Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Dangerous fertilizer, Microsoft, Boston bombers?, tax love, Chinese condoms

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What to watch for today

Attempts at compromise in Italy. Voting continues in Italy’s parliament for a new president, who will have the task of breaking the post-election deadlock between Pier Luigi Bersani and Silvio Berlusconi. It doesn’t look good. Today, Bersani’s allies torpedoed the vote for Franco Marini, an 80-year-old former trade unionist whom Bersani and Berlusconi had both agreed to back.

Venezuela swears in its president… while his votes are being recounted. After the closest election in 45 years, Venezuela’s newly elected president, Nicolás Maduro, gave in to calls for a recount of the vote. But he’ll still be sworn in today. Expect to hear a lot of banging of pots and pans.

Egypt might ask Russia for a loan. Egyptian officials are reportedly planning to ask their Soviet-era ally for financial help at a meeting. A $4.8 billion loan from the IMF fell through earlier this month, raising worries Egypt will run out of money for needed imports like wheat and fuel.

Earnings watch: McDonald’s, General Electric, Honeywell, United Bancorp, Anglo American, and Royal Caribbean report first quarter earnings.

While you were sleeping

Rescue efforts continued after explosion in Texas. Residents searched for survivors of a blast at a fertilizer plant on Thursday that killed at least five people and injured 160. The incident raises questions about the widespread use of anhydrous ammonia, a cheap but volatile nitrogen-based fertilizer.

Some headway on anti-terrorism investigations. The FBI called on the public to help identify and find two men shown in images taken before Monday’s fatal explosions at the Boston Marathon. Meanwhile, authorities charged an Elvis impersonator from Mississippi with sending letters containing poison to the White House and the Senate.

Earnest earnings. During Pepsi’s report today, CEO Indra Nooyi hinted she might be willing to separate the company’s not-so-successful beverage business from its snack operations. Troubled renewable energy giant LDK Solar reported grim fourth-quarter warnings, but said everything was going to be all right anyway. Meanwhile, Google hasn’t figured out mobile, and Intel hurts when you buy tablets instead of PCs, but not for the reasons you think. And Microsoft shrugged off the death of the PC, but said its chief financial officer is leaving.

Wall Street stocks fell for the third day in a row, after data showed economic activity was lower in March.

Ghana seized counterfeit condoms imported from China. Officials have impounded 110 million made-in-China condoms that turned out to be flimsy, full of holes, improperly lubricated, and too small.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gina Chon on why Pepsi might need to give up Pepsi: “Did Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi throw activist investors a bone today? During the call to discuss the company’s latest earnings, Nooyi said Pepsi is exploring “sensible opportunities to unlock incremental value through meaningful structural alternatives.” “Unlocking value” and “structural alternatives” are sometimes the jargon words used when considering a breakup.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The US housing market can only go up. Société Générale analysts say market has bounced off its bottom.

The way back for a rogue state. North Korea should try to be like Myanmar, a former pariah state that’s now opening up its economy.

Slower Chinese economic growth isn’t happening for the right reasons.

Museums shouldn’t be free. For one, admission prices are a sort of an allocation mechanism that could prevent the Louvre from getting so crowded.

Surprising discoveries

The UN, Harvard Business School, the International Olympic Committee, and many other institutions, have never been led by a woman.

Three new planets could host life, scientists announced today. “With all of these discoveries we’re finding, Earth is looking less and less like a special place,” one of the scientists said.

Some people love doing their taxes. Almost a third of Americans said they like doing their taxes while 5% said they love it.

An MIT student and his girlfriend caught Reinhard and Rogoff’s excel error. A 28-year-old doctoral student spotted the mistake that undermines Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff’s famous Harvard paper defending fiscal austerity.

Correction: Yesterday, we incorrectly said that Chinese president Xi Jinping rode a cab in Beijing. Turns out that we, along with Chinese state media Xinhua, were fooled by a fake report. We apologize for the error.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, pots and pans, and Elvis impersonations to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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