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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Greece’s deadline looms, SpaceX test flight, Van Goghs and Monets, Ukraine’s “golden loaf”

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

What to watch for today

More attempts to salvage Ukraine’s ceasefire. Delegates from Russia, Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will meet in Minsk to talk about the truce negotiated in February. The OSCE notes the ceasefire has been violated by both sides.

The ECB will reportedly discuss whether to prolong a lifeline for Greek banks. Lenders there are almost wholly reliant on the central bank for affordable financing, as they have been shut out of the open market amid fears that the cash-strapped Greek state is about to go bust.

Europe proposes a “single digital market.” Regulators will unveil their plans to create a single market for digital goods, services, capital, and content over the next two years. That would stop tactics like “geoblocking” that prevent people from using online services from other countries.

SpaceX gets ready for manned spaceflight. The company will try out the Dragon V2 spacecraft’s abort system, using a crash-test dummy, as SpaceX competes with Boeing to pass NASA’s tests and become the first private company to take humans into space.

Earnings. Companies announcing their first-quarter results include MetLife, Tesla Motors, and Wendy’s, which is getting into veggie burgers.

While you were sleeping

Greece met one deadline, but another looms. The country sent the International Monetary Fund a €200-million ($225 million) debt repayment that was due today, according to Reuters. But another €750 million is due next week. Greece is still negotiating with euro-zone creditors and the IMF for help to repay its debts.

The euro zone’s service sector failed to keep up. The Markit purchasing managers’ index for the economic bloc’s non-manufacturing sector dropped to 54.1 in April, from 54.2 in March, but remained above the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction. Activity in Ireland and Spain led the way, but France was a laggard.

BMW beat expectations. The world’s biggest luxury carmaker’s first-quarter earnings before interest and tax rose to €2.5 billion ($2.8 billion), above an expected €2.2 billion, on the back of strong sales of its X5 sports utility vehicle. BMW said it remains confident in achieving record sales this year as European and US growth outweighs the slowdowns in China and Russia.

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.  A Sotheby’s auction of Impressionist and modern art raised $368.3 million, including a Van Gogh sold for $66.3 million to a mysterious hoodie-wearing collector. A Picasso went for $29 million, a Monet for $20.4 million, and 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.

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

No, human genome editing won’t create a sci-fi dystopia. Health inequality already exists; engineering humans might actually reduce that.

Companies need novelists. Those who can tell a story can often excite people enough to make it a reality.

Apple shouldn’t build a car to change the world. It should build a bike that cities can be designed around.

Obama needs to punish China for its aggression. It’s paying no price for its maritime 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.

Surprising discoveries

Labyrinths have healing powers. They are finding popularity in wellness centers and prisons alike.

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.

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, Ukraine’s missing loaf, and directions to get out of this healing labyrinth we’re trapped in to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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