Skip to navigationSkip to content
STAR WARS

Quartz Daily Brief—US GDP data disappoints, France beefs up its military, Burundi bans social media, smartwatch tattoo troubles

By Stefan Constantinescu

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

A last standoff for those hoping to lead Britain. Britain’s incumbent prime minister, Conservative David Cameron, debates his main opponent, Labor Party Leader Ed Miliband, in the fourth and final debate (paywall) before the country heads to the polls on May 7. Recent polls suggest Cameron has a slight lead with 35%, but Miliband is just three points behind.

Elon Musk unveils two gigantic batteries. The head of Tesla’s investor relations has already let the cat out of of the bag for today’s announcement. Tesla will sell a battery to bank power for homes and a “utility scale” one for companies.

Will the Bank of Japan push the stimulus pedal? Inflation is expected to come in below the country’s target of 2%. The bank has indicated that it will back off and hope for the best, though some architects of premier Shinzo Abe’s “Abenomics” policies are urging additional stimulus.

NASA crashes a spaceship into Mercury. Launched in 2004, the Messenger spacecraft was supposed to circle Mercury for one year gathering data, but NASA extended its mission by three years. It’s now running out of fuel, and projections show it should smash into the planet today.

Earnings. Companies set to crack open the books today: Air Chain, Air France, Airbus, BNP Paribas, Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, ConocoPhillips, Expedia, Exxon Mobil, LinkedIn, MediaTek, Naver, Royal Dutch Shell, Sony, STMicroelectronics, Telenav, Viacom, and Visa.

While you were sleeping

US GDP growth disappointed. First-quarter growth came in at just 0.2%—while the market was expecting to see 1%. Harsh weather, a port dispute on the West Coast, and the strong dollar are being blamed (paywall).

France bumped up its military budget to fight terrorism at home. President François Hollande said a large share of the 3.8 billion euros ($4.17 billion) that will be added to the military budget during the next four years will be set aside for domestic security (paywall), as well as an estimated 7,000 troops.

Gazprom’s profit fell by nearly 90%. The partly state-owned energy giant blamed the collapse of the Russian ruble, falling oil prices, and one-off charges for its 86% dip in net profit in 2014, which amounts to some $20 billion (paywall). It’s also starting 2015 off on the wrong foot, with charges of monopolistic behavior from the European Union.

Burundi shut down its people’s access to social media. After incumbent president Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would be running for a third term in June, despite the country’s constitution imposing a two-term limit, protests broke out. The government responded by banning protests, shutting down radio stations, and ordering telecoms to block Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, and Tango.

The death toll from the Nepal earthquake ticked past 5,000. The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that struck last weekend has now claimed the lives of 5,016 people, according to Nepalese authorities, but prime minister Sushil Koirala has warned that number will probably double. Terrible weather isn’t helping with rescue operations, and aid deliveries are facing numerous delays.

Quartz obsession interlude

Shelly Banjo parses Jeff Bezos’ annual shareholder letter. “Amazon is now a mega-corp comprising an e-commerce company, a hardware and device maker, a government services provider, a cloud computing and marketing company, a transportation and logistics outfit, a lender, a payment processor, and a warehouse operator. As we learn from this year’s letter, it’s also an educator (it now offers continuing education classes in its warehouses) and is fast-becoming a media magnate.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Free-trade policies hurt US workers. Senator Bernie Sanders, a likely presidential contender, vows to work against the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, arguing that previous agreements have damaged US manufacturing and offshored jobs.

On the other hand, the TPP will boost US businesses. Republican congressman Paul Ryan says Asia’s gigantic trove of middle class consumers is too good an opportunity for the US to pass up.

Let prime minister David Cameron finish fixing the UK. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg says he rarely endorses candidates, but he’s making an exception for the upcoming British vote.

Indonesia needs to fix its drug policies. The recent executions of foreigners aren’t the big issue; at home, prison populations are soaring and HIV/AIDS is spreading.

Greece should study Argentina. Its default, in 2001, plunged the country into economic chaos that saw the lower middle class suffer the most—Greece should be ready to experience the same (paywall).

Surprising discoveries

The Apple Watch doesn’t like people with tattoos. The heart rate sensor won’t work for those with ink, and in some cases, the watch may not even acknowledge you’re wearing it.

A lake so clear, you can see shipwrecks. The ice on Lake Michigan has melted, and it’s still too early for algae, making it easy for the US Coast Guard to spot sunken ships from the sky.

Going radioactive works for prostate cancer. Implanting low-dose radioactive “seeds” directly into the prostate can double the rate of survival for prostate cancer patients.

London’s airports are soon going to hum. Thanks to drone technology, security sweeps can be performed seven times faster and at 10% of the cost.

Clean energy will surpass nuclear energy in Japan soon. In less than two decades, the government says it’ll produce 24% of its energy requirements from solar and hydro and only 22% from nuclear.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, wrist tattoo designs, and recovered shipwrecks to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

Sign up for the Quartz Daily Brief here, tailored for morning delivery in Asia, Europe & Africa, and the Americas.