AstraZeneca approved in Europe, US-India defense partnership, audio IKEA catalog

The AstraZeneca vaccine.

Good morning, Quartz readers!

Correction: Yesterday we referred to US national security advisor Jake Sullivan as Jack Sullivan. We apologize for the error.

Here’s what you need to know

The AstraZeneca vaccine was approved by the European Medicines Agency. France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal,  and Spain will now resume use of the shot.

The US will send vaccine doses to Mexico and Canada. Set to reach its 100 million vaccination goal six weeks early, the Joe Biden administration is sharing as it continues to pressure Mexico to curb its stream of migrants.

Vladimir Putin responded to Biden’s remarks. After the US president called his Russian counterpart a killer, the latter recalled the US’s bombing of Japan and its legacy of slavery.

Spain legalized assisted suicide and euthanasia. It’s the fourth European country to make such allowances for the terminally ill.

Paris is set to lock down again. France is fighting a fresh surge of Covid-19 cases.

Lyft is back in action. The rideshare service reported their highest volume of riders in a single week since the beginning of the pandemic.

What to watch for

US defense secretary Lloyd Austin is due to visit India from March 19-21 on his first foreign trip in the role, and he’s the first Biden administration official to visit the country. The main item on his agenda: furthering defense ties between the world’s two largest democracies—the treasured part of bilateral relations that have transcended party politics.

A brief history of the two countries’ relationship:

2005: The US and India sign the 10-year New Framework for the India-US Defense Relationship for development and manufacture of defense equipment (this will be extended by another 10 years in 2015)

2012: The Defense Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) is established, creating opportunities for US-India co-production and co-development (pdf)

2014: President Barack Obama and prime minister Manmohan Singh endorse the India-US Declaration on Defense Cooperation, bolstering the long-term strategic partnership.

2018: The US elevates India to Strategic Trade Authorization tier 1 status.

2020: India and the US sign the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), which gives India access to classified geo-spatial data and critical information having significant military applications from the US. Also in 2020, India buys $3.4 billion worth of arms from the US, up from $6.2 million in fiscal year 2019.

There are a couple points of contention to keep an eye out for during these talks: India’s plan to purchase the S-400 Air Defense System from Russia and its struggle with human rights issues.

Charting poverty around the world

South Asia has felt the economic effects of Covid-19 more than any other world region, with India specifically now contributing to 60% of the global rise in poverty during the pandemic.

A chart showing the effect of the pandemic on poverty in different world regions.

Compared to pre-pandemic estimates, too, India seems to have performed worse on income parameters than expected. Added to that, the number of poor were expected to be at 59 million, and now stand at 134 million according to the Pew Research Center. This significantly reverses the momentum India had achieved in eradicating poverty over the past decade.

Space SPAC lessons learned

We’re a 30-year overnight success story.

—Matt Desch, CEO of Iridium

More than a decade before today’s surge of space SPACs, one satellite company proved that a merger with a blank check company can indeed succeed. That firm is Iridium, the satellite telecom valued at more than $5 billion.

Iridium emerged from its turn-of-the-century bankruptcy as a private company, needing between $1 billion and $2 billion of new capital to replace its satellite constellation, a project it would complete in 2019. The day Desch decided to choose between SPAC offers was the same day Lehman Brothers went under, and things began to seem less rosy. Tim Fernholz goes deeper into what space businesses can learn from Iridium about partnering with blank-check companies.

✦ Tim has always got his eye—though a powerful telescope of course—on the business of space. Try out a membership for a week, and see how you like being freed from the gravity of paywalls.

If you’re not ready to leave Earth quite yet, consider signing up for Tim’s free weekly email, Space Business.

You asked about AstraZeneca

I’ve been following Europe’s reluctance to use the AstraZeneca vaccine. Should we be worried?

As we mentioned above, a European regulator approved the controversial jab, which had caused concern after reports of a very small number of people developing blood clots at some point after receiving the vaccine. Though, to be clear, scientists don’t yet have data directly  connecting these clots to the vaccine itself, and the World Health Organization released a statement this week saying the benefits outweigh the risks, and that a report was forthcoming. So file this one under the frustrating and oft-repeated category of “We don’t know for sure.”

Annalisa Merelli rounded up the weirdest supposed side effects reported by people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine. Spoiler: There are some flatulent, weepy people out there. Hundreds of self-reported side effects might sound worrisome but a closer look is actually reassuring. It makes clear that not only are people reporting all sorts of conditions they experience after taking the vaccine, including the ones that could never be caused by the vaccine, but that scientists are diligently keeping a record of it. This is why the vaccine got suspended, even if it is likely safe.

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Surprising discoveries

IKEA’s catalog is going audio. After its cancellation in 2020, it will return as an audiobook that’s actually a fairly good listen.

A Chinese reporter moved up the ladder of a corrupt used car company. He made so much money undercover his bosses were worried he’d quit his real job.

Redditors adopted a lot of gorillas. WallStreetBets also donated more than $350,000 to a charity protecting the endangered animals.

Want to airlift a black rhino? Research says you should transport them upside down—and not just because it looks funny.

People in Taiwan are changing their names to Salmon. They really want free sushi.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, name change ideas, and Ektorp sofa descriptions to Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our iOS app and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was brought to you by Katherine Ellen Foley, Annalisa Merelli, Manavi Kapur, Ananya Bhattacharya, Tim Fernholz, Jordan Lebeau, and Susan Howson.