North Korea talks, Putin wins, Facebook’s data breach

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

The US and North Korea launch talks. Ahead of an unprecedented summit between the countries’ leaders, lower level officials and outside experts are reportedly meeting in Finland. Details remain unclear, but the meeting was confirmed by South Korean and Finnish authorities, and the North Korean official for US affairs was seen boarding a plane to Helsinki.

China names its new central bank chief. Yi Gang, a US-educated economist is reportedly succeeding his mentor (paywall) Zhou Xiaochuan, who has steered the bank for 15 years. The move comes as China tries to reshape its economy and get its debt under control.

Barack Obama is touring Asia and Australia. The former US president starts his weeklong trip to Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan. The tour is part of his work for the Obama Foundation, and starts in Singapore with a meeting with youth leaders representing Southeast Asian countries.

Over the weekend

Surprise! Vladimir Putin won re-election in Russia. Exit polls showed a big win for the strongman, who gained 75% of the vote. Young people are major Putin supporters because the Russian economy has generally expanded during his tenure, giving them more opportunities than their parents had (paywall). At the same time, an independent monitoring group reported multiple irregularities at polling stations.

The FBI fired deputy Andrew McCabe. He won’t go quietly. Attorney general Jeff Sessions said the career FBI man “lacked candor,” but McCabe, whose wife’s failed state Senate bid was financed by a Clinton ally, has been a Donald Trump target for months. McCabe said he has memos documenting former FBI chief James Comey’s interactions with the president.

Trump’s attorney called for an end to the Russia probe.  John Dowd said the investigation was based on a “fraudulent and corrupt dossier.” The president tweeted statements railing against the probe and calling McCabe’s notes “fake memos.”

Facebook shut down Trump’s analytics machine. Blockbuster reports from The New York Times and The Observer revealed that Trump consultant Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of up to 50 million people without their permission, and later profiled users in order to influence their voting choices. Facebook closed down the operation two years after it found out about the breach.

Myanmar’s Aug San Suu Kyi asked for humanitarian help for the Rohingya crisis. The country’s leader has been excoriated for failing to stop the deadly violence against the Muslim minority, but is now asking for help, according to Australia’s prime minister. 

The NCAA saw one of the biggest upsets in college basketball history. No. 1 seeded Virginia lost 74-54 to No. 16 seeded University of Maryland in Baltimore County (UMBC) during one of the first games of  ”March Madness” on March 16. The defeat upset betting brackets that had Virginia winning the entire tournament, which wraps up April 2.

Quartz obsession interlude

Zoë  Schlanger on the deadly business of recycling car batteries.  “There is the kind of lead poisoning that creeps into water supplies, builds up in children’s blood streams, and, if sustained, will impair their brains. And then there is the kind, much rarer, that makes fully grown adults drop dead.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Humanity will prevail over the Malthusian threat. Low fertility rates are not only a fact, they are a blessing.

The easiest person to trick is yourself. People are experts at overestimating their knowledge and qualifications.

It’s high time for a #metoo movement for black people. The current era of accountability, while necessary, feels overwhelmingly white. 

Surprising discoveries

US Supreme Court opinions can be works of comedy. Case in point: Clarence Thomas on a party that got out of hand.

The term “bug” for a technological glitch dates back to Thomas Edison. The inventor used it to describe an issue with his telephone design.

Japan’s prisons are filled with elderly women. They commit minor crimes to escape poverty and loneliness.

A dangerous Facebook cult promoted the “healing” powers of cabbage juice. When the company failed to stop the madness, users stepped up.

In the world’s most expensive cities, the cost of wine and cigarettes varies dramatically. Geneva and Seoul are tied for sixth place for priciest city, but a bottle of wine is 200% more expensive in the South Korean capital.

Correction: The weekend brief on authoritarian leaders should have called an alleged poisoning of a British agent on U.K. soil an “alleged attempted murder,” not an “alleged murder.” Quartz regrets the error. 

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, basketball upsets and funny court cases to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day or download our apps for iPhone and Android. Today’s Daily Brief was written by Hanna Kozlowska and edited by Janet Guyon.