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Quartz Daily Brief —Asia edition—Wobbly Wal-Mart, Hillary Clinton’s email release, America’s Chinese spying charges, coffee cup art

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

What to watch for today

Japan’s growth inches along. Analysts surveyed by news agencies expect the country’s gross domestic product to have risen by about 1.5% in the first quarter, suggesting a slow climb out of a recession caused by last year’s sales tax hike. Doubts remain about prime minister Shinzo Abe’s two-year stimulus program.

The Fed talks the talk. The US Federal Reserve releases the minutes from its April meeting. They could reveal more about the central bankers’ thinking on a potential rate hike, which is expected later this year–either in September or June.

A US military plane launches into space. In a classified, unmanned mission, the winged X-37B space plane belonging to the US Air Force will bring along an extra payload in its fourth test flight: a small satellite to test whether the sunlight’s pressure can be used for propulsion.

Spotify may announce web video plans. The Wall Street Journal reports that the streaming service is hatching plans to add video to its business to compete with the likes of Facebook and YouTube, which could be announced at a media event in New York.

Earnings, earnings, earnings: Target, Lowe’s, Staples, Williams-Sonoma, Hormel Foods, American Eagle Outfitters.

While you were sleeping

The US charged six Chinese nationals for economic espionage. Among the group are three professors from Tianjin University, accused by the US justice department of stealing trade secrets and proprietary information related to wireless technology often used in military systems. The defendants established a company in China to manufacture the technology.

Wal-Mart’s earnings disappointed. Profits for the world’s largest retailer fell and same-store sales rose by less than anticipated in the company’s first quarter. Wal-Mart said American customers used extra cash from tax refunds and lower gas prices to pay down debt. The company’s recent wage hike announcement for its lowest-paid workers may have contributed.

The release date for Hillary Clinton’s emails went up for debate. The US state department said release of 55,000 pages of controversial emails belonging to the former secretary of state—now a Democratic presidential candidate—wouldn’t be until January 2016, according to Vice News. On the same day, a federal judge instructed the agency to release the emails on a rolling basis (paywall).

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon announced his visit to North Korea. The May 21 visit will be the first trip to the country by a UN chief since 1993. In an effort to mitigate tensions between the two states, Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, will visit a factory park that the states run jointly, just north of their shared border.

Obama stepped in to protect America’s bees. The White House announced a national strategy “to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators,” noting that they add $15 billion in value to agricultural crops every year in the US. The program aims to reduce losses experienced by the country’s beekeepers, who reported losing 40% of their colonies last year.

Quartz obsession interlude

Anne Quito on an artist’s panoramic coffee cup illustrations of Japan, which portray the country better than any guidebook. “With a pencil, a pen, an ink brush or watercolor paints, he captures quiet scenes of urban life, portraits of strangers reading in café, playing with their smart phones, and even salary men snoozing in Tokyo’s subway.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Why are we allowing offshore drilling in the Arctic? That we’re experiencing the warmest period on record should count for something.

People should be allowed to make mistakes and live. Even mistakes as horrible as those of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Is nicotine actually bad for you? The debate among scientists heats up.

Women should wear flats on the red carpet. The Cannes Film Festival doesn’t seem to agree.

Some people are over Game of Thrones and its rape scenes. Including one US politician.

Surprising discoveries

Obama made Twitter history. He became the fastest account to reach 1 million followers, trouncing Robert Downey Jr.

Eighty percent of SPF sunscreens contain suspect ingredients or don’t really work. Neutrogena gets a badge of shame.

Audi unveiled a bicycle that’s lighter than five iPhones. But as expensive as a car.

Millions of baby spiders fell out of the sky in Australia. And science has an explanation.

The human race needs men. Though scientists think they aren’t necessary for reproduction, they may help with genetic health.

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