Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Stress tests redux, NASA’s record rocket, “Blurred Lines” verdict, Finland’s meatless meatballs

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What to watch for today

Round two of stress tests. The US Federal Reserve will publish the second and final round of results in its examination of the nation’s banks. Last week, all 31 major banks passed capital thresholds. This week, Goldman Sachs may be in the Fed’s crosshairs.

Greece talks with its debtors. Officials from the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund will visit Athens, amid doubts whether the Greek government will open its books for inspection.

A bailout for Ukraine? The International Monetary Fund is expected to approve a $17.5 billion bailout for the country, which is trying to end fighting with pro-Russian rebels in the east.

NASA fires its most powerful rocket. The QM-1 is the largest solid rocket motor ever built. When it undergoes testing today in Utah, the 801 ton (727 tonne) motor will produce the same amount of thrust as 14 Boeing 747 jumbo jets.

While you were sleeping

Sweden’s negative interest rates appear to be working. After six months of falling prices, the latest data showed a 0.1% uptick in February prices versus the prior year. The country’s central bank launched a bond-buying program and pushed its benchmark interest rate below zero last month.

Marvin Gaye’s family won a courtroom victory against “Blurred Lines.” Songwriters Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams were ordered to pay $7.3 million, after a jury found that they copied elements of Gaye’s 1977 song “Got to Give It Up.” The trial was marked by a live courtroom performance from Thicke, who tried to demonstrate how many pop songs sound alike.

China’s president shuffled his security team. The South China Morning Post (paywall) reports that Xi Jinping has appointed new officials to lead the Central Security Bureau, which guards the senior Chinese leadership and is responsible for preventing internal coups. The bureau was formerly overseen by presidential aide Ling Jihua, who is being investigated for corruption.

A Wall Street high-flyer joined a bitcoin startup. Blythe Masters, a former JP Morgan executive who helped to popularize the use of credit default swaps, is the new CEO of Digital Asset Holdings (paywall). The company wants to use bitcoin to reduce the cost and speed of financial transactions for big banks and asset managers.

Thailand cut interest rates. The central bank unexpectedly cut its benchmark rate to 1.75% from 2%, after consumer prices fell for the first time since 2009. But the rate cut may exacerbate a worrying rise in household debt (paywall).

China missed a trio of economic expectations. Investment, retail sales, and factory output all fell short in the combined January-February period. The two months—combined to adjust for Chinese New Year—saw industrial output grow at the slowest pace since 2008, retail sales grow by the least in a decade, and fixed-asset investment grow the slowest in 14 years.

Global recruiters had a good year. UK recruiting firm Michael Page said strong staff demand in the UK, US, Germany, and China helped push its pre-tax profits up 17% to £78.4 million ($118.2 million) in 2014. Swiss-based Adecco, the world’s largest staffing company by sales, beat fourth-quarter estimates and predicted a strong 2015 on rising GDP growth.

Quartz obsession interlude

Cassie Werber on Europe’s green superstars. “In 2010, the European Union set a goal of producing 20% of its total energy from renewable sources by 2020. The latest figures show that the union as a whole reached the 15% mark in 2013. But the combined figure includes some countries already exceeding their targets, while others lag far behind. Three out of the 28 EU member states have surpassed their 2020 goals.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Obama’s Selma speech will outlive today’s fractious politics. It exemplified the essence of the American creed.

The “Blurred Lines” verdict sets a terrible precedent. It will put a chilling effect on new artists who try to evoke the influences of the past.

An ice age is coming for Swiss watchmakers. They underestimated the threat from Apple, says the co-creator of Swatch.

Don’t be so fast to take VC cash. Building smaller-scale companies can still be very lucrative for entrepreneurs.

Skype is just the worst. For the money Microsoft paid to buy it, and vast numbers of people it serves, it is shockingly unreliable.

Surprising discoveries

Apple’s new laptop is almost all battery. Unlike computer chips, batteries aren’t getting smaller very quickly.

A Canadian town has a polar bear jail. The town of Churchill, Manitoba locks up those who can’t be shooed away.

Some Finnish meatballs are just called “balls” now. A processed meat giant was forced to relabel its ”52% meat” product.

China is touchy about Photoshop. A digitally-enhanced toothpaste ad resulted in a $1 million fine for Procter & Gamble.

You can teach young pigs new tricks. A housebroken six-month-old named Amy is winning dog obedience contests.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, polar bear mugshots, and porcine training tips to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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