What to watch for today
An unusually complicated Victory Day. May 9 is the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s announcement that Nazi Germany had surrendered, which is usually celebrated by all its former members who fought together. Kiev has cancelled its traditional military parade due to current tensions with Russia.
The House considers pot. The recent decision by the District of Columbia—home to the US government—to decriminalize marijuana possession goes to a Republican-led House subcommittee hearing. Even if they agree to disapprove of the new law, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s scuppered.
Merkel and Hollande have a tête-à-tête. The German and French presidents meet in Stralsund on the Baltic Sea to discuss the situation in Ukraine as well as the takeover battle between Siemens and General Electric for Alstom’s energy arm.
Portugal gets a debt upgrade. Ratings agency Moody’s could bump Portugal’s creditworthiness one notch up from its current rating, Ba3. Analysts expect that Moody’s and S&P will at least lift their outlooks to positive as the country prepares to exit its bailout program without a backup loan.
While you were sleeping
Barclays downsized its investment bank. CEO Antony Jenkins outlined plans to cut 7,000 jobs—that’s about 25%—at the investment bank, creating a “bad bank” to dispose of over half of its £115 billion ($195 billion) in non-core assets. It’s the latest signal that investment banking is dead.
Mario Draghi pushed a decision off to June. The European Central Bank president employed his usual tactic of words as monetary policy, saying the central bank could act next month, potentially dropping rates from their record low 0.25% to tackle worryingly low inflation. Draghi also said the strong euro was a “serious concern.”
Snapchat got a slap on the wrist. The US Federal Trade Commission sentenced the photo-messaging startup to 20 years of independent privacy monitoring for deceiving customers that its images disappear forever and for collecting customer data without permission—a pretty light penalty, considering it led to 4.6 million people’s data being leaked.
Africa’s richest man invested in the north. Aliko Dangote promised to boost jobs by injecting $2.3 billion into sugar and rice production in northern Africa. He also said he would invest $12 billion in Nigeria over the next four years, days after 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped in the region.
Critics panned Comcast’s bid for Time Warner Cable. Opponents of the $45 billion deal told Congress that Comcast abuses its market power (paywall) and will continue to do so if the merger is allowed to go ahead. None of the lawmakers asked regulators to block the merger, though.
Apple may buy Beats. It’s reportedly considering paying $3.2 billion (paywall) for the headphone and streaming music company, its largest acquisition ever, in what looks like a way to pivot from downloads (iTunes) to subscription-based streaming. Beats co-founder Dr Dre was worth an estimated $550 million when the company was valued at $2 billion.
Quartz obsession interlude
Lily Kuo on the race between China and the US to turn naive millennials into spies. “The fact that this kind of covert recruitment occurs isn’t as surprising as each government’s attempts to paint the other as emotionally manipulative and ruthless. It may be a sign that US and Chinese intelligence agencies are waging a war for public opinion, as well as critical information.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Alibaba’s gender diversity puts Silicon Valley to shame. Six of its 18 founding partners are women, compared to the 2% average across American tech.
Smuggling could help unite India and Pakistan. Illicit trade between the two countries may add to pressure to normalize trade ties.
Nintendo should allow gay avatars in its new game. Any simulation of the real world should at least have the option to be diverse and inclusive.
Say goodbye to Sundays. The weekly switch-off won’t be a day of rest for much longer.
In praise of the Eurovision Song Contest. With tensions in Europe running particularly high, the musical quirkfest is more important—and more controversial—than ever (paywall).
The future of constipation cures is a vibrating pill. It works by triggering bowel contractions. So long, laxatives.
There is a point to pain. Research on injured squids shows that feeling pain has evolutionary benefits.
The most popular American female baby name beginning with B is Brooklyn. Except in Brooklyn.
Amazon patented taking a photo against a white background… It probably won’t act on this though—it just wants creator’s credit.
… while Huawei trademarked the “groufie.” It’s a group selfie, à la Ellen at the Oscars.
Journalists are mostly miserable, liberal, over-educated, under-paid, middle-aged men. That about sums it up.
Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, baby names beginning with B, and groufies (non-white backgrounds only please) to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.