Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Afghanistan’s president, “Transfomers” success, data against pollution, ice-cream segregation

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What to watch for today

India’s parliament gets down to business. A month-long session starts that later this week includes an economic review and prime minister Narendra Modi’s first budget. Today, the situation of Indians living in Iraq will be on the agenda.

Will Afghanistan name a president? The election commission is due to reveal preliminary results of a runoff vote, but Abdullah Abdullah, the front-runner, accuses outgoing president Hamid Karzai of orchestrating ballot-stuffing in favor of his opponent, and wants the result delayed some more.

Euro zone finance ministers meet in Brussels. On the agenda is Lithuania’s entry to the euro and an update on the long-delayed banking union, on the same day as Germany releases industrial production figures for May.

Argentina begins debt talks in New York. The talks are only to set conditions for more court-mediated talks with Argentina’s holdout creditors, but there’s a chance this will lead to a deal that can save the country from defaulting if it doesn’t pay up by a July 31 deadline.

How bubbly is the UK housing market? Taylor Wimpey, Britain’s second-biggest developer, will provide an earnings update to a market already giddy from the effect that Help to Buy, the government’s first-time buyer support scheme, is having on new home sales.

Over the weekend

Angela Merkel began a China tour. The German leader started in Chengdu, in Sichuan province, where more than 150 German companies are active. The three-day visit, her seventh to China, will also include talks with premier Li Keqiang and president Xi Jinping.

Transformers 4 is on track to be the biggest film of all time in China. It made more than $200 million in its first 12 days, surpassing ticket sales in North America. Michael Bay’s latest masterpiece is also the fastest film ever to $50 million in IMAX sales globally.

Israel made arrests over the murder of a Palestinian teen. Police arrested six Jewish suspects and Israeli leaders tried to defuse Palestinian anger after an autopsy revealed that Mohammed Abu Khudair—the 16-year-old killed in apparent revenge for the murders of three Israeli teens—was probably burned alive.

London’s buses went cashless. Commuters must now use their electronic passes and contactless debit cards to buy tickets; cash payments were already down to just 0.7% of all journeys.

Mexico made a move against its richest man. The senate approved a bill that overhauls its mobile and fixed-line sector, challenging the longstanding dominance of Carlos Slim, whose company, América Móvil, has 70% of the Mexican mobile subscribers and 80% of fixed-line ones.

YouTube started blaming providers for low-quality streaming. Clicking on a warning takes you to Google’s Video Quality Report in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, where a report card states rates the speed of internet traffic available.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on how IBM is using big data to fix Beijing’s pollution crisis. “IBM plans to improve the quality of data by installing its latest generation of optical sensors, incorporating meteorological satellite data and running that through its artificial-intelligence computing system. The visual maps it generates will identify the source and dispersal pattern of pollutants across Beijing with a street-level degree of detail 72 hours in advance.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Universities are the record labels of education. And that means professors will become talent agents.

The US and Germany are heading for a divorce. NSA spying is destroying the bonds between two once-close allies.

The weak Iraqi state is responsible for the ISIL crisis. Anxious citizens fall back on sectarian identity in times of strife.

The US should stop targeting tax cheats. It’s doing more harm than good (paywall).

Surprising discoveries

Whales are important to marine life. They help the health of the oceans and even fight climate change.

The brain has an on-off switch. It’s called the claustrum.

Black people were denied vanilla ice cream in the Jim Crow south. Except on Independence Day.

A milestone for the world’s oldest conjoined twins. Two brothers in Ohio have reached the age at which the original “Siamese twins” died, and are a few months short of the world record holders.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, defaulted Argentine bonds, and old London bus receipts to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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