Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Modi’s India landslide, China’s bad loans, DSK: The Movie, antique cat memes

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What to watch for today

Thailand tries to find a way out of stalemate. The country’s senate is set to propose the appointment of an interim prime minister, which would infuriate pro-government “red shirts” and raise the prospect of more political violence. More than two dozen people have been already killed in political clashes this year.

High expectations for US housing… Analysts are betting that weak housing starts and building permits for March were due mostly to bad weather. They are also hoping builders will be racing to make up for lost time in April, amid the worst US housing construction slowdown since World War II.

…And for consumer sentiment. The Reuters / University of Michigan mid-May consumer sentiment index is expected to show a moderate rise compared to the end-of-April index. It’s been some time since bad weather drifted away from the US though, so there it is possible that expectations of a continued rise in sentiment may be overoptimistic.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is back in the limelight. Midnight on a private beach in the south of France seems an appropriate place for the first screening of the movie about the former IMF chief’s sex scandal. “Welcome to New York” stars Gerard Depardieu as DSK.

While you were sleeping

Modi won India’s election in a landslide. Indians turned out in record numbers to overwhelmingly ditch the ruling Congress party, which has ruled the world’s largest democracy for most of its post-independence history, and chose BJP leader Narendra Modi to be prime minister (paywall). Indian stocks hit record highs on the news; here’s how it looked on Twitter.

Iran’s ballistic missile plans advanced. A confidential UN report said Tehran is pursuing development of the missiles, which will complicate six-nation talks aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program.

China’s bad loans spiked. The country’s non-performing loans rose by 54 billion yuan ($8.7 billion), to 646.1 billion yuan, in the first quarter as the economy slowed down. It was the 10th consecutive quarterly increase in sour loans, reaching the highest level since 2008.

Bitcoin’s annual meeting started amid controversy. The Bitcoin Foundation—the most prominent trade group pushing for the electronic currency’s adoption—saw at least 10 of its members resign ahead of its annual meeting in Amsterdam. Some cited the election of controversial entrepreneur Brock Pierce to the board, while others simply said the group’s performance has been “abysmal.”

Big investors dumped GM and bought Verizon. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway disposed of 10 million GM shares—a quarter of its position in the company—while David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital got out of the company altogether, according to new regulatory filings. Both investors, along with hedge fund manager John Paulson, boosted their stakes in telecom giant Verizon.

Quartz obsession interlude

Rachel Feltman on why Samsung’s pharmaceutical foray should worry drug companies. “Big pharma has largely ignored the possibility for app-enabled medical devices. Moreover, many consumers are wary of the industry’s focus on the bottom line. It’s likely that no one would want to offer up reams of health data to the companies that design their drugs. However, people trust Samsung as a brand, and are already growing accustomed to tracking and using their health data on mobile devices. With a foot in both industries, Samsung could be poised to create smart, innovative medical tech that’s designed to win over physicians, consumers, and regulatory agencies alike.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

It never hurts to be overconfident. Even if you have no idea what you’re doing, the downsides are minimal.

Robots have the right to free speech. It’s right there in the US constitution.

Venezuela is like a wayward trust-fund kid. “Gauche, confused, spending more money than it has, addicted to oil revenues and in denial.” (paywall)

Bond traders should keep a close eye on the World Cup. Wagers on a grand scale are a perfect laboratory for how markets work. (paywall).

Surprising discoveries

Jupiter’s great red spot is shrinking. Once three times bigger than Earth, the giant hurricane is now just 40% of its size in 1980.

Your city could pay you to be late for work. Easing congestion saves the city money, and you get to skip rush hour.

VR goggles could make chickens think they’re free-range. It’s like The Matrix for poultry.

Cute cat pictures were a thing long before the internet. Here are a whole bunch of them from 100 years ago.

How to catch a tuxedo thief: stake out the prom. Police in Arizona interrogated teenagers as they arrived at the dance after a burglar pinched a $600 tux.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, dystopian chicken sci-fi, and antique viral cat memes to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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