What to watch for today
European Union leaders try to control the skeptic tide. “Business as usual” is over, said UK prime minister David Cameron, after Euroskeptic parties claimed some 30% of seats in Europe’s parliament. Leaders of the 28 member states meet in Brussels to discuss winning back support and to start choosing the next European Commission president.
US consumer confidence returns to pre-crisis levels. Analysts expect this figure—important because consumer spending contributes 70% of GDP—to rise toward the 83.0 mark, after dipping to 82.3 in April. This would be its highest point since early 2008.
South Africa’s economic growth slumps to a five-year low. The nation’s economic growth is set to drop to 0.2% in the first quarter of 2014—its slowest pace in nearly five years—down from 3.8% at the end of last year. At his inauguration over the weekend, president Jacob Zuma vowed to concentrate his second term on South Africa’s economic growth.
Re/code’s conference kicks off. The three-day US tech confab includes the CEOs of Microsoft, Netflix, Comcast, Wal-Mart, and Twitter. Executives from Apple and Beats are expected to be interrogated onstage about whether reports of a $3.2 billion Apple purchase of the music company are true.
While you were sleeping
Pfizer gave up on AstraZeneca. The 5pm deadline came and went without the pharma giant tabling a firm offer for the Anglo-Swiss company, after saying it couldn’t improve on $117 billion. AstraZeneca can reopen the discussion in three months, or Pfizer must wait six months to make a new bid.
Rio Tinto regained its West African foothold. Rio Tinto and Guinea agreed to a $20 billion deal over Simandou (paywall), a major iron ore deposit, six years after the mining giant was stripped of its rights in part of Simandou.
Egyptians headed to the polls. Reporters around the country said there was little mention of leftist candidate Hamdeen Sabahi at polling stations on Egypt’s first day of voting. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the former army chief who ousted Mohamed Morsi last year, is widely expected to win.
Russia and Ukraine continued to battle. Russia told nine Ukrainian banks to withdraw operations from Crimea, accusing them of violating clients’ rights by suspending activity after the region voted to secede from Ukraine. Meanwhile, Ukrainian troops fired on pro-Russian separatists who seized an airport terminal in eastern Ukraine.
Quartz obsession interlude
Leo Mirani on why Apple’s latest “cheap” smartphone release in India is baffling. “A big driver of smartphone usage in India is the consumption of audio and video, mostly Bollywood songs and films, as Tech2, an Indian tech blog, points out. Unlike their counterparts in the West, the vast majority of Indians tend not to pay for and download licensed copies from online sources. Instead, they visit their neighborhood mobile phone shop/chai stall/paan vendor, who often has a sideline in downloading content off the internet and copying it customers’ removable SD cards for a nominal fee. In the absence of a removable card, iPhone users must make do with the phone’s on-board memory. While the people who buy iPhones and the folks who fill up their SD cards tend to fall in different demographics, an eight-gigabyte device doesn’t leave very much space for video content—however it’s been obtained—after users are done downloading Facebook, WhatsApp and a few games.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
The real winner in the EU elections was democracy. Turnout may have been low, but more power now lies with voters, not the leaders.
Lab-grown meat would be prohibitively pricey. At $242 per pound, it’s about 50 times more expensive than regular meat.
Business cards are here to stay. With more people connecting online, the personal meeting—and its physical memento—are becoming more valuable (paywall).
Narendra Modi’s government could mark a new beginning. The cabinet is more female, less wealthy, and almost entirely educated on home turf.
Ukrainians are more European than the French.
While France was
voting for the far-right anti-EU party
, Ukraine elected a pro-Europe president.
The longest-ever commercial is for brisket. Aired on television in Minnesota, the 13-hour-long ad shows meat being smoked…and smoked…and smoked.
Egyptians can vote with their hearts. “I love you” or heart shapes written on ballot papers will count as legitimate votes in Egypt’s election.
Trees and fungi have a business-like relationship. The two plants act like buyers and sellers in a capitalist market—with fungi even playing tree clients off against each other.
Heavy metal music tells you a lot about a country’s economic health. The number of heavy metal bands in a country correlates positively with its wealth and affluence.
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