Good morning, Q-MHI readers!
WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY AND OVER THE WEEKEND
Russia elects its president. Retaliatory measures from the UK over the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal—and from the US over 2016 election meddling—may motivate even more voters to visit the polls Sunday. Vladimir Putin is likely to win either way.Putin is widely expected to win the election with a strong lead ahead of the other seven candidates running, but the authorities are keen to get people out to vote to improve the semblance of legitimacy.
“The regime in Russia is authoritarian but it requires a certain acquiescence from the populace,” Daragh McDowell.
“Voter turnout can be the key way to show that people are enthusiastic about, and willing to engage with, the state,” he said. “If turnout numbers are continuously falling, then you have legitimacy issues.”
McDowell didn’t believe the spy attack in the U.K. would factor in the lead-up to the vote on Sunday, saying Putin was unlikely to mention it.
Tiffany reports sparkling earnings. Investors are hoping the luxury jewelry retailer will continue its positive earnings streak on Friday. A robust holiday season is likely to help; the company previously said sales were up 8% over Christmas. The retailer also opened a Breakfast at Tiffany’s-themed café at its flagship Manhattan store in November.
The US releases key economic data. Home-construction starts probably declined last month (paywall), while industrial production is expected to make up some lost ground from January. The University of Michigan’s widely followed consumer sentiment survey, also out today, is forecast to remain upbeat.
SPONSOR CONTENT BY BARCLAYS
Taking the quantum leap in financial markets. As quantum computing helps tackle previously unsolvable problems with data, what will it mean for financial markets? Nasdaq President and CEO Adena Friedman talks to Barclays.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING
The UK considered breaking up the Big Four. The head of the country’s financial regulator called for a probe into whether the firms—Deloitte, EY, KPMG, and PwC—should be forced to spin off their audit arms (paywall). These groups audit all but nine of the UK’s 350 largest listed firms, but make most of their fees from consulting services.
French cosmetics stalwart L’Oreal bought beauty-tech company ModiFace. The Canadian company is a leader in AR-powered virtual makeup try-ons, with its tech powering the apps of major beauty retailers like Sephora. The move is seen as a bid to buttress L’Oreal’s digital offerings, and reflects the popularity of online beauty tutorials.
American investors grew suspicious of Saudi Aramco’s mega IPO. The oil giant’s offering has been delayed in part because US investors have been pushing back on the $2 trillion valuation, according to Bloomberg. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is scheduled to go to the White House on March 20.
Trump is ready to oust his national security adviser. The US president plans to remove H.R. McMaster, albeit not immediately, and is actively discussing possible replacements, reported the Washington Post (paywall). The news follows Trump firing secretary of state Rex Tillerson via tweet earlier this week.
In his speech, Tillerson never thanked the president, and only mentioned him once, saying, “I received a call today from the president of the United States a little after noon time from Air Force One.” That’s about three hours after Trump tweeted that CIA director Mike Pompeo would replace Tillerson as secretary of state.Tillerson also said that “much work remains to respond to the troubling behavior and actions on the part of the Russian government,” and warned that Russia could face “greater isolation on their part, a situation which is not in anyone’s interest.”He praised the State Department, which has lost decades of expertise under his tenure as waves of career officials departed. “The world needs selfless leaders like these ready to work with longstanding allies,” Tillerson said. He closed with praise for his fellow Americans, citing their “devotion to a free and open society,” “acts of kindness to one another,” honesty, and “quiet hard work.” Tillerson’s last day at the State Department is March 31.
Donald Trump, Jr. and his wife Vanessa filed for divorce. The pair—who have five children together and have been married for 12 years—issued a joint statement citing their “tremendous respect” for one another, and asking for privacy.
Q-MHI OBSESSION INTERLUDE
Dan Kopf on why so many people around the world are still using cash. “No single country is responsible for the trend… researchers think people were spooked by the 2008 financial crisis.According to a new report by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), cash use is on the rise across the world. Overall, cash in circulation as share of GDP rose from 7% to 9% for a group of countries that comprise more than 80% of the world’s economy.
With less trust in banks, people now choose to keep more of their savings in cash.” The researchers show that while circulation of both small and large bills have risen, it is larger bills, the ones less likely to be used for everyday transactions, that have increased the most, as a share of GDP, since 2007. In just four years, from 2007 to 2011, the share of bills worth $75 or more increased from 4.8% of world GDP to 6.2%. In some countries, like South Korea and Russia, the share of small-denomination bills actually fell while the share of high denomination bills rose.
MATTERS OF DEBATE
Atticus Finch was too good to be true. The lawyer in To Kill a Mockingbird is either a civil rights hero or a white apologist, depending on whom you ask.(Finch is a white lawyer in 1930s Alabama who defends an innocent black man charged with raping a white woman. He’s the central hero of the US curriculum standard, a representation of the moral triumph of one man against social and systemic racism, whose grandstanding was brought to life by Gregory Peck in a 1962 film adaptation).
Twitter has tainted public intellectualism. From academics to journalists, 280-character discussions hamstring society’s brightest minds (paywall) and play to trolls.
The ultra-rich don’t know how to pay it forward. Jeff Bezos and his peers would do more for the world by paying appropriate tax amounts instead of making donations.Bezos’s Dreamers donation harkens back to when Mark Zuckerberg, in September 2010, donated $100 million to Newark’s school system. The gift was in many ways generous and extravagant, while doing little to tackle underlying structural issues.
A plane sprinkled gold and diamonds over Russia. The aircraft flew for 16 miles (26 km) with a faulty door, scattering $368 million in cargo.The Siberian Times reports that the plane was flying to a gold mine in Krasnoyarsk called Kupol. Yakutsk (the flight’s city of origin) is the capital of Russia’s main diamond producing region, Yakutia.
While police sealed off the runway and are searching the surrounding area for cargo, not surprisingly locals are scrambling to find the treasure. Mail.Ru, a Russian news site, says that “residents of Yakutsk rushed to search for fallen gold bars from the sky.”
Ghana’s blackboard-savvy tech teacher got real computers.Richard Appiah Akoto’s viral photos resulted in a whirlwind tour and PCs for his classroom.
The Amazon rainforest could lose half its species in this century. More than 60% of its plant species and almost half of its animal species could fall victim to climate change.
There’s no such thing as a “normal” person. There’s “no universally optimal profile” of how a brain functions, which means classic psychiatry can do more harm than good.A new study published in Trends in Cognitive Science on Feb. 20 debunks the myth of normalcy in people and animals. “The Myth of Optimality in Clinical Neuroscience” (paywall), by Avram Holmes and Lauren Patrick of the Yale University psychology department, uses evolution to show that uniformity in our brains is totally abnormal. What’s much more common in life, during its 3.5 billion years of evolving existence on Earth, is range and change, variety in and among creatures and habitats.
China’s top-grossing documentary of all time is about how great Xi Jinping is. Mandatory screenings may have played a big part in the success of Amazing China.Amazing China, a 90-minute documentary produced by China’s state broadcaster, touts China’s achievements in areas including science, technology, infrastructure, and military modernization since Xi came to power in 2012. It has grossed 270 million yuan ($42 million) in ticket sales since its release on March 2, surpassing a 2017 film about China’s surviving wartime sex-slaves to become the country’s biggest documentary of all time, according to data from researcher Entgroup.
The film is the latest example of how patriotic movies are an increasingly sure bet for box office success in China. Last year’s Wolf Warrior 2—which tells the story of a Chinese special forces agent saving a war-torn African country from the hands of Western mercenaries—is the country’s top-grossing film of all time. In second place is a recent film about the Chinese navy rescuing hostages from terrorists in a fictitious Arab nation, Operation Red Sea.