Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Ukraine airstrikes, China-Vietnam naval clash, UK services surge, heavy metal economics

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What to watch for today

European Union leaders try to stem 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 their response, and to start choosing the next European Commission president.

Egypt’s final day at the polls. Voting closes at 6pm London time and results are expected just hours afterwards. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the former army chief who ousted Mohamed Morsi last year, is widely expected to win, and has been little mention of leftist candidate Hamdeen Sabahi at polling stations.

US consumers regain their pre-crisis mojo. Consumer spending makes up 70% the economy, so it’s a good sign that consumer confidence is expected to climb to its highest point since early 2008.

South Africa’s economy slumps. Economic growth is set to drop to 0.2% in the first quarter of 2014—the slowest pace in nearly five years—putting more pressure on newly-re-elected president Jacob Zuma to boost South Africa’s prospects.

A blue chip tech conference kicks off. The three-day Re/code confab will feature onstage interviews with the CEOs of Microsoft, Netflix, Comcast, Wal-Mart, and Twitter. Executives from Apple and Beats are expected to be interrogated about reports of a possible $3.2 billion Apple acquisition.

While you were sleeping

Ukraine struck back against separatists. The country’s armed forces launched air strikes and a paratrooper assault on a pro-Russia militia group that seized the international airport at Donetsk, in a show of defiance against Moscow by newly elected leader Petro Poroshenko. He rejected any talks with “terrorists.”

A Vietnamese fishing boat was sunk in disputed waters. Vietnam said one of its vessels was rammed by a Chinese fishing boat and subsequently went under. The incident took place near a controversial Chinese oil rig, which has sparked heightened tensions in the region, along with deadly riots and and self-immolation in Vietnam.

UK’s service sector is going strong. Activity in the services industries, which account for three quarters of British GDP, rose for a fourth consecutive quarter, and confidence hit its highest level since 1998.

Foxconn agreed to buy into a telecoms carrier. The Taiwanese manufacturer that assembles the iPhone and other devices acquired a $388 million stake in Taiwanese carrier Asia Pacific Telecom, in a move away from low-margin contract manufacturing and into more lucrative consumer markets.

Nigeria knows the location of 300 abducted schoolgirls. The country’s military said it will not use force to get them back (paywall) if doing so endangers the girls. It has been seven weeks since the schoolgirls were abducted by Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.

Wal-Mart’s board came under fire. The mega-retailer needs more independent directors (paywall) to handle a foreign-bribery probe and link executive pay more closely to performance, according to corporate advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services.

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 US should dismantle China’s Great FirewallDenying visas to those responsible (paywall) for internet restrictions would be a good start.

Business cards are here to stay. The physical mementos of face-to-face meetings are more valuable than ever. (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.

Surprising discoveries

The longest-ever commercial is for brisket. 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 are capitalists. The two plants act like buyers and sellers, with fungi even playing tree clients off against each other.

Heavy metal music is an economic indicator. The soundtrack of alienation is most popular in the wealthiest countries in the world.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, marathon meat ads, and death metal playlists to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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