Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Publicis-Omnicom deal collapses, Apple eyes Beats, China inflation slows, the end of Sundays

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What to watch for today

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.

Congress considers pot. The recent decision by the District of Columbia—home to the US government—to decriminalize marijuana possession goes to a Republican-led subcommittee hearing. Even if lawmakers disapprove of the new law, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s done for.

Brazil inflation edges higher. The country’s inflation rate likely rose to 6.41% in April, from 6.15% in March. Its central bank has already raised base interest rates nine times over the past year in an attempt to control inflation.

Credit Suisse faces its shareholders. Chairman Urs Rohner is expected to tell its shareholders the bank management is doing “everything we can” to resolve issues with US authorities. The US is investigating whether its private bankers helped Americans dodge taxes.

Russia celebrates Victory Day. The annual celebration of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany featured more military hardware and a longer running time than usual in Moscow. The event marks the triumph of “all-conquering patriotic force,” Russian president Vladimir Putin told cheering crowds there. He is expected to travel to Crimea for their parade as well.

While you were sleeping

The $35 billion Publicis-Omnicom merger fell apart. The deal to create the world’s largest advertising company was foiled by several factors, including tax structure, different corporate cultures and a clash over who would be CFO. The collapse of the deal is a win for Martin Sorrell, whose WPP Group remains the largest ad company, by revenue, in the world.

Apple may buy Beats for $3.2 billion. The headphones company founded by hip-hop DJ Dr. Dre and music industry honcho Jimmy Iovine would be Apple’s largest acquisition ever (paywall). Buying Beats would give Apple both a high-priced (but frequently counterfeited) electronics brand, and a leg-up in its attempt to move into cloud-based music streaming.

Germany’s exports took a surprise dive. Seasonally adjusted exports were down 1.8% in March from the month before, while imports were down 0.9%. Germany’s trade surplus stood at €14.8 billion ($20.5 billion), missing expectations of €16.6 billion. Slowing demand from China and uncertainty over Ukraine are contributing to the weak trade figures.

Telefonica’s profit fell. Europe’s biggest telecoms company by revenue reported a 23% drop in net profit to €692 million ($957 million) in its first quarter this year, missing an analysts  forecast.

Police subdued a protest in Thailand. Tear gas was used to disperse a crowd in Bangkok after it tried to force its way in to a government compound. Participants want the caretaker government—formed after prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra was ousted—to go before a planned July 20 election.

China’s inflation slowed. The consumer price index rose by a lower-than-expected 1.8% in April, and the producer price index fell 2%, extending longest stretch of PPI declines since 1997. The data heightens concerns about China’s lackluster domestic demand, but may make it easier for Beijing to stimulate the economy to reach a 7.5% growth target.

South Korea’s ferry disaster may hurt the economy. The Bank of Korea said the Sewol ferry catastrophe could impact domestic demand (paywall). The country’s period of mourning is forcing people to cancel festivals, travel, and purchases.

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

North Korea hates black people. Its society is not based on Communism, but on race-based nationalism.

China’s terrorists are getting organized, and it’s time to take them seriously.

Alibaba’s gender diversity puts Silicon Valley to shame. Six of its 18 founding partners are women.

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. 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.

Surprising discoveries

Now you can donate Bitcoin to your favorite political party. But parties must convert the coins into money before banking it.

This bike helmet can be folded into a briefcase—a neat solution for the 83% of bikers who cite the inconvenience of helmets as a reason they don’t use one.

The future of constipation cures is a vibrating pill. It works by triggering bowel contractions.

There is a point to pain. Research on injured squids shows that intense discomfort has evolutionary benefits.

The most popular US female baby name beginning with B is Brooklyn. Except in Brooklyn.

Amazon patented taking a photo against a white background… It probably won’t enforce the patent—it just wants creator’s credit.

…While Huawei trademarked the “groufie.” It’s a group selfie, à la Ellen at the Oscars.

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 You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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