Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Chaos in Iraq, Tanks in Ukraine, China subprime, burrito bonds

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What to watch for today

Bowe Bergdahl steps back on US soil. The army sergeant, who was freed last month from five years of Taliban captivity in exchange for the release of five prisoners from Guantánamo Bay, will continue his rehab at a military hospital in San Antonio. He’s been in Germany since his release.

A possible end to South Africa’s mine strike. After major metals producers reached an agreement with union leaders to end a five-month strike Thursday, unions are soliciting feedback from workers.

Iraq teeters on the edge. After Sunni militants captured a town just 56 miles (90km) to the north of the Iraqi capital on Thursday, Baghdad is expecting an attack. Meanwhile, Kurds are taking more oil-rich land (paywall) for themselves too.

Complaining in Europe gets cheaper. Companies in the EU will no longer be allowed to charge customers more than standard calling rates when they call to make an inquiry or file a complaint—although these changes won’t affect government department helplines.

A spooky night sky. A solar flare on the surface of the sun could send a shockwave through earth and possibly disrupt GPS and communication signals, while a full moon falling on Friday 13th won’t happen again until 2049. If you’re superstitious, stay indoors.

World Cup games. Mexico v Cameroon (5pm BST), Spain v Netherlands (8 pm), Chile v Australia (11pm).

While you were sleeping

Russia sent tanks in to eastern Ukraine. Three Russian tanks reportedly crossed the border to an area with rebel fighting, prompting Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko to tell Russian president Vladimir Putin the situation was “unacceptable.” Russia denies it has sent armoured vehicles.

China started looking like pre-crisis US. Property developers are skirting laws by offering “no money down” mortgages to incentivize people to buy houses, Bloomberg reported—the law states buyers must put down at least a 30% deposit. Talk of a property bubble has become more common even in China, and fears are that confidence in the market is disappearing.

Japan maintained its stimulus.The Bank of Japan said it would continue expanding the monetary base by $688 billion per year, to reach an inflation target of 2%. So far it seems to be working—core prices rose 1.5% in April, even after discounting the sales tax rise.

Clinton’s popularity dropped. Hillary Clinton’s popularity in the US is falling as she takes on a more political role and Republicans push her on the 2012 attack on the US embassy in Libya, dropping from 70% in December to 52%. Recent remarks that Scottish independence would be a loss for both sides may not endear her to some parts of the UK as well.

Tesla’s technology is now yours—if you can find it. In a blog post, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the electric-car company has binned its patents “in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology”—though it seems not to be actually open-sourcing its inventions, just not suing anyone who uses them.

A new gaming giant was formed. Amaya, a Canadian gaming group, bought Oldford Group, the owner of some of the largest online poker sites in the world. The deal was an all-cash purchase for $4.9 billion, and will create the world’s largest publicly-traded online gaming company.

US companies are hoarding overseas. A survey by the FT found that 14 US tech and pharma businesses are holding more cash offshore (paywall)—$497 billion—than all other American companies combined. The companies, which include Microsoft and Google, have cut their effective tax rate by a quarter over the past eight years.

Quartz obsession interlude

Jenni Avins tracks an 80-year relationship between fashion and football. “When the 2014 World Cup soccer players take the field this afternoon, the hemlines of their shorts will hover not far from their knees—not unlike the ones on players in the inaugural 1930 World Cup. Of course, athletic uniforms must be designed for performance, but like all clothing, they’re also affected by the styles of the times. And indeed, our analysis of World Cup shorts over time shows that soccer kits reflected the rising and falling of women’s hemlines.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The Chinese are basically American. Ambition, enterprise, and freedom are what the every day man strives for.

US intelligence keeps getting caught with its pants down. It failed to foresee Crimea and now Iraq.

Meetings aren’t an inherent evil. They’re just usually not run very well. Here’s how to shake them up.

Britain needs to slow down on the deal making. Corporate (and unfriendly) takeovers are happening too often (paywall).

Don’t lean in. Women who negotiate for better pay and conditions may see their careers suffer.

Surprising discoveries

The real winners of the World Cup. British booze companies, Bangladeshi garment factories, and Brazilian sex workers are raking in the cash.

1,000 people simultaneously ate one of the hottest chillies in the world. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

What soccer in a space station looks like. Either painfully awkward or breathtakingly graceful.

Not all bond yields are financial. This Mexican fast-food joint is repaying its bond-holders with burritos.

George W. Bush went skydiving. The former US president jumped from a plane for his 90th birthday. Naturally, there’s video.

A paraplegic took the World Cup’s first kick. He wore an exoskeleton walking suit powered by hydraulics.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, meeting tips, and burrito bonds to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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