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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Ukraine gas breakdown, ISIL’s Iraq gains, passports for bitcoins, soccer etymology

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What to watch for today

Alstom’s bidding war heats up. Siemens and Mitsubishi will make a joint offer for Alstom’s energy arm, challenging General Electric’s $16.9 billion bid. The German company hopes that bringing in the Japanese conglomerate will remove concerns about combined market power in Europe.

Ecuador gets back in the game. It is set to return to the bond market any day now, selling US dollar-denominated debt for the first time since 2008, when it defaulted on bonds worth $3.2 billion. Investors are expected to snap up $700 million in bonds, attracted by the near-7% yields.

The US housing market gains confidence. The National Association of Home Builders housing market index is expected to inch up to 47 this month, from 45 in May. A score of 50 or over signals expansion—it has been treading water below that line since February.

Mexico’s energy reform plans near completion. Mexican lawmakers will discuss the country’s controversial energy reforms, which will open up the sector to private investment after 75 years of state ownership.

A French rail strike enters its sixth day. As a result of the travel disruption, students taking the baccalauréat exams—required if they want to go to university—will get extra time if they show up late today.

World Cup fixtures. Germany v Portugal (12pm EDT), Iran v Nigeria (3pm), Ghana v USA (6pm).

Over the weekend

Ukraine-Russia gas talks failed… Gazprom has moved Ukraine to a prepayment plan because of Ukraine’s ”chronic non-payment of its gas bills.” From now on, Ukraine will only receive gas after it has paid for it, making the third ”gas war” in eight years between the two countries increasingly likely.

…After Ukraine suffered a bloody day of conflict. Pro-Russian rebels shot down a Ukrainian military jet, killing 49 people. They said they would shoot down any more planes that try to land at the airport in Luhansk, a separatist region in eastern Ukraine. President Petro Poroshenko urged the West to put further sanctions on Russia (paywall).

Ireland’s tax laws lure another US company. Minneapolis-based Medtronic, one of the biggest medical device makers in the world, agreed to buy Dublin-based Covidien, for $42.9 billion. The new company will be based in Ireland, which will shield $14 billion in cash from US taxes.

Colombians re-elected a peacemaker president. President Juan Manuel Santos won a second term, offering him a chance to continue his 19-month-old peace talks with Marxist rebels. Santos won the election with 50.9% of the votes, against an opponent predicted to escalate conflict.

Pakistan sent troops north. Troops, artillery, and helicopter gunships attacked rebels in an air strike before launching a ground operation in the country’s North Waziristan region. The government says more than 100 rebels were killed in the attack.

ISIL made inroads in Iraq’s north. The city of Tal Afar was taken by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant after a fierce battle that saw heavy casualties on both sides. Iraqi media reports were contradictory on whether the government was losing or gaining ground overall, and the government turned off the internet. Militants say they have killed 1,700 soldiers (paywall), while it has been recruiting in Saudi Arabia also.

Petroleum production hit a 44-year high. US production of crude oil, ethane, and other liquid-based petroleum products is at a level not seen since 1970 (paywall), showing that the recent shale-oil boom has put an end to four decades of supposedly irreversible decline.

Quartz obsession interlude

Matt Phillips on the six charts that show how stingy America is toward its own families. ”For example, the amount of unpaid time new mothers in the US can take off, while legally entitled to keep their job, lags far behind other rich nations. And while the Family and Medical Leave Act allows workers in large American companies to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, ‘many do not take it or take shorter leave because they cannot afford it,’ the OECD reports. And the US is the only advanced economy that does not have a nationwide paid leave policy for new mothers.” Read more here

Matters of debate

US politics undermines US security. In foreign interventions, the US needs to lower its expectations, and be patient.

India’s new prime minister could learn a thing or two from Bhutan’s. Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay’s social media presence might not be as large as Narendra Modi’s—but he has a sense of humor.

Tony Blair has gone mad. His refusal to face facts about his role in the “disaster of modern Iraq” is a sign he needs professional psychiatric help, Boris Johnson writes.

The next TV you buy should be cheap. It’s just to tide you over until UltraHD, OLED televisions with 4K content become more affordable.

Global peace is hindering economic growth. Despite the headlines, warfare isn’t what it used to be—which makes the need for better economic growth less urgent and therefore less likely (paywall).

Apple doesn’t need to be on Twitter. ”You go to Apple. They do not go to you.”

Surprising discoveries

Brazil is winning its most important battle of all. Forget the World Cup—deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is declining rapidly.

The new New York cab has passenger-controlled AC. There are also two USB ports so passengers can charge their phones.

You can buy a new nationality with Bitcoin. You can pay for an investor passport to St. Kitts and Nevis with the digital currency.

The world’s strongest bank is in Hong Kong. Even though it does a huge amount of business in China, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng bank, controlled by HSBC, tops an annual Bloomberg ranking of healthy banks.

IKEA is bullying its greatest fans. It has sent a cease and desist letter to the “IKEAhackers” community.

The Americanism “soccer” is a British import. In the 19th century, it was an abbreviation of “association football.”

The Lion King is 20 years old. How well do you remember Disney’s take on Shakespeare’s Hamlet?

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