Quartz Daily Brief—Spain’s upbeat economy, Israel’s Syrian strike, America’s new attorney general, ridiculously strong robots

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Japan’s prime minister visits the US. Shinzō Abe will be on America’s shores for a little over a week. On Wednesday, he’ll address the US Congress and Senate, where many will be listening (paywall) for how he addresses Japanese World War II aggression. Abe and US president Barack Obama will likely hammer out the final details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

The US Federal Reserve begins a two-day meeting. Investors all around the world are eager for clues as to when the US will raise its interest rates. The minutes released from March’s meeting show the current thinking is to wait until at least September.

Preliminary UK GDP growth figures. Estimates range from 0.3% to 0.5% quarter-on-quarter growth (paywall), a slowdown from last quarter’s 0.6% growth. Coming less than two weeks before the British public heads to the polls in a close election, the results may help or hurt incumbent prime minister David Cameron’s case.

LG tries to take a bite out of Samsung. Samsung’s Galaxy S6 is being called the best smartphone running Google’s Android operating system, but that may change with LG’s new G4. It has already been heavily leaked, though today’s press conference will likely shed some light on availability and pricing.

Earnings. A lot of earnings. Here’s just a taste of the companies opening up their books today: AU Optronics, Coach, Corning, Daimler, Ford, GoPro, JetBlue, Kraft Foods, Merck, Orange, Panera Bread, Pfizer, Revlon, T-Mobile US, Twitter, and UPS.

While you were sleeping

Apple exceeded expectations—again. It sold 61.2 million iPhones in the first three months of 2015, compared to the estimated 58.1 million expected. Sales of the iPad, however, hit only 12.6 million, 23% less than the expected 13.6 million. Apple said China is now its second largest market, overtaking Europe, and it increased its share buyback program to a total of $200 billion, to be used by March 2017.

Spain’s leader delivered optimistic news. Prime minister Mariano Rajoy said the government will issue fresh forecasts (paywall) that show the country’s GDP growing by 2.9% this year, versus a previous estimate of 2.4%, as well as a prediction that policies in place will create half a million new jobs. Rajoy faces elections in December (paywall).

Israel carried out airstrikes at its border with Syria. The government issued a statement saying a group carrying explosives was approaching its border (paywall), so it took preemptive measures. A Syrian human rights group says four people were killed. In January, an Israeli helicopter strike in Syria killed an Iranian general and six Hezbollah fighters.

Loretta Lynch was sworn in as the US attorney general. She’s the first black woman to hold the post. It took the US Senate five months to confirm her position after president Barack Obama nominated her in early November. She’s replacing Eric Holder, who resigned last September.

Sudan’s president was reelected in a controversial vote. Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges, has been in power since 1989, and he won another five-year term (paywall) with 94.5% of the vote. The opposition boycotted the election, leaving a field of relatively unknown candidates to run against Bashir.

Facebook Messenger added video calling. The social networking behemoth updated its Facebook Messenger application for both Google’s Android operation system and Apple’s iOS to support video calls. The app already allowed voice calls, and last month, it added the ability to send money. Facebook also recently announced upcoming features designed for businesses.

Quartz obsession interlude

Steve LeVine on the new normal in oil. “The last 11 months have been an unlikely journey for oil, with its widely unanticipated price dive, Saudi Arabia’s uncharacteristic refusal to stem the bloodletting, and financial havoc for petro-powers and energy companies. But as improbable as the journey has been, it is not over. A number of leading analysts say that OPEC has been rendered largely impotent in this new age. The US, they say, is oil’s new czar.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Drone warfare is a “human rights catastrophe.” Often, when a drone strikes a target, US military officials don’t even know—nor care—if civilians were harmed.

The bill for US Congressional oversight of the Iran nuclear deal is a trick. It essentially allows politicians to have it both ways: They can say they voted against the deal, while still allowing the Obama administration to push it through.

Attracting women to engineering is easy. Fields within the discipline that involve meaningful work that helps move humanity forward—versus making a quick buck (paywall)—don’t seem to have any problem attracting women.

A country’s happiness has a lot to do with its social capital. Being an individual is all well and good, but Northern Europe’s emphasis on community is why it’s home to some of the happiest countries in the world.

Seattle is the model for the rest of the US. The $15 minimum wage it set should be the standard nationwide.

Surprising discoveries

Blame evolution for your back pain. Those of us unfortunate enough to suffer from lower back pain have spines that more closely resemble our ancestors’.

The first sports bra was made from spare parts. Two jock straps were sewn together in the 1970s to reduce the breast pain female athletes experienced.

Throwing a mango at the president might not be such a bad idea. A woman in Venezuela scribbled a plea for help on the fruit and hurled it at president Nicolas Maduro’s head—she got an apartment.

Scientists have created super strong robots. Well, they’re strong for their size. The strongest one weighs 12 grams, yet can pull more than 2,000 times that weight.

One in four Americans were “totally sedentary” last year. A survey found that 83 million people—28% of the population over 6 years old—barely got off their couch last year.

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

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