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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—ECB deflation dilemma, state of the world, Miley Cyrus sanctions, devilish Legos

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 (paywall) 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

Services growth slowed in the UK and euro zone. The euro area services PMI was 52.2 in March, down from 52.6 the previous month. The UK posted its slowest expansion in nine months, with a below-expectations services PMI of 57.6.

Tate & Lyle’s earnings soured. The British sweetener company said that a big drop in the price of Splenda and a decline in soft drinks in the US mean that profits will not improve this year.

strong>Russia sanctions could wreck a Miley Cyrus concert. A Helsinki venue that is set to host Cyrus, Justin Timberlake, and other stars is owned by a Russian-controlled holding company (paywall) that has been singled out by the US.

Gunmen abducted two women from a Malaysian diving resort. One of them was a 28-year-old tourist from Shanghai, complicating efforts by Malaysia and China to patch up their strained relationship after a Malaysia Airlines plane disappeared.

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.

Ukranian riot police were accused of “mass murder.” The disbanded Berkut police force allegedly assassinated most of the 100 protestors who were killed during the anti-government movement that preceded the ouster of Viktor Yanukovich.

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 market. Online shopping is done at the office, 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 hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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