Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—GE’s shopping list, China’s Japan jabs, Obama’s sanctions, robot milkmaids

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What to watch for today

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 about 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—equal treatment for all sites—think this basically destroys it.

Investors perk up over 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.

While you were sleeping

Ukraine’s government reclaimed a city hall. The government building in the eastern port of Mariupol was taken by Ukrainian forces overnight. Several people were reportedly hurt in the action. US president Barack Obama repeated a threat to “follow through” on new sanctions if Russia didn’t help reduce tensions in Ukraine.

Unilever beat expectations. Underlying sales at the consumer goods giant rose 3.6% in the first quarter, although reported sales actually fell, thanks to movements in exchange rates. The company said it would review its North American operations, and is open to the sale of its Ragu pasta sauce and SlimFast brands.

Labor unrest in China disrupted shoemakers’ supply chains. As a strike over benefits and pay at a massive shoe factory in Dongguan, China extended into a ninth day, companies that rely on the plant—including Nike, New Balance, and Puma—began to shift their operations elsewhere. Adidas announced this morning that it was redirecting orders to other suppliers.

General Electric might buy a French power plant maker. Alstom, which also manufactures trains, is rumored to be a target for GE, which could pay $13 billion for the company. It would be the American conglomerate’s biggest-ever acquisition, probably funded by the money it has stored overseas.

China released a Japanese ship… A Chinese court ordered the release of a Japanese vessel after the company that owned it paid $28 million. The court had impounded the Baosteel Emotion based on a dispute that dates back before World War II, the latest in a series of tit-for-tat fights between the countries.

…and detained three traders instead. Three grain traders from Japanese investment house Marubeni were held in China, perhaps on allegations that the unit avoided taxes on soy bean imports.

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 sold alongside beer and wine.

Could a world government work? Albert Einstein thought so.

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

Overfishing causes 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 a 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 to the departed boss.

Surprising discoveries

Astroids hit the Earth more than we think. About every six months, to be precise.

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 less delicious to underwater predators.

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, world government presidential bids, and shark-proof suits to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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