Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Ukraine fighting, Alibaba’s postal deal, London’s bad air, insect snacks

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What to watch for today

Retaliation in Ukraine? A strike against pro-Russian rebels who took an airport in Donetsk left more than 30 dead, and could escalate the Russia-Ukraine clash, or bring president Petro Poroshenko and Russian officials to the negotiating table.

Toll Brothers may confirm a US property pickup. The luxury home builder reports its second-quarter results, as the US property market gains momentum. Bad weather in the early part of the year dampened building starts and consumer spending.

The Fed is hiring. After Jeremy Stein resigns from the board (paywall) of the US central bank to return to his previous job at Harvard, there will be three vacancies among the rate-setting committee’s seven seats. Former Bank of Israel governor Stanley Fischer was confirmed to the board yesterday.

The Tea Party wins in Texas. Two conservatives aligned with Tea Party favorite—and potential presidential candidate—Ted Cruz are likely to be announced the winners of a Republican run-off for candidates for lieutenant governor and attorney general.

Affordable housing takes center stage. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund kick off the sixth annual Global Housing Finance Conference in Washington, in an attempt to bring more affordable housing to citizens across the globe.

While you were sleeping

Alibaba took a stake in Singapore Post. The Chinese online retailer bought 10.4% of the national delivery provider for S$312.5 million ($249 million). They plan to cooperate on international logistics, as Alibaba pushes international sales.

Britain investigates GlaxoSmithKline. The UK’s Serious Fraud Office opened a criminal investigation into the drug maker and its subsidiaries, which is already facing fraud charges in China.

China’s “golden era” for property ended… Vanke, the country’s largest property developer, is now making homes for owner-occupiers, not for investors. President Yu Liang said that the downturn is coming, and selling to buyers who want to live in the homes they purchase will be a source of stability after decades of selling to those hoping to flip homes for a quick profit.

…But international investors can invest in hospitals. China will relax investment rules on healthcare, as it attempts to build a more efficient and modern health system, allowing international investors to hold a larger proportion of joint ventures. McKinsey estimates spending on healthcare in China will triple to $1 billion in the next six years.

Edward Snowden said he was a spy. In his first interview with a US television network, the NSA whistleblower says he was trained as a spy and worked overseas as an undercover agent for the CIA and NSA.

London has the worst air in Europe. Concentrations of nitrogen dioxide in the British capital were at higher levels than even Beijing, Bloomberg reports, thanks to a push for diesel vehicles in recent years. London’s Marylebone Road was the worst spot for NO2 in Europe—the second and third spots were both in Stuttgart.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on why China’s war on pollution is bad for its economy. “Recent analysis of economic data by Wei Yao, an economist at Société Générale, found that ‘Chinese policymakers are getting serious about air pollution.’ So serious, in fact, that those efforts are already hurting GDP performance—something the government has so far shown to be its biggest priority. Yao says GDP will slow 0.35 percentage points cumulatively from 2014 to 2017 because of air pollution mitigation efforts, and she expects the economy to take the biggest blow this year.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

A good coup is just what Thailand needs. It’s unlikely politicians will sort themselves out on their own.

In support of the low-profile commencement speaker. There’s a lot to be said for speakers who don’t charge $35,000 to show up.

Ukraine’s new government should head east. It needs to stick to its promise to be inclusive towards the whole country.

The internet no longer serves the public interest. Tech giants’ relentless corporatization and winner-take-all attitudes are making a mess of the web.

“Global warming” is a more effective term than “climate change.” The latter is more accurate, but “global warming” sounds scarier.

Amazon is putting customers last. It’s punishing them for its failure to reach agreements with suppliers, and that’s going to lose it business.

Surprising discoveries

Skype will soon live-translate your voice. It’s already good enough to work from English to German.

Google’s next driverless car doesn’t have brakes or a steering wheel. There is a panic button though.

It can take 45 days to create a single corporate tweet. In this case, the tweet got zero retweets and two favorites.

Seoul is the most Starbucks-saturated city. With 284 locations, it just beats the second-ranked city: New York.

A farm that breeds insects for human consumption just opened in Ohio. Crickets, for example, are a high-protein snack.

Tinder is being overrun with tiger photos. So many men have posed with big cats (paywall) in their dating profile pictures that a backlash has begun.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, corporate tweet advice, and cricket recipes to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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