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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Vietnam-China face-off, Ukraine tensions ease, Samsung’s “Midas” exits, the pollen vortex

By Richard Macauley

What to watch for today

Vietnam presses China to withdraw. Hanoi released videos of Chinese ships firing water cannons and ramming Vietnamese vessels near an oil rig that China has established near a disputed island chain. Vietnam, whose stock exchange suffered its biggest loss in a decade, said the moves violate international law.

UK and euro zone interest rate decisions. The Bank of England is set to keep interest rates at a record low of 0.5%, despite concerns over soaring house prices. The European Central Bank is likely to push off quantitative easing yet again, ignoring calls to counteract the threat of deflation.

News Corp beholds the decline of print. As Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper and book publishing empire reports earnings, investors will be looking for how well it’s dealing with an ongoing downturn in advertising, circulation, and subscription revenues.

Wendy’s tries to maintain its sizzle. The fast food chain outperformed both Burger King and McDonald’s in three out of four quarters in 2013, thanks to its Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger. McDonald’s is also slated to report April sales figures.

While you were sleeping

Tensions in Ukraine eased slightly. Pro-Russian activists are considering Vladimir Putin’s suggestion that a May 11 referendum on autonomy ought to be delayed, while Kiev said it is ready to talk—but not to “terrorists.” Germany welcomed Putin’s “constructive tone.”

Barclays slashed jobs. The British bank will cut 7,000 jobs from its investment bank and plans to eliminate 14,000 jobs across the firm this year—up from the 12,000 it announced in February. CEO Anthony Jenkins said the bank needs to focus on areas where it has “capability, scale, and competitive advantage.”

Standard Chartered saw no second-quarter let-up. Weak market conditions in the first quarter dragged on through April and into May. The London-based bank relies on Asia for 80% of its income; losses in South Korea and slow growth in Asia in general both contributed to its weak performance.

Li Ka-shing entered a race for Australian gas. The Hong Kong billionaire challenged APA Group for Envestra, one of Australia’s largest natural gas distribution companies, by making a cash offer that values the company at A$2.4 billion ($2.3 billion).

The ousted Thai PM’s woes deepened. Yingluck Shinawatra, removed by a constitutional court on Wednesday, was indicted by an anti-corruption court on charges of negligence in the country’s disastrous rice subsidy scheme, which could lead to a five-year ban from politics.

Samsung replaced its mobile design chief. Chang “Midas” Dong-hoon, the architect of the company’s flagship Galaxy smartphone line, stepped down following a tepid reaction to the latest Galaxy S handset, which raised fears that Samsung has lost its golden touch.

Employment in Australia stabilized. The number of employed people rose by 14,200 in April, beating a Bloomberg median estimate of 8,800, while the unemployment rate held steady at 5.8%. The positive news will be a boost for the central bank, which has kept interest rates at a record low of 2.5%.

Quartz obsession interlude

Max Nisen on the four problems that irritate Amazon but threaten Alibaba’s existence. “Included in Alibaba’s highly anticipated IPO filing was a reminder that despite the benefits and wealth it has reaped from China’s massive population, being a Chinese corporate giant—particularly one based on the internet—isn’t a walk in the park. In its filing, Alibaba reminded investors of some of the unique issues it faces. These are challenges that any company operating in China has to deal with, but since Alibaba gets nearly all of its revenue from China, and likely will for some time to come, they present several major threats.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Chinese stocks are a good investment. Equities may have fallen 8% in the year to date, but they’re still a cheap buy.

The rich should have more children. Dividing inheritances among more kids would prevent wealth from concentrating.

It’s time to check the phrase “check your privilege.” Just because someone’s white and male doesn’t mean they should be apologetic.

Putin is doing wonders for the US economy. He’s scaring investors out of Russia and into low-risk US government debt.

A book is more than the sum of its printed words. Annotations in the margins of physical books aid the exchange of ideas.

Surprising discoveries

Everybody’s hugging in China. Traditional culture once disdained physical contact, but now the tables have turned.

Friday the 13th is more common than you think. In fact, the 13th of each month is more likely to be a Friday than any other day of the week.

The “pollen vortex” is coming. A particularly harsh winter is over, but a more allergenic summer is yet to come.

You could get way more compensation from flight delays. You guessed it: There’s an app for that.

The inexorable rise of Godzilla. As skyscrapers have gotten taller, Godzilla has kept pace.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, antihistamines, and Godzilla trivia to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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