Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—State of the world, ECB deflation dilemma, super-sized donations, evil Legos

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What to watch for today

The IMF issues its state-of-the-world report. The group’s World Economic Outlook could shed light on how global economies have been affected by the US Federal Reserve’s decision to wind down monthly bond purchases, as well as political tensions in Ukraine.

Europe deals with deflation. With economies looking a bit more healthy, the European Central Bank isn’t expected to cut its current key rate of 0.25%; some analysts even expect an increase. But the ECB might introduce other measures to inject cash into the economy, after inflation dropped to a four-year low in March.

Walgreens updates its shareholders. The US drugstore chain publishes a trading update that could reveal further details of its cost-cutting plans to close 76 stores. Investors will also be on the lookout for an update on Walgreens’ $6.5 billion purchase of Alliance Boots.

Google’s stock split. The move, first planned two years ago and delayed by a shareholder lawsuit, is designed to ensure that founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin will keep majority control as Google issues new shares. More than 330 million new shares will hit the market, split between two ticker symbols (GOOG and GOOGL).

While you were sleeping

China’s service sector continued to grow. The country’s manufacturers may be hurting, but activity in its service sector hit a four-month high. The Markit/HSBC services PMI was 51.9 in March, up from February’s 51.0—good news for the government’s attempts to encourage domestic consumption.

Australia trade grows, retail slows. The country’s trade balance hit a higher-than-expected A$1.2 billion (US$1.1 billion) in February due to strong natural resources exports, especially to Japan. Retail sales grew only 0.2%, compared with a 1.2% increase in January.

Amazon joined the battle for your living room. For $99, Amazon’s new Fire TV, a set-top box that delivers content to your TV from Amazon Prime, Netflix and YouTube, among others, marks the retailer’s noisy entry into the internet-TV market. Here’s how it compares to its competitors.

The US super-sized political donations. The US Supreme Court ruled to remove the caps on individual political donations on the grounds that they violated the right to free speech. Here’s what that will mean in one graphic, and here’s a takedown of the court’s tortuous logic.

Lyft got a lift. Venture-capitalist firm Andreessen Horowitz and Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba agreed to invest $250 million in Lyft (paywall), a ride-share app that portrays itself as the more casual answer to Uber. This is the latest in a string of US investments by Alibaba, which is building a diversified services empire ahead of its IPO in New York later this year.

Brazil raised its rates. Its central bank raised its benchmark interest rate from 10.75% to 11%, after a surge in food prices strained economy that was already experiencing high inflation.

Quartz obsession interlude

Heather Timmons on how China’s state media and state censors are at odds. “China’s state media have been openly reporting on recent protests, even as censors have been scrubbing news about them from social media… The situation is a good example of the paradox that the Chinese government faces when it tries to acknowledge citizens’ frustrations with growing concerns like the environment, but still tries to censor what they can say.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Twitter activism doesn’t work. Social media campaigns run the risk of distorted messages and divisive communication between like-minded activists.

President Xi Jinping’s purge of corrupt bigwigs is a risky gamble. It could just as easily outrage the people of China as satisfy them.

The internet will be the death of languages. Fewer than 5% of the 7,000 tongues spoken today will survive the digital age.

Inner cities, not suburbs, are best for social mobility. Children born in the bottom 20% income bracket are more likely to reach the top 20% if they live in urban areas.

Indonesia is the world’s most perplexing e-commerce frontier. Online shopping is done at the office, not at home, and the country’s infrastructure makes delivery difficult.

Surprising discoveries

Japan’s yakuza are rebranding. The Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan’s largest crime syndicate, now has a website and its own corporate theme song with an anti-drug message.

Lego is the work of the devil. Or so claims a Polish priest who thinks evil mini-figures are “cloaking the world in darkness.”

Copenhagen’s room service is the most expensive. Although a can of nuts from a mini-bar in Toronto will set you back an average of $18.23.

Computers can now teach other computers. One computer taught another to play Pac-Man, and the student soon surpassed its master.

The best predictors of world events aren’t CIA analysts. They’re just average citizens with access to Google.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, evil toys, and global intelligence analysis to You can follow us on Twitter herefor updates throughout the day.

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