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Quartz Daily Brief—Europe and Africa edition—Greece’s IMF deadline, Microsoft eyes Salesforce, SpaceX test-flight, Ukraine’s “golden loaf”

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

What to watch for today

It’s time for Greece to start paying up. The country faces an IMF deadline to repay €200 million ($224 million), as the ECB’s governing council discusses whether to give Greek banks emergency cash. A €750 million tranche due next week will be even 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 to talk about the truce negotiated in February. As the OSCE reports, the ceasefile has been 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 tactics like “geoblocking” that prevent people in certain countries from using an online service.

SpaceX gets ready for manned spaceflight. The company will try out the Dragon V2 spacecraft’s abort system, using a crashtest dummy, in preparation for manned space missions in 2017.

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

While you were sleeping

Microsoft mulled a bid for Salesforce. The computing giant is considering an offer for the $50 billion cloud software provider, after another unnamed suitor made an offer for Salesforce last month, according to Bloomberg. Microsoft is not yet in talks with Salesforce, which has hired two investment banks to weigh its options.

Western Union entered talks to buy MoneyGram. The potential deal, reported by Bloomberg, comes as the two remittance giants face increasing competition from low-cost competitors including Wal-Mart. MoneyGram is valued at $415 million and has almost $1 billion in debt.

Asian collectors bought some big-ticket paintings.  Sotheby’s auction of impressionist and modern art raised $368.3 million, as Asia-based buyers purchased a Van Gogh for $66.3 million, a Picasso for $29 million, and a Monet for $20.4 million. An unnamed American also bought Monet’s “Nympheas” for $54 million.

China’s services sector grew for a fourth consecutive month. The HSBC/Markit purchasing managers’ index for non-manufacturing businesses rose to 52.9 in April, from 52.3 in March, signalling a greater expansion in activity. That’s far better than China’s manufacturing sector, which is contracting.

A disconnect in the Aussie economy. New home sales rose 4.4% in March, marking their fastest rise in over a year, as interest rates hit new lows. But March retail sales growth was the slowest in 2015 so far (paywall), increasing by 0.3% compared with expectations of 0.4%.

French lawmakers beefed up spying powers. In response to January’s 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.

Mike Huckabee threw in his hat. The former Arkansas governor said he would seek the Republican party’s 2016 US presidential nomination. It’s his second attempt; the first was in 2008. Polls last month put the onetime Baptist pastor in fifth or six place among potential GOP 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

Apple shouldn’t build a car to change the world. It should build a bike, and design cities around it.

Obama needs to punish China for its aggression. It’s paying no price for its bullying tactics, despite the US president’s so-called pivot to Asia.

“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.

Markets have misunderstood the UK election. They should be paying attention to the parties’ policies on financial services.

Surprising discoveries

A Texas “abstinence-only” high school has a chlamydia problem. One in 15 students have contracted the sexually transmitted disease.

Ukraine’s “golden loaf” is missing. The gaudy bread-shaped ornament, a symbol of official corruption, has disappeared (paywall).

Scientists created artificial muscle made of gold-plated onion skin. It could be useful for the emerging field of “soft robotics.

There’s an Oregon lake that disappears every year. It is sucked out through a lava tube, and then reappears.

You can find a heartbeat buddy on Reddit. The few people that actually own an Apple Watch are swapping pulses there.

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

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