Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Breakfast wars, Ford’s boss, Pandora wars, powdered alcohol

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What to watch for today

Barack Obama flies into a China-Japan spat. The US president embarks on a week-long Asia tour after canceling one last October for the US government shutdown. Is it a coincidence that a Chinese court just impounded a Japanese cargo ship, in the latest flare-up between them. And might North Korea welcome Obama with a nuclear test?

Latest news from the breakfast wars. Both McDonald’s and Yum! Brands (which owns Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC), report earnings. McDonald’s responded to Taco Bell’s Waffle Taco by offering free coffee, but both companies have deeper problems. Food price inflation and stiffer competition are clipping McDonald’s margins, while weakness in China dents expectations for Yum.

Comcast rides high. Analysts are predicting a strong quarter for the US cable firm on the back of high ratings for NBCUniversal’s coverage of the Sochi Olympics and increasing demand for broadband internet. The company also appears ready to absorb Time Warner Cable, which could expand Comcast’s geographical reach—if, that is, the deal ever happens.

AT&T’s copycat strategy reaps rewards. The US telecoms giant’s first-quarter earnings are expected to be up after it took a leaf from the book of upstart competitor T-mobile, by offering plans paid in installments. This gets AT&T out of the trap of having to subsidize handsets, and thus Apple’s profits.

While you were sleeping

Joe Biden rode into a testy standoff. The US vice-president arrived in Kyiv as bodies of supposed Russian separatists showed up in the Donetsk River and Russia accused Ukrainian nationalists of violating a de-escalation agreement. Ukrainian officials meanwhile say they have proof Russian troops are behind takeovers of buildings in eastern Ukraine.

Ford may get a new CEO. Current boss Alan Mulally is reportedly retiring in favor of Mark Fields, the COO. Fields would have big shoes to fill—Mulally saw the car-maker through a near-death experience thanks to cost-cutting and smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles that have done well in both China and the US.

Nike reportedly ditched the Fuelband. It’s reportedly killing its fitness-tracking wristband and focusing instead on software that can run on other companies’ devices, in a sign that compelling “wearables” from giants like Apple and Google are on their way.

Square is supposedly itching to sell. Facing mounting losses, the payments startup created by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey is in talks to sell itself to a bigger and more solvent company, perhaps Google (paywall).

Qatar scaled back its soccer plans. The emirate will build only eight stadiums for the 2022 World Cup instead of the originally planned 12, to keep down spiraling costs. It plans to spend $200 billion on infrastructure including a metro and rail system, a new airport, and 92 training facilities, all, of course, air-conditioned.

Boston ran the marathon. The anniversary of last year’s bombing during the race, which killed three and injured 260 passed off peacefully. An American—the Eritrean-born Meb Keflezighi—won for the first time in three decades, and Skechers, the shoe company that sponsors him, saw its stock jump just under 2%.

Quartz obsession interlude

John McDuling on how the global music industry is trying—and failing—to crush Pandora. “Internet-based music platforms are legitimate businesses now, but tensions between the music establishment and new media remain as bitter as ever. They came to a head in the courts last month in a fascinating case between Pandora Media, now America’s biggest internet radio company, and the 100-year-old American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). It concerned the arcane issue of music publishing royalties, and uncovered some questionable behavior.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The most important book of this decade is wrong. Thomas Piketty’s rapturously reviewed book on the inevitability of inequality is packed with good data but they don’t support his conclusions.

The post-PC era isn’t what you think it is. Apple will probably reveal this week that iPad sales are slowing, which could mean people are replacing PCs with phones, not tablets.

We’re going back to the age of the media baron. With billionaires like Jeff Bezos buying up newspapers, the future could see ad revenue replaced with old-fashioned influence.

Technology adoption is not speeding up. It all depends on when you decide something was “invented”.

Surprising discoveries

A teen survived a flight from California to Hawaii in a plane’s freezing, airless wheel well. Authorities are calling it a miracle.

The Big Bang is not the origin of the universe. According to most Americans.

How to consume powdered alcohol. Number 1: Do not snort it.

Any parent can suffer from postpartum depression. Moms, dads, gay, straight, adoptive, nonbiological—the first five years of a child’s life are rough on everyone.

A “robotic woman” from the Mad Men era. British Pathé, the newsreel archive company, has put its entire catalogue on YouTube  for free, including a “robotic woman”—with all the cliches you would expect from 1968.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, fast-food breakfast haunts, and theories of the origin of the universe to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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