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Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Fast food wars, Ford’s boss, Netflix is winning, powdered alcohol

By Quartz Staff

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. He arrives just as a Chinese court impounded a Japanese cargo ship, the latest flare-up between the two countries.

Fast food giants report earnings. Both McDonald’s and Yum! Brands (owner of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC), report earningsFood 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 NBC Universal’s coverage of the Sochi Olympics and increasing demand for broadband internet. The company also appears ready to absorb Time Warner Cable.

AT&T’s copycat strategy reaps rewards. The US telecoms giant’s first-quarter earnings are expected to rise after it took a leaf from the T-Mobile book and offered installment plans. This gets AT&T out of the trap of having to subsidize handsets, and thus Apple’s profits.

While you were sleeping

Japan and the US face issues over trade. Japan’s economics minister said he sees significant distance between Japan and the US over a broad trade agreement. A deal with Japan is critical to the 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is important to Obama’s expansion in Asia.

Ford’s CEO announced his retirement. Current boss Alan Mulally is reportedly stepping down in favor of Mark Fields, the COO. Fields would have big shoes to fill—Mulally saw the car-maker through a near-death experience with cost-cutting and smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Nike’s Chinese shoe supplier tried to stop strikes. Yue Yuen, whose clients include Nike and Adidas, said it offered its workers an extra 230 yuan ($37) per month in wages, in addition to other benefits. Factory staff had been on strike for six days, as an increasing number of Chinese workers demand higher salaries.

Netflix reported good earnings and higher fees. The video streaming service beat expectations with the announcement of 4 million new subscribers in the quarter. The company said it would add $1-$2 per month to subscription packages, and plans to acquire 1.46 million new subscribers in the second quarter.

Ackman teamed with Valeant to bid for Allergan. Activist investor William Ackman made the unusual move of teaming with drug-maker Valeant to buy wrinkle-treatment maker Allergan Inc. Ackman has been known recently for a public short of Herbalife.

Boston ran the marathon. The race passed peacefully, a year after the bombing that killed three and injured over 260. Skechers, the shoe company that sponsored the winning runner Meb Keflezighi, 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

iOS 8 will have a healthbook built in. Your phone will let you know how healthy you are.

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 that doesn’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, non-biological—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, robotic journalists, and theories of the origin of the universe to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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