What to watch for today
The US Senate votes on Obama’s trade bill after all. Lawmakers will consider giving the president “fast-track” authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership and another key trade pact. Some political maneuvering allowed the vote to go ahead after Senate Democrats blocked it on Tuesday.
Gulf rulers seek American reassurance. The Gulf countries aren’t happy about an imminent nuclear deal with Iran, which is still stirring up havoc in their region. In meetings in the US with the Obama administration, they may seek more weapons to fight Iranian-allied militias.
Will Mario Draghi avoid glitter bombs? The European Central Bank president gives a speech at the International Monetary Fund in Washington. In April a woman protesting the “ECB dictatorship” attacked him with confetti at a press conference.
Will South Korea cut its rates? Despite a weakening economy, the central bank has been hesitant to lower rates again after a surprise cut in March. Its chief hinted earlier this month that a rate cut was unlikely this time, but the economic outlook is gloomy (paywall).
Earnings. Nordstrom, Kohl’s, Symantec, Sharp, and Singapore Airlines will open their books, among others.
While you were sleeping
The Vatican recognized Palestine. The Holy See has called Palestine a state in various contexts previously, but the two have now signed their first formal treaty. It includes agreements on church activities in Palestinian territories. Israel was “disappointed” (no big deal, considering how often it’s “furious” with the US).
A train derailed near Philadelphia. The Amtrak train is thought to have been going at twice the speed limit when it hit a curve, on a section of track lacking automatic speed control. At least seven people were killed and 200 injured. It comes after another Amtrak crash on Sunday, and an earlier one in March—signs, to some at least, of the US’s decaying infrastructure.
The US Congress took a step towards tightening the NSA’s leash. The House passed a bill to stop the National Security Agency sucking up metadata on most Americans’ phone calls. The bill has yet to go to the Senate; privacy activists want it to be stronger.
The euro zone perked up a bit. Better-than-expected growth in France and Italy was enough to overcome a slowdown in Germany. Overall, euro-zone GDP expanded by 0.4% in the first quarter, faster than in both the US and UK… for now.
There was a coup in Burundi, or maybe there wasn’t. A recently fired intelligence chief claimed he had overthrown president Pierre Nkurunziza (though there are reasons to think he had outside help). An aide to the president, who was abroad, said the coup was a “joke.” Violent protests against Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term have recently rocked the country.
We learned what Prince Charles cares about. The Guardian published letters from the prince to British government ministers. He may turn out to be a much pushier monarch than his mother, but has remarkably parochial concerns like badger culling, the Patagonian Toothfish, and converting old jails into tourist attractions.
Quartz obsession interlude
Adam Epstein introduces Skype’s new real-time translator. “The app is basically like having your very own United Nations translator at your side. It can translate both voice-to-text and text-to-text instantaneously. The only spoken languages currently available are English, Spanish, Italian, and Mandarin, though it supports 50 languages in text and is certain to add more in the near future.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
The “father of the euro” foresaw its problems. Decision-makers today should heed the late Alexandre Lamfalussy’s warnings.
Podcasts are commercializing public radio. That’s a breach of the audience’s trust.
Let countries sell citizenships to the rich. But not like America does.
Stop worrying so much about the Middle East. The real issue for US foreign policy is China.
Speaking in tongues. A rare condition called “foreign accent syndrome” has neurologists baffled.
A different kind of fashion show. In Silicon Valley, the fashion models are drones and the clothes fly above the catwalk.
Nestle is turning milk into water in California. In the drought-ravaged state, the company will re-use the wastewater from making condensed milk.
A new old disease. A drug-resistant strain of typhoid has been spreading across Asia and Africa over the last three decades.
This hairdresser to the stars had a huge dinosaur art collection. He sold it to a museum after it took over his apartment.