Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—FCC net neutrality, euro zone disappoints, Japan’s surge, Flappy Birds comeback

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What to watch for today

The FCC rules on net neutrality. The five-member board of the US communications regulator is set to vote on whether cable companies and other ISPs will be allowed to accept payment for faster service. So-called “internet fast lanes” are vociferously opposed by net-neutrality advocates and firms like Netflix.

Fast-food service gets slow. Workers in fast food chains across six continents are striking over low pay, and protests are planned at hundreds of McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC branches around the world.

Wal-Mart sings the winter blues. The US retail chain is set to post a slight drop in first quarter profits, dragged down by store closures and a harsh winter. Wal-Mart could have better news from its e-commerce sales, though—they rose about 30% last year.

A gloomy outlook for Russia, which is is heading for its slowest economic expansion in five years. First-quarter GDP growth is predicted to be just 0.7%, versus 2% growth in the previous quarter. If Vladimir Putin thought a natural gas deal with China would save the Russian economy, he may be sorely disappointed.

While you were sleeping

Euro zone growth disappointed. GDP grew by a less-than-expected 0.2% in the first quarter due to weakness in France and Italy. April inflation was 0.7%—slightly higher than the 0.5% recorded in March. The lackluster growth and low inflation will put pressure on the European Central Bank to stimulate the economy.

France gave itself new anti-takeover powers. The government strengthened measures that would allow it to block a foreign takeover—like, say, General Electric’s contentious bid for Alstom.

Japan’s GDP rose at its fastest pace in three years. Consumers trying to beat a sales tax rise pushed Japan’s GDP growth to an annualized 5.9%, ahead of analyst expectations (and, if only briefly, China). Separately, the Bank of Japan said consumer prices and nominal wages are rising, suggesting that the inflation outlook is improving.

An alleged Russian operative took control in eastern Ukraine. “Colonel Igor Strelkov” assumed command of pro-Russian forces in Donestk region and called for Russian support against Ukraine’s military.

More anti-China violence in Vietnam. At least one people was killed  and scores injured as Vietnamese protesters burned and looted foreign-owned factories they believed to be Chinese, but were in fact Taiwanese, in anger over Beijing’s oil rig in contested waters.

A bomb killed three and injured dozens in Bangkok. The explosion at an anti-government protest site is the worst incident to hit the country since February. Acting prime minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan was also forced to flee a meeting on an air force base when protesters stormed the grounds, and the election commission called off a scheduled vote in July.

Sprint and T-Mobile may get a chance after all. US regulators may not be as united against a merger (paywall) between the wireless companies as it once seemed, the Wall Street Journal reported. One FCC commissioner expressed concern that two companies might not survive on their own.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on how China may have missed its chance to stop its housing bubble from popping. ”China’s housing market is slumping fast: major developers have slashed prices as much as 15% since March, reports Bloomberg, and housing starts fell 25% in the first quarter of 2014, according to Nomura. Heavily reliant on housing investment, China’s economic growth is swooning. The People’s Bank of China finally took action earlier today, ordering big banks to start churning out more mortgages to homebuyers. Will more mortgages fix the problem? Analysts are skeptical.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The New York Times’ executive editor wasn’t fired (just) because of sexism. Jill Abramson’s relationship with Arthur Sulzberger Jr was poisoned from the start.

The Nigerian military is almost as bad as Boko Haram. Security forces are known for theft, beatings, and arbitrary executions.

Lucky streaks are real, even if luck isn’t. Gamblers make smarter bets after winning, and dumber bets after losing.

Don’t sell your ideas using someone else’s name. It diminishes your authority and undersells your idea, says Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey.

Blame Thomas Edison for your sleep deprivation. “No one did more to frame the issue as a simple choice between productive work and unproductive rest.”

Surprising discoveries

Military infographics are amazing. The Pentagon’s Powerpoint jockeys love fighter jets and name-checking the commander-in-chief.

Android switchers can get stuck in iPhone purgatory. The SMS-replacement iMessage app is never gonna let you go.

The US government has a zombie apocalypse plan. It comes with a disclaimer: “This plan was not actually designed as a joke.”

Flappy Birds is making a comeback. The cult hit mobile game will be “less addictive” this time, says creator Dong Nguyen.

Modern art is getting crazier. After a record-setting $745 million auction, one art dealer said: “I don’t know what money means anymore.”

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, anti-Edison rants, and favorite military infographics to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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