Quartz Daily Brief—Europe and Africa edition—Poland’s next president, Nigeria shuts down, Greek debt, bacon emoji

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What to watch for today

Much of the world takes a break. In the US, it’s Memorial Day weekend. In the UK, it’s a bank holiday. In parts of Europe it is Whit Monday. And in Hong Kong and much of Asia, it’s a public holiday for the Buddha’s birthday.

Who will get to look for oil off the Gulf of Mexico? A list of approved firms will be published by the Mexican oil regulator, marking the first time the nation has allowed private companies to bid since 1938. Some 34 companies applied, and the winning bids will be announced in July.

Investors react after Greece says it won’t make an IMF loan payment. The money, due June 5, “is not there to be given,” the interior minister said in an interview on Greek television, amid continued negotiations for international bailout funds.

Poland’s next president is announced. Voters on Sunday were asked to choose between the incumbent, Bronislaw Komorowski, and challenger Andrzej Duda, who erased a huge deficit in the polls in an election that hinged on dissatisfaction over jobs.

Nigerian businesses grind to a halt. Strike-related fuel shortages are so severe that radio stations, airlines, telecoms, and bus companies are expected to shut down.

Over the weekend

General Motors was reported to be close to facing criminal charges over faulty ignition switches. According to the Wall Street Journal, federal prosecutors are likely to seek more than $1 billion in penalties for alleged misstatements the automaker made about the switches, which have been linked to more than 100 deaths.

Spain’s governing party suffered at the polls. Local and regional elections on Sunday signaled widespread frustration with prime minster Mariano Rajoy’s People’s Party, which has been unable to keep high unemployment and corruption scandals at bay. The elections returned the worst results for the party in more than 20 years.

Ireland voted yes on gay marriage. The overwhelmingly Catholic country overwhelmingly voted to support marriage “without distinction as to their sex.” It’s the first time a nation has approved gay marriage by a popular vote.

Ethiopia voted in its first elections since 2010. It’s the country’s first parliamentary vote since Meles Zenawi died in 2012, and his Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front is expected to retain power. For some reason, the results are not expected for a month.

John and Alisha Nash were killed in a car accident. The Princeton University mathematician and his wife were in a taxi that lost control on a New Jersey highway. The couple, portrayed in the 2001 movie A Beautiful Mind, was reportedly en route home from the airport after a trip to Norway, where John Nash last week received the 2015 Abel Prize for mathematics.

Putin cracked down on foreign NGOs. The Russian president signed a law that would allow state prosecutors to deem some non-government groups “undesirable” if they threaten “Russia’s constitutional order,” and ban them from holding rallies, having bank accounts, or publishing in Russia. The US State Department is “deeply troubled” by the move.

Quartz obsession interlude

Anne Quito on the joys of learning cursive handwriting. “For what must have been hundreds and hundreds of hours, we toiled and persevered—training our young hands to commit those letterforms to muscle memory. Rhythm, form, slant, space. Rhythm, form, slant, space, I would sometimes silently chant to coax my wild clumsy hand. These were the things I obsessed with at 7 years old.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Replacing welfare with a “basic income” is alluring. But it’s unaffordable.

Portland is an alternative commuter’s paradise. The Oregon city has the highest proportion of people in the US who work from home or bike to work.

Who should lead Africa’s development bank? It has granted $101 billion in loans since 1964.

Too many TV shows use rape as a plot device. It’s not just Games of Thrones.

Rap music is full of bad financial advice. This video is the exception.

There is no “China Bubble.” People warning about inflated stock prices are just “haters.” The Chinese government knows exactly what it is doing.

Surprising discoveries

Garbage collectors are more likely to die on the job than police officers. Taxi drivers and bartenders, too.

There’s a new micro-nation coming. It’s to be called the Kingdom of Enclava, based on the Croat-Serb border.

Chinese trees are treated with tremendous respect. So much so that roads are built around them.

Gloria Steinem visited North Korea. A group of female activists crossed the border between North and South Korea on a controversial peace mission.

Crimea is getting its own soccer league. It will begin in August and be neither Russian nor Ukrainian.

Your dark chocolate probably contains milk. The FDA also found milk in 15% of products claiming to be “dairy-free.”

Bacon, selfies, and face palm are coming to emoji. As well as something called “Mother Christmas.”

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, cursive newsletters, and actual dark chocolate to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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