Quartz daily brief—Asia Edition—British economy, Maggie RIP, Penney CEO, mavros

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What to watch for today

North Korea’s next move. Will North Korea take another step toward the brink after shutting down the Kaesong industrial complex jointly run with South Korea? It has been ratcheting up the rhetoric almost daily. And a tongue-lashing from its ally, China, hasn’t made a difference so far.

British economy by the numbers. The latest on manufacturing and industrial production, along with trade balance figures, is released today. So far, the data this year have not been encouraging.

Jack Lew’s European tour… The US Treasury Secretary meets with the finance ministers of Germany and France. Lew had some friendly advice yesterday: Europe should back off on austerity measures. Who’d have thought that an American politician would ever be telling European ones to spend more?

…and John Kerry’s Middle Eastern one. The US Secretary of State continues his trip in Israel for another attempt to encourage Israelis and Palestinians to restart talks. He will later head to China, South Korea and Japan, where North Korea has everyone jumpy.

While you were sleeping

RIP the Iron Lady. Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher died of a stroke at 87. Her legacy on economics, foreign policy and Europe were debated around the world. On Quartz, our writers point out that her years in power were hardly an economic miracle; then again, she laid the foundations for a big subsequent rise in real income.

SEC officially got a new head. The US Senate confirmed Mary Jo White to lead the agency that polices Wall Street. It’s still in the midst of writing the rules stemming from the Dodd-Frank legislation.

Another bolt-on deal for GE. The conglomerate acquired Lufkin Industries to add to its oil and gas unit in a $3.3 billion deal.

Alcoa kicked off earnings season… The aluminum company reported a net income increase amid market jitters after disappointing US jobs numbers last week. But the company is losing its bellwether status.

…and JC Penney kicked out Ron Johnson. The ailing US retailer dismissed its CEO, who led and then reversed a spectacularly failed retail strategy in his one year on the job, and brought back former boss Myron Ullman. (But we think Penney’s problems go deeper than who’s at the helm.)

Quartz obsession interlude

Leo Mirani says forget bitcoin—mavros are where it’s at: ”To produce bitcoins, processors must hum away solving mathematical problems. But mavros, another virtual currency, are simpler. They exist because Sergey Mavrodi, their creator, says they do. And while the recent spike in bitcoin value is the result of speculation on the open market, the rate for mavros is “established personally by Mr. Sergey Mavrodi…. twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.” Their value doubles every month, in fact.” Read more here.  

Matters of debate

Where the environmental movement went astray. It lost the knack of rallying popular pressure.

Going to the moon again is not a priority. NASA’s chief says Mars is more important.

Don’t try to rescue fragile banks. Outsource the banking instead.

Margaret Thatcher wouldn’t save the UK today. Even she couldn’t fix Britain’s economic mess.

Surprising discoveries

Blast from the past. WikiLeaks posts 1970s diplomatic and intelligence cables, including some from Henry Kissinger.

Paul Volcker is too old for bitcoin. “What’s that?“ he asks.

Dog swallows $500 worth of bills. But the owner retrieved the money, albeit in pieces, from the dog’s other end.

This is the future of warfare. Using lasers to shoot down drones.

The most important source of renewable energy in Europe? Not solar power. It’s wood.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Margaret Thatcher impressions and others who are too old for bitcoin to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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