Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Russia’s Ukraine ultimatum, Chinese growth goals, banana plague, a papal F-bomb

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What to watch for today

A tense stand-off in Ukraine. A Russian deadline for Ukrainian forces to surrender in Crimea passed without incident, but Russia still looks poised to force the issue. US secretary of state John Kerry will arrive in Kiev for meetings with interim government, and the IMF begins consultations on financial aid to Ukraine.

The White House proposes its budget. President Barack Obama will outline his plans for creating jobs (paywall), paring back the military, and rolling in an extra $1 trillion worth of taxes over the next decade.

Glencore Xstrata strikes gold. The mining giant will report its first full-year earnings since its mega-merger, and is expected to show a strong increase in both copper and gold production. Investors will be watching for hints about a possible Chinese buyout of its Peruvian copper mine.

China sets its growth target. While most analysts expect that the 2014 GDP goal won’t change from last year’s 7.5%, some see the target dropping to 7% amid growing debt and a thick smog smothering Beijing and other northern cities.

Europe’s longest-serving PM resigns. Andrus Ansip, prime minister of Estonia since 2005, will submit his resignation in the hope of boosting his party’s chances of winning the March 2015 general election.

While you were sleeping

Australia kept interest rates constant… The central bank maintained its benchmark rate at 2.5% despite a hot housing market.

…And gave Qantas some much-needed good news. The government said it would look into making it easier for foreign investors to invest in the beleaguered airline, after Qantas posted a huge half-year loss that it blamed on an an uneven playing field with its rival Virgin Australia.

Cameron aide arrested on child porn charges. Patrick Rock was one of the UK prime minister’s chief advisors on policy for online pornography filters. He was arrested after police searched computers at 10 Downing Street.

Facebook mulls internet drones. The company is reportedly in talks to buy Titan Aerospace, which makes drones that can fly for up to five years without needing to land, which could bring internet service to underserved parts of the world.

RJ Reynolds rolled up a possible deal. The tobacco king behind Pall Mall and Camel cigarettes may make an offer for Lorillard (paywall), which is strong in both e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes.

An al-Qaeda trial got under way. Jury selection began in the trial of Suleiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law. He is charged with conspiring to kill Americans and supplying resources to terrorists.

Russian oil got a boost. Vitol, the world’s largest energy trader, is set to lend a further $2 billion to Rosneft (paywall) to fund its global acquisition spree. This adds to the $10 billion loan Vitol and Glencore gave the Russian state oil company last year in return for guaranteed oil supply in the future.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on the new strain of fungus that threatens to wipe out the world’s banana crop. “Tropical Race 4 is a pure killing machine—and not just for Cavendishes. Scores of other species that are immune to Race 1 have no defenses against the new pathogen. In fact, Tropical Race 4 is capable of killing at least 80%—though possibly as much as 85%—of the 145 million tonnes (160 million tons) of bananas and plantains produced each year.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Abenomics may leave quite a mess. The government is fighting an impossible fight, and causing huge damage in the process.

Emerging-markets turmoil has a silver lining. It could make disgruntled voters turf out some bad governments.

Academia does pay. Forget CEOs—university vice chancellors are earning pretty nicely.

There is no gender gap in tech salaries. Women might face other problems in the industry, but pay isn’t one of them.

Surprising discoveries

Bitcoin theft is tax-deductible. One small solace for people who had money in Mt. Gox.

Pope Francis got his blessings and curses mixed up, in a shocking slip of the tongue during his Sunday blessing.

A blood test for death will tell whether you’re likely to kick the bucket in the next five years.

Be thankful for the “polar vortex.” The record-cold US winter is killing off invasive insects that are ravaging forests.

Get a head start on your summer reading. Here are 13 must-read business books about to hit the shelves.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, cursed blessings, and estimated life spans to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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