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Quartz Daily Brief—Europe and Africa edition—Obama trade reprieve, Modi in China, Amtrak train speed, homicidal children’s poetry

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

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.

Burundi’s disputed coup. Major general Godefroid Niyombare declared that the government of longtime president Pierre Nkurunziza has been dissolved, but Niyombare—who was attending a regional summit in Tanzania—claims he is still be in power. Reuters reported hearing heavy gunfire in the capital of Bujumbura on Thursday morning local time.

Guyana’s ruling party seeks an election recount. The People’s Progressive Party voiced concerns over the high number of ballots that were rejected after Monday’s election. The opposition coalition claims it has a substantial lead based on results posted at polling stations.

Gulf rulers seek reassurance. Six countries are asking for security guarantees at a summit in Washington as the United States pursues a nuclear deal with Iran. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states are also seeking to buy up to $100 billion in US arms.

Mario Draghi speaks to the International Monetary Fund. The European Central Bank president will deliver a speech on coordination with central banks in Washington. He will probably receive a warmer welcome than he did in Frankfurt last month, where a woman protesting the “ECB dictatorship” showered him with confetti.

While you were sleeping

Narendra Modi arrived in China. The Indian prime minister will meet Chinese president Xi Jinping at his home province in western China, reciprocating Modi’s decision to host Xi in his home state last year, before traveling to Beijing later tonight. The two leaders will discuss economic co-operation and several long-running border disputes.

The derailed Amtrak train was speeding. The New York-bound train was traveling at 106 mph (171 kmh)—more than double the 50 mph speed limit—on the bend where it derailed, according to investigators. Seven people died and more than 200 were injured.

Tencent bought into another US game company. The Chinese tech giant paid $60 million for about 20% of Pocket Gems, a producer of casual mobile games, the Wall Street Journal reports (paywall). Tencent has spent at least $620 million this year buying stakes in mobile gaming companies in Korea, Japan, and the US.

Shake Shack cooked up an unexpected profit. The newly-public burger chain reported fiscal first-quarter adjusted earnings of $0.04 per share after sales grew 56% to $37.8 million. Shares rose almost 10% on the better-than-expected results, which were boosted by higher prices for its hormone- and antibiotic-free burgers.

Cisco beat expectations. The network equipment maker’s fiscal third-quarter net profit rose to $2.4 billion, from $2.2 billion a year earlier, beating expectations. A weak performance in emerging markets was offset by demand for high-end switches and routers.

The US Congress took a step towards tightening the NSA’s leash. The House passed a bill to stop the National Security Agency from collecting metadata on Americans’ phone calls. Privacy activists want it to be even stronger.

Prince Charles’ “black spider” memos were published. Published in the Guardian, they revealed he may be a much pushier monarch than his mother, and has many 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 iPhone is good for everyone. Even Apple’s competitors have benefitted from the smartphone’s unparalleled rise.

The “father of the euro” foresaw its problems. Decision makers should heed the late Alexandre Lamfalussy’s warnings.

Podcasts are commercializing public radio. That threatens a long-protected public trust.

Countries should sell citizenships to the rich. But the United States is offering passports far too cheaply.

Stop worrying so much about the Middle East. The real issue for US foreign policy is China.

Surprising discoveries

Fox News blurred the breasts in a Picasso painting. An art critic derided the network as “sexually sick.”

You can send your enemies a fart in a jar. The craze that began with “glitterbombs” is alive and well.

South Korea is recalling a book of children’s poetry. Several of the poems were about kids violently killing their mothers.

Drones could replace supermodels. Silicon Valley’s first fashion week involved drones flying clothes above the catwalk.

The India-Bangladesh border looks like a dartboard. There is a piece of India within Bangladesh, within India, within Bangladesh.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, blurred masterpieces, and canned flatulence to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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