Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Baltimore clashes, VW’s turnaround, new Saudi prince, racist camera film

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What to watch for today

Japan’s prime minister addresses US lawmakers. Shinzo Abe will speak to Congress about a big Pacific trade deal, changes to the US-Japan defense alliance, and China’s growing military strength.

The US Federal Reserve drops hints on interest rates. The Federal Open Market Committee will release a statement following its two-day meeting. Investors hope to glean clues about the timing of the Fed’s long-awaited rate hike.

The US releases first-quarter GDP data. Goldman Sachs predicts growth will be just 1.2%, with a stronger second quarter on the way.

Microsoft unveils Windows 10. The software giant is expected to introduce its new operating system at the start of its annual developers conference. Microsoft is returning to its roots to bring back the start menu, along with changes that move it away from an obsession with touchscreen devices.

Another round of earnings. Companies reporting their quarterly results include: Garmin, Hilton Worldwide, Marriott International, MasterCard, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, and Time Warner.

While you were sleeping

Baltimore’s curfew brought clashes and a few arrests. Police arrested 10 people for violating an overnight curfew after a small group of protesters refused to disperse. The tense atmosphere was in stark contrast to peaceful protests during the day, when many residents cleared their neighborhoods (paywall) of post-riot debris.

Thailand unexpectedly lowered its interest rate. The central bank cut its benchmark rate to 1.5% from 1.75%. Earlier in the day, the government lowered its annual GDP growth forecast to 3.7% from 3.9%, as exports and consumer confidence fell to multi-month lows.

Barclays’ cost-cutting led to a bumper profit. The British bank’s first-quarter core profit rose 14% from a year earlier to £2.1 billion ($3.2 billion). Barclays, which is shedding 19,000 jobs, set aside an extra £800 million for fines relating to an investigation into alleged currency manipulation.

Hulu paid $180 million to stream “Seinfeld.” The company has reportedly signed an exclusive deal with Sony for the beloved sitcom, making all 180 episodes available online for the first time.

Volkswagen reported a healthy quarter. The German automaker’s first-quarter operating profit rose 17% from a year earlier to €3.3 billion ($3.7 billion), on rising demand and cost-cutting measures instituted by CEO Martin Winterkorn. The robust results should vindicate Winterkorn, who recently survived an ugly power struggle with the company’s chairman.

The Saudi king picked a new heir. The newly-crowned King Salman bin Abdulaziz shook up the line of succession, naming his nephew, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, as crown prince and heir apparent. Nayef is the first grandson of the country’s founder, rather than a son, to be crown prince.

Samsung’s earnings fell. The South Korean electronics company reported first-quarter operating profit of 6 trillion won ($5.6 billion), down 30% from a year earlier but in line with expectations. The company’s decision to boost its supply of components to other smartphone makers led to a 50% increase in profit at its chipmaking unit.

An iPad bug grounded several dozen airplanes. American Airlines flights experienced serious delays after pilots’ iPads abruptly crashed. The airline uses Apple’s tablet computers to distribute flight plans and other information to its crew.

Quartz obsession interlude

Matt Phillips on why Brazil’s problems are bigger than Petrobras. “As the nation’s attention continues to be riveted by the Petrobras scandal, Brazil’s economy is decelerating rapidly. Numbers out this morning show that unemployment rose to 6.2% in March, up from 5.9% in February and the highest since March 2012. The latest numbers highlight the soft patch that Brazil—once a cornerstone of the so-called BRICs bloc of fast-growing developing markets—is currently going through.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

“Natural” has lost all meaning. No foodstuff that comes with packaging is likely to fit the bill, least of all those which claim to be (paywall).

Southeast Asia will unseat China as workshop to the world. A surplus of cheap, young workers will boost Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

White people are terrible at talking about racism. Society first needs to discuss “whiteness.”

We are all suckers for credit cards. You may think you’re rational, but your monthly statement tells a different story.

Barack Obama is betraying progressives. The US president is siding with the enemy to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Surprising discoveries

Early film technology was racist. Color film like Kodachrome was optimized for white skin.

You may soon be able to buy a ”selfie arm.” This creepy device helps make it look as though you’re not alone.

A New York pastor asked his congregation to buy him a new private jet. Creflo Dollar’s current jet is too old, he says.

And airplanes may someday be nearly silent. A new material claims to reduce cabin noise 100-fold while adding minimal weight.

The US has created a steerable bullet. It can adjust its path mid-flight to ensure it hits the target.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, donations to replace Quartz’s old private jet, and selfie-armed selfies to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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