the best day for him to join Twitter.

Steady as she goes from the Fed. US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke will announce the new discount rate, but expectations are it will remain unchanged at 0.25% in order to continue to bolster the US economy.

Barack v. Bibi. In his first tour of the Middle East as a second-term president, Barack Obama will face a skeptical Israeli public and prime minister Binyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu. One former US presidential adviser calls it a relationship “doomed to dysfunction.” Obama will also visit Palestine and Jordan on the four-day trip.

While you were sleeping

Anadarko found oil—lots of it. The independent American oil firm along with several partners found what it is calling one the largest ever oilfields in the Gulf of Mexico, calling it a “potentially giant project.”

All those useless cable channels may actually go away. Verizon and Cablevision have joined consumers in demanding that cable TV subscriptions be unbundled, allowing people to pay for only the channels they want. Sayonara, VH1 Classic.

This means war! Cyberwar, that is. South Korea reports that systems at banks and broadcasters have been been forcibly shut down in what it suspects are attacks from the North. LG UPlus, an internet service provider, believes its network may have been compromised. At least Pyongyang isn’t sending in bomber aircraft.

MF Global customers will get (some of) their money back. JP Morgan reached an agreement to pay the bankrupt broker $100 million towards repaying customers, which clears the way for another $417 million held in trust to be released for the same use.

China Telecom’s profits fell. The largest fixed-line telco in China saw full-year net profits shrink by 9.5% to $2.4 billion even as revenue rose 15.5%. Much of the drop can be attributed to increased spending on attracting new customers to its 3G service, where it has 30% market share, behind China Mobile and China Unicom.

I’ll see your YouTube and raise you a DailyMotion. Yahoo is in talks to buy 75% of DailyMotion, a popular video-sharing site owned by France Telecom, for $300 million. That would give Yahoo a sticky, time-wasting site, greater visibility in Europe, and something to tout as cool. Take that, Google.

Quartz obsession interlude

Parag Khanna and Ahmed el Hady on the one thing horsemeat balls and see-through yoga pants have in common: logistics. “Each week brings new revelations in the scale of the European horse meat scandal and yesterday came news of faulty, too-sheer yoga pants, but there is a common theme: the complexity of untangling the supply chains of producers, distributors and vendors spanning a dozen countries.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

“Special” cases like Cyprus are shattering investors’ faith in Europe. Just because markets aren’t reacting yet doesn’t mean they won’t.

But let’s be contrarian. Two reasons why the Cyprus depositors levy was a good idea 

The “Amazon of China” won’t go public this year. 360buy would be foolish to risk it.

JC Penney should go private before it runs out of cash. The ailing US retailer’s largest shareholder, hedge-fund manager Bill Ackman, should act before other big investors make for the exits.

Surprising discoveries

The US minimum wage is about three times too low. If it had kept pace with productivity since 1960 it would be $22 an hour, not $7.25.

What do scrappy start-ups and the world’s biggest spy agency have in common? They all use Amazon Web Services. It’s cheap, easily scalable and apparently secure enough for the CIA.

Bad news comes in threes. Half of all shipping containers departing the port of Los Angeles are empty, half the things online advertisers think they know about you could be wrong, and less than half of all Americans have saved more than $25,000 for retirement.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any updates, comments, and threesomes of bad news (especially if it relates to Cyprus) to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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