Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Sushi diplomacy, China’s Japan jabs, Apple’s surprise, robot milkmaids

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What to watch for today

Obama and Abe get serious. The US president sits down to talk turkey with the Japanese prime minister after they broke the ice last night over sushi. Obama assured Japan the US would back it in a territorial dispute with China, but his hopes of closing the deal on a Pacific free-trade pact may be for naught.

The first earnings report from Microsoft’s new CEO. Satya Nadella, who took over after a long and tortuous leadership search, has a chance to burnish his image with good news from the company’s push into cloud computing.

An uneasy compromise on net neutrality. US telecom regulators are set to announce (paywall) new rules that would let internet providers charge websites preferential rates for faster access (much as Comcast charges Netflix today) but not slow sites down. Advocates of net neutrality—i.e., equal treatment for all sites—think this basically destroys it.

Investors perk up over their Starbucks. The coffee chain’s push into Asia—and a smart call on advance coffee bean orders—have shareholders expecting caffeinated returns when the company announces earnings today.

While you were sleeping

Apple beat the heat but will split its stock. Apple disappointed expectations for sales growth but announced a 4.6% increase in revenue in the first quarter (thanks to its iPhones—iPad sales declined more than expected). It also announced a seven-for-one stock split to make its stock a cheaper buy for retail investors.

Facebook notched one billion active mobile users. Shares rose after the social media site posted growing year-over-year earnings and ad revenue, though results dipped from last quarter.

China released a Japanese ship… A Chinese court ordered the release of a Japanese vessel after the company that owned it paid up. The court had impounded the Baosteel Emotion based on a pre-World War II dispute, in the latest in a series of tit-for-tat fights between the countries.

…and detained three traders instead. Three traders for Japan’s Marubeni Corp’s grain trading unit in China were held, perhaps on allegations the unit avoided taxes on soy bean imports.

Signs of a skewed US housing market. New home sales fell 13% in March, the fastest rate since 2011, but strangely, prices continue to rise. Inequality is likely part of the story.

Amazon snagged HBO’s lucrative streaming library. The cable network’s popular shows will be available as part of Amazon’s Prime program, putting immediate pressure on Netflix.

Quartz obsession interlude

Christopher Mims on the impending limits to Apple’s growth. “It is, literally, the end of an era—financially, the biggest bull run of any technology company in history, from $13.931 billion in revenue in 2005 to $170.910 billion in 2013. Apple is still the most valuable public company in the world, a bet by investors that Apple will continue to grow—and it has, until now. What’s interesting isn’t that Apple has plateaued—the markets already knocked $45 billion off of Apple’s valuation when the company announced its revenue projections for this past quarter three months ago—but why.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Alcohol in Starbucks could “infect” its other offerings. People who don’t like alcohol could be turned off coffee if it is next to beer and wine.

Could a world government work? Albert Einstein thought it could.

The discovery of habitable planets is not good news for humans. The fact that we’ve had no messages from alien civilizations might mean civilizations tend to self-destruct.

Overfishing could be causing piracy. Though they’re declining elsewhere in the world, violent attacks are up in crucial East Asian shipping corridors, where dwindling fish stocks are making fishermen desperate.

Buying a house may be a better investment than buying stock. On the magic of government subsidies.

What every company should learn from Manchester United’s succession saga. Step 1: Don’t set up an ossified cult around a long-serving boss.

Surprising discoveries

The Google Nexus-killer has arrived. China’s latest smartphone maker released a world-class phone for $299.

Now, robots are milking cows. And the cows like it.

We know where all the world’s young and rich people live. By looking at customer usage maps from Uber.

Your car could become a mobile telecom tower. But no texting and driving, please.

An anti-shark wetsuit with killer style. A way for surfers to appear much less delicious.

Up to 27% of America’s imported tuna is contraband. Those last two bites of your spicy tuna roll are contributing to over-fishing.

A decent in-flight movie screen costs $10,000. Onerous safety rules make the electronics exorbitantly expensive.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, robot milk, and above-board tuna to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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