Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Greece’s first deadline, cancer spending, celebs on China, gold-onion muscles

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What to watch for today

Time for Greece to start paying. As the ECB’s governing council discusses whether to give Greek banks emergency cash while debt talks continue, the country faces an IMF loan payment deadline for €200 million ($212 million). Another tranche next week, worth €750 million, will be harder for Greece to rustle up.

More attempts to salvage Ukraine’s ceasefire. Delegates from Russia, Ukraine and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe are to meet in Minsk, Belarus to talk about the truce negotiated in February. As the OSCE reports, it’s been much violated by both sides.

Europe proposes a “single digital market.” Regulators will unveil their plans to create, over the next two years, a single market for digital goods, services, capital and content. That would prevent things like “geoblocking”—preventing people in certain countries from using a service.

SpaceX tests a manned spacecraft. The company will try out its Dragon V2, in preparation for manned space missions planned for 2017. The launch (unmanned, but carrying a test dummy) will test the vehicle’s abort system, which is meant to save the crew if a launch goes wrong.

Earnings. Companies presenting their first-quarter results include MetLife, Tesla Motors, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Motorola Solutions and Wendy’s.

While you were sleeping

French lawmakers beefed up spying powers. In response to January’s deadly terrorist attacks, parliament passed a surveillance law that gives intelligence agencies sweeping new powers to tap phones and emails, collect metadata from service providers, and bug suspects. It still needs approval from the senate and constitutional council.

The EU delayed its corporate tax probes. Europe’s anti-trust chief, Margrethe Vestager, said she would miss the June deadline she had set for deciding the legality of tax deals that EU member states offered to multinationals, including Starbucks, Fiat, Apple, and Amazon. Vestager’s campaigns against Google and Gazprom have made headlines.

The US trade gap hit a record. The trade deficit increased 43.1% to $51.4 billion, the biggest hike in 18 years, the US Commerce Department said. The surge came after imports bounced back from the slowdown caused by a labor dispute at west coast ports.

ISIL said it was behind the Texas shooting. The Islamic State group said in a radio broadcast that the gunmen who attacked an exhibition outside Dallas showing cartoons of the prophet Muhammad were “two soldiers of the caliphate.” It’s unclear if the claim is true.

Spending on cancer meds surged. With higher drug prices and more cancer cases, last year $100 billion was spent worldwide on cancer drugs, a 10% hike from 2013. Prices may rise even higher as drug firms market new treatments that make use of the body’s immune system.

Mike Huckabee threw in his hat. The day after Carly Fiorina, yet another Republican hopeful emerged as the former Arkansas governor said he’d seek the party’s 2016 US presidential nomination. It’s his second attempt; the first was in 2008. Polls last month put the former Baptist pastor in fifth or six place among potential Republican contenders.

Quartz obsession interlude

Heather Timmons on the less flashy side of the annual Metropolitan Museum Gala.“The Met’s China’s evening was just the latest example of Western celebrities’ and industries’ ongoing embrace of a fantasy of China, while deftly managing to complete ignore what’s happening on the ground. This China blind spot is particularly notable because it comes as the western entertainment industry tackles serious issues at home and in other parts of the globe.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

“DSK culture” has not gone anywhere. Lecherous machismo among the elites continues to haunt women in France.

Moscow and Beijing have an asymmetric relationship. Their relations continue to blossom, but Russia needs China more than the other way around.

Charlie Hebdo doesn’t mock religion. It mocks the political use of religion, says its editor.

Markets have misunderstood the UK election. They should be paying attention to the parties’ policies on financial services, not on the economy.

Israeli medical aid to Nepal isn’t cynical. The country isn’t trying to whitewash its international image; it’s just trying to do the right thing. 

Surprising discoveries

A new kind of muscle. Who would have thunk you could use an onion and gold to create an artificial muscle?

Lake Disappearance. A lake in Oregon is sucked in through a hole each year, and then reappears.

“Let the dishwasher do its job.” Modern machines work better than your hands, and are better for the environment too.

You can share your heartbeat on Reddit. The few people that actually own an Apple Watch are swapping pulses there.

Who is the woman in the Google doodle? Nellie Bly was a trailblazing investigative journalist who broke the record for a round-the-world trip.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, gold-and-onion muscles, and heartbeat traces to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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