Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—US-Cuba talks, India’s Enron, Amazon’s drone lift-off, unfairly maligned almonds

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What to watch for today

America delivers a show of strength against Putin. A dozen US fighter jets will begin three months of military drills in Bulgaria, in an effort to show NATO allies that the United States is committed to opposing Russian aggression against its neighbors.

“Star Wars” finally goes digital. The beloved sci-fi movies will be available to download for the first time through iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon, along with new bonus features.

Hillary Clinton makes it official. The Democratic presidential frontrunner will declare her candidacy on Sunday ahead of a trip to the pivotal state of Iowa, according to the Guardian. Clinton came in third in the 2008 Iowa primaries.

While you were sleeping

The US and Cuba held their highest-level meeting in half a century. US secretary of state John Kerry and Cuban foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez held closed-door discussions in Panama ahead of the Summit of the Americas. The meeting comes as the US State Department advised removing Cuba from a list of countries that sponsor terrorism.

A Chinese brokerage had Asia’s biggest IPO of the year. GF Securities raised $3.6 billion and saw its shares surge by 36% on its first day of trading in Hong Kong, buoyed by an influx of mainstream investors. But the IPO underscored fears that China’s booming stock markets are increasingly disconnected from the country’s dire economic conditions.

The Apple Watch went on display. Apple stores around the world began taking pre-orders of the highly-anticipated gadget—though without the long lines that have accompanied previous launches, as the company encourages online orders. Apple Watch shipments won’t start until April 24, though some models are already out of stock until August.

Latin America lifted Carrefour’s results. The global supermarket chain’s first-quarter like-for-like sales rose 2.5% compared with a year earlier on the back of total sales of €21 billion ($22.4 billion). The strongest sales boost came from Latin America; in China sales dropped 14%.

EU industrial output was a mixed bag. UK production rose just 0.1% in February, suggesting a low GDP growth rate for the first quarter. Spanish industrial output rose 0.6%, while France failed to grow.

The US approved Amazon’s drone testing program. The Federal Aviation Administration gave the e-commerce giant a waiver to test its delivery-by-drone program. Amazon received a US waiver once before, but approval took so long that the drone it was testing became obsolete.

Quartz obsession interlude

Manu Balachandran on how Satyam became India’s biggest corporate fraud case. “The case, which is also called the Enron of India, dates back to 2009. Six years ago, Raju wrote a letter to the Securities and Exchange Board of India and his company’s shareholders, admitting that he had manipulated the company’s earnings, and fooled investors. Nearly $1 billion—or 94% of the cash—on the books was fictitious.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Chinese tech firms should invest in space. Silicon Valley is already looking to the stars, and China has plenty of cash to compete.

Almonds are not the enemy in California’s drought. They are nutritious and economically valuable, unlike alfalfa.

Putin should heed Russian history. It’s littered with hardliners who paid the price, says the great-granddaughter of Nikita Khrushchev.

Iran needs to meet with its Arab neighbors. A regional summit could defuse regional tensions at a critical juncture.

Owning an Apple Watch will make you happier. You’ll stare at your smartphone less (paywall) and interact with the real world more.

Surprising discoveries

Airbus has a new “budget economy” class. Seating would be even more tightly packed than in current (now known as ”comfort”) economy sections.

Ten billion years ago the universe was full of pink light. Space was ablaze with nebulas giving birth to stars.

China has a TV channel that only shows good deeds. It is struggling to find viewers.

Short people are more prone to heart disease… Every 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) of additional height reduces the risk of coronary disease by 13.5%.

…And thin people are more prone to dementia. Even people at the lighter end of the ”normal weight” category are at much higher risk.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, California almonds, and redundant airplane terminology to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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