Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Ballmer’s a baller, Google’s forgetting requests, Indonesia tests Cadbury, villains gone soft

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What to watch for today

Scotland’s independence campaign kicks off. Supporters claim leaving the UK would boost the Scottish economy by £5 billion a year, while opponents cite the cost of building a new state and creating new policies. The BBC has a nice sentiment tracker on the referendum, which will be held on September 18.

Consumer spending rises slowly in the US. An increase of just 0.2% is expected in April after spending rose 0.9% in March. Personal incomes are also likely to show an increase of 0.3% in April.

BNP Paribas faces a $10 billion penalty. The French bank is about to be fined by US regulators for breaking sanctions against Iran and other blacklisted countries, the Wall Street Journal reports. The bank set aside $1 billion for potential legal charges earlier this year, so the rumor of a much larger penalty sent investors scurrying.

Sparks fly in Singapore. The annual security summit known as the Shangri-La Dialogue will kick off with a keynote speech from Japan’s nationalistic prime minister, Shinzo Abe. He is expected to confront China about its increasingly assertive stance in the South and East China Seas.

Bad news in Brazil. The country’s statistics agency is on strike, but it will still release GDP data showing that growth nearly ground to a halt in the first quarter. Amid ongoing protests against the money being spent on the World Cup, the main federal workers union is set to discuss joining the work stoppage.

While you were sleeping

Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer agreed to buy the Los Angeles Clippers. The former Microsoft CEO will pay a record $2 billion for the NBA team that was thrown into chaos by a recording of owner Donald Sterling making racist comments. Ballmer’s move into the owner’s suite means that the tech sector’s takeover of major league sports is picking up speed.

Indonesia tested Cadbury chocolate for pork DNA. Following Malaysia’s discovery that trace amounts of pork were present in some Cadbury products, Indonesia—home to the world’s largest Muslim population—is following suit. The country’s Food and Drug Monitoring Agency said results would be back within days.

The Fortune 500 is seeking ”CISOs.” Chief information security officers are in demand in the wake of devastating hacking attacks like the one that cost Target’s CEO his job. JPMorgan and PepsiCo are among the major firms currently looking to fill CISO positions, Reuters reports.

Li Ka-shing agreed to buy Envestra. The Hong Kong mogul’s Cheung Kong Group agreed to pay $2.2 billion for the Australian natural gas distributor, after beating a rival bid from APA Group. Envestra owns 23,000 km (14,000 miles) of gas pipelines that supply customers in Victoria and South Australia.

Japan’s economy took a tax-hike hit… Industrial output growth fell 2.5% in April as consumers kept their wallets shut in response to a steep sales tax increase. Because of the hike, consumer prices rose 3.2%, the biggest increase in 23 years.

…And the IMF cast doubt on its inflation targets. Japan will not reach its inflation target of 2% until 2017, the IMF said—two years later than prime minister Shinzo Abe’s goal.

Google begrudgingly accepted an EU privacy ruling. The company launched a service where citizens can request link takedowns, but CEO Larry Page told the Financial Times that giving individuals “the right to be forgotten” could damage startups and strengthen oppressive governments (paywall).

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on why US companies can earn $51 billion in the Cayman Islands even though its GDP is only $3 billion. “The foreign subsidiaries of US corporations made $94 billion in Bermuda in 2010, the latest year we have data for. That’s incredible work, since only $6 billion of goods and services were produced on the island that year. What does that tell us? It tells us that something fishy is going on.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Ukraine is a lifeline for the EU. A closer relationship could prevent the EU from becoming a mere confederation of creditors and debtors, says George Soros.

The sharing economy is feeding off economic misery. It encourages people to become part-time cabbies and hoteliers out of necessity.

To spot the next bubble, follow the Harvard grads. They tend to flock to the plushest pastures, and “the getting looks best right before a crash.”

Disney’s villains have gone soft. Modern bad guys now have redeeming qualities and backstories.

India and Pakistan: the beginning of a beautiful friendship. As long as the US keeps out of it, that is.

Surprising discoveries

Mario’s new kart is a Mercedes. Nintendo’s plumber is branching out into brand advertising.

The Earth used to have two moons, until “The Big Splat” combined them into the moon we know today.

A restaurant reservation may soon cost you… With an app as the middleman, of course.

…And so will that seat upgrade. Cathay Pacific is contemplating introducing auctions for empty premium seats.

The modern man needs a “man bra.” For holding all his wearable tech.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, favorite Disney villains, and mansierre/bro designs to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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