Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Melting ice sheets, Facebook in China, Pfizer’s charm offensive, whiskey-flavored pigs

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What to watch for today

Some good news on China’s economy. Industrial production in April is expected to hold steady, which would buck a long list of macro-economic trends that point to slowing growth in the world’s second-largest economy.

Australia delivers its toughest budget in 20 years. Prime minister Tony Abbott is set to cut spending drastically, slash thousands of jobs, and clamp down on welfare benefits (paywall). Despite an election pledge not to raise taxes, he is also likely impose an extra levy on high-income earners.

Carl Icahn makes waves. The activist investor who owns 2.2% of eBay may speak up at its shareholder meeting and has nominated several directors. Despite withdrawing his call for a PayPal spin-off, he still believes it would operate better as a separate unit.

Sony tries to turn it around. The struggling electronics giant is set to post its fourth loss in five years. CEO Kazuo Hirai and other senior managers will forgo their annual bonuses (paywall) and take pay cuts of up to 50%.

The death of the dumbphone? Motorola will unveil the Moto E, a $99 smartphone that’s within reach of many people who might previously have bought a ”dumb” or “feature” phone. Here are the specs.

White Marilyn goes on sale. Christie’s expects the iconic Andy Warhol portrait, created right after Marilyn Monroe died in 1962, to fetch $12-18 million at auction in New York.

While you were sleeping

West Antarctica is melting. A NASA study found global warming is melting the ice sheet far faster than previously predicted, and could lead to an unstoppable rise in sea levels of 4-12 feet (1.2-3.7 meters) over the next century.

Modi is on track to win India. Narendra Modi’s BJP party and its allies will win between 249 and 340 seats, according to six exit polls; 272 seats are needed for a majority. The news will likely push Indian stock markets even higher.

Pfizer considered raising its AstraZeneca bid again. The US company is preparing to increase its current £50 ($84) per share offer and increase the cash portion of the bid, Bloomberg reports. Pfizer CEO Ian Read will try to assure the House of Commons business select committee that the takeover won’t hurt British jobs (paywall).

AT&T edged closer to buying DirecTV for $50 billion. The two companies are in active talks over an offer in the low-$90s per share, compared with DirecTV’s Monday closing price of $87.16, according to Reuters. The second-largest US wireless carrier and the satellite TV firm could reportedly agree to a deal within weeks.

Facebook shopped for a China sales office. The company is looking for space in Beijing to service customers in mainland China, despite the social network being blocked there, Bloomberg reports. A local sales office could help Facebook will target Chinese app developers and other companies trying to reach a broader audience.

Hipsters made beer more expensive. The rising popularity of craft beers (paywall), which use more hops than regular beer, has sent the price of hops from about $7 to $10 a pound over the past five years. The number of craft breweries in the US increased by 15% last year.

Quartz obsession interlude

Jason Karaian on why Russia’s markets aren’t a good guide to what investors think. ”Russian markets are right where they were at the beginning of April, even though tensions have steadily grown since. Western officials, including the EU in its announcement of additional sanctions today, cite Ukraine’s presidential election on May 25 as a key milestone that will determine its response to Russia.Russian president Vladimir Putin called the election a ‘step in the right direction’ last week, boosting Russian assets at the time. But with few signs that the sides are pulling back from the brink—quite the opposite—ahead of the crucial national vote, why do markets seem so sanguine?” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Violent video games don’t make people violent. But they may raise aggression in lab tests.

Alibaba’s war with Tencent will define both companies. The winner will become China’s dominant internet player (paywall); the loser, an also-ran.

Too many book designers are lazy, ignorant, or both. Many books about Africa have exactly the same tree on the cover.

Millennials are killing the US housing recovery. High debt, low credit and societal trends are keeping young people from buying.

Climate change is contributing to terrorism. Warmer temperatures are boosting urban poverty and increasing competition for resources.

Surprising discoveries

Legal weed leads to cheaper heroin. Mexican pot farmers stung by cheap US competition are now producing opium instead.

Get some bourbon in your bacon. A distillery near Iowa is breeding whiskey-flavored pigs.

Your LinkedIn profile can tip off the cops. Pro-tip: Don’t connect with someone to whom you’re feeding insider-trading information.

Car headlamps are good for cannabis. Gangs are nicking LED bulbs from luxury vehicles to use as growing lamps.

Strange British habits include lunchtime pints, stunted conversation, and sweetcorn in tuna, according to the rest of Europe.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, whiskey pig recipes, and unique African book covers to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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