Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Russia sanctions, Underground strike, Toyota shakeup, health drinks

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What to watch for today

Broader US sanctions against Russia. The US plans additional sanctions that could include travel bans, asset freezes, and other measures on companies and individuals close to president Vladimir Putin. Lenders Gazprombank and Vnesheconombank, and Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin are among the likely targets.

A shakeup at Toyota’s US operations. The Japanese automaker plans to move its US sales headquarters from California to Texas. The move would be a blow to California, where Toyota’s Prius has been the top seller for two years.

A two-day strike by workers in London’s Underground. Barring a last-minute breakthrough, union rail workers are expected to walk out Monday evening UK time, bringing a subway system serving about three million commuters to a virtual standstill.

Francois Hollande meets with GE boss to talk Alstom. Jeff Immelt, General Electric’s CEO, will discuss the potential purchase of Alstom’s energy business. The state has no stake in Alstom but is examining options carefully, especially after Siemens made a run for the company over the weekend.

Over the weekend

Obama made progress in Asia. The US president upgraded bilateral relations with Malaysia and secured a 10-year pact that would allow a larger US military presence in the Philippines. The president arrived at the Philippines, his final stop, on Monday.

South Korean prime minister Chung Hong-won resigned. Chung said he was taking responsibility for government lapses in accident prevention, as well as the mishandling of its early response to the sinking of the Sewol passenger ferry, on April 16.

Pfizer confirmed its interest in AstraZeneca. The US drug maker confirmed it made a bid for its British rival in January that could value AstraZeneca at over $100 billion. Shares in AstraZeneca jumped 15% in early trading on the news. German drug maker Bayer meanwhile reported a strong quarter based on growth at its plastics and chemicals business.

BG Group’s CEO resigned. Chris Finlayson stepped down as he forecast the oil and gas multinational’s production would be at the low of the target for the year, because of production problems in Egypt. Finlayson will revert to the position of non-executive chairman.

The UK’s rising house prices began to spread. 48% of districts outside of London reported rising house prices in April—the highest rate in a decade. Rising prices will likely boost consumer spending, but already there are fears of a property bubble (paywall).

Internet Explorer was exposed. Microsoft’s pervasive internet browser is being targeted by hackers who can remotely install software on users’ computers. Microsoft has started work on a fix, but users of Windows XP are not likely to get one, as it stopped updating XP software this year.

Mobile drops at China Telecom. Overall mobile customers fell by 2.4 million subscribers in the first quarter of 2014 from the quarter before, as competition between China’s biggest telecommunications players heats up.

Quartz obsession interlude

Lily Kuo on whether US universities are choosing rich Chinese students over Asian Americans. “American universities, especially elite schools, have been suspected of admitting a disproportionately low number of Asian-American students given their high test scores and academic performance. Over the past five to six years, these schools—faced with less private and public funding—have also started depending on international students who pay full tuition to pick up the bill.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Jokes and indifference help perpetuate male sexual assault. Laughing about what happens in jails means we do not fix the issue.

Mathematicians should think twice before working for the NSA. They are ignoring the fact that their work is being used for ethically questionable purposes.

The finance industry should look to Canada for leadership. Canadians are better at raising their children to believe that it’s more important to be decent than to be rich—and finance needs that moral fiber more than extra regulation.

Social media isn’t driving television viewership. NBC Universal found (paywall) during the Olympics that a show’s ratings are more likely to determine online activity rather than vice versa.

Hillary Clinton has cracked the authenticity code. The presumptive US presidential candidate has showed she’s learned how to turn her Washington-insider status into an asset.

Nonstop, fleeting interactions are the future of humans’ usage of computers. We can look forward to sessions of 10 seconds each, a thousand times a day.

Surprising discoveries

Scientists gave praying mantises 3D glasses. They wanted to see if they would be tricked by 3D images the way humans are, to find out how their vision works.

Hospital technology is frighteningly easy to hack. Poor default security in hospital machines means switching off the blood fridge or controlling CT scanners is scarily easy.

Sometimes film studios forge classic paintings. If it is too risky to use the real one, they may receive permission to make their own—and will sometimes be required to destroy it later.

The office cubicle was designed to free workers. The original designs focused on action and movement, but “crass” office managers wanted to box workers in.

The average man 7,300 years ago was as fit as a teenage cross-country runner today. And cross-country running is one effective way for our enfeebled selves to regain some of their robustness.

Americans are drinking less soda and more coconut water. Sales by the top three players in the US market for the potassium-packed drink have risen nearly 600% since 2009.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, forged artworks, and coconut water to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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