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Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Thai trials, Russian saber-rattling, Scottish muscle-flexing, drone delivery

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

What to watch for today

The aftermath of Typhoon Noul. The strongest storm to hit the Philippines so far this year, Noul made landfall on Sunday, and was expected to spend two days dropping rain on the northeast of the archipelago, though it looks like it’s veering away. The area is thinly populated, but thousands have been evacuated; no-one wants a repeat of Haiyan.

Thai leaders go on trial. Former prime minister Somchai Wongsawat and his then deputy Chavalit Yongchaiyudh face charges of abusing their authority by ordering a police crackdown in 2008 that killed two protestors. A similar case is pending against their successors for a crackdown in 2010 that killed 90.

A fraught meeting for Greece. Euro-zone finance ministers expect to make progress but not yet reach a deal to release further loans to Greece at their meeting today. Some Greek ministers reportedly want Greece not to pay the €750 million ($840 million) it owes the IMF on Tuesday if today’s meeting doesn’t yield satisfactory results.

Europe explains how it’ll defeat human traffickers. The EU’s foreign-policy chief will lay out a plan at the UN security council for using EU ships to attack vessels in Libyan waters that smuggle migrants across the Mediterranean. Libya’s government would rather the West give it weapons to fight the Islamists who support the traffickers.

The Bank of England goes steady. It’s expected to keep its benchmark rate at 0.5%; last week’s Conservative election win means more budget cuts are likely, vindicating the bank’s loose monetary policy thus far. But economists will be reading the bank’s policy statement today and Wednesday’s inflation report closely.

Republicans give Obama a helping hand. The Senate starts considering a bill to let the president fast-track approval for trade agreements. That would help him conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a key policy goal, with long-term consequences for the US economy. The bill has mostly Republican support; Obama’s own party is largely opposed.

Over the weekend

Russia rattled its newest sabers. For its 70th Victory Day parade, marking the anniversary of the defeat of Nazism, Moscow’s Red Square filled up with tanks and nuclear missiles only recently unveiled in public, as well as a regiment of the mysterious troops who invaded Crimea last year.

The Scots flexed their new muscles. Nicola Sturgeon, the head of Scotland’s semi-autonomous government, called on Britain to devolve more powers on taxation and welfare to Scotland, after her Scottish National Party won 50 new seats in last week’s British general election. Labour and the Liberal Democrats are both in turmoil after taking a drubbing.

Yemen’s rebels accepted a truce. The Houthis agreed to the offer from the Saudi-led coalition, which has been bombarding them for six weeks, for a five-day ceasefire to let in humanitarian aid. Airstrikes wrecked the home of the pro-Houthi ex-president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, though he was unhurt and defiant (paywall).

Liberia was declared Ebola-free. With no new cases in 42 days, the World Health Organization gave the country a clean bill of health. The virus killed 4,716 people in Liberia, more than in either Guinea or Sierra Leone, where the epidemic still continues to claim lives.

China’s central bank goosed the economy again. The People’s Bank of China cut its benchmark rate by 25 basis points to 5.1%, the third cut in six months (paywall). Rate cuts go only so far, though; China’s big problem is convincing its mostly state-run banks to lend to small and medium-sized businesses.

South Africa’s opposition got its first black leader. The Democratic Alliance (DA) elected 34-year-old Mmusi Maimane, replacing Helen Zille. As the official opposition to the African National Congress, which has ruled since the end of apartheid in 1994, the DA has suffered from perceptions that it’s mainly a white voters’ party, even though that’s no longer true.

Quartz obsession interlude

Mike Murphy on how Amazon might make drone delivery real. “Up to now, Amazon’s drone plans have suggested they would arrive at your doorstep, dropping off packages like a smaller, louder mailman. But Amazon’s [patent] application suggests the company is exploring ways to have its drones come directly to wherever your smartphone is.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Demand for sustainable fish is unsustainable. Three out of five people worldwide say they’d prefer eating sustainably caught seafood, but there just isn’t enough.

Chinese businesses are starting to solve a crucial problem. Companies are learning to align their employees’ interests with their own.

We know far less than we think about healthy eating. There’s masses of nutrition research, but most of it is flawed or inconclusive.

The US oil boom isn’t about to end. OPEC says it is, but that’s wishful thinking.

The science of happiness won’t make us happier. Attempts to quantify and synthesize the elements of happiness miss the elemental mystery of what happiness is.

Surprising discoveries

Be careful with your protest vote. A Welsh voter drew a penis next to the Tory candidate’s name on a ballot paper—and it got counted as a vote.

Why not try out death before you die? Some Chinese game developers are building a “death simulator” that lets you experience a simulated cremation.

Find this plant and you may find diamonds. The thorny Pandanus candelabrum, discovered in Liberia, prefers soil that contains diamond-bearing kimberlite.

Scientific proof that 80s pop music was boring. Of the past five decades, the late 1980s are the period with the least stylistic diversity.

This dog bit the bullet, literally. An Arkansas dog swallowed 23 rifle rounds. He also likes eating bras.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, obscene ballot papers, and interesting 80s pop songs to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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