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Quartz Daily Brief—Asia Edition—Poland’s next president, Nigeria shuts down, Greek debt, airport horticulture

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

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 some other 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.

Greece says it won’t be able to 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.

A Time Warner Cable merger is in the offing. The second-largest US cable company, worth $48 billion, may reach a deal with one of its suitors—France’s Altice or US tycoon John Malone’s Charter Communications—by the end of the long weekend, according to people familiar with the talks.

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.

Who will get to look for oil off the Gulf of Mexico? A list of approved firms is due to be published Monday 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.

Over the weekend

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

Japan slipped back into a trade deficit. After reporting its first trade surplus in almost three years, Japan recorded a ¥53.4 billion ($439 million) trade deficit (paywall) last month. Still, high exports meant the deficit was the smallest in six years.

…and China got a boost. China’s CSI 300 Index rose above the 5,000 level for the first time in seven years, ahead of a scheme launching in July that will allow cross-border mutual fund sales between Hong Kong and China. China’s Ministry of Finance also announced reductions in import duties on clothes, shoes, and cosmetics to encourage domestic consumption.

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 (paywall) more than $1 billion in penalties for alleged misstatements the automaker made about the switches, which have been linked to more than 100 deaths.

Poland voted in a new president. President Bronislaw Komorowski conceded defeat to Andrzej Duda, leader of the country’s right-wing Law and Justice party, who won as much as 53% of the vote. The role of president is largely ceremonial, but Duda’s win is a sign that the center right party Civic Platform, in power since 2007, may be unseated in parliamentary elections this fall.

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.

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.

Malaysia discovered mass graves of migrants. Authorities in the northern state of Perlis have found over 100 grave sites believed to hold the bodies of migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar. The area is a common route for smugglers trafficking migrant workers and refugees.

John and Alicia 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, were reportedly en route home from the airport after a trip to Norway, where John Nash last week received the 2015 Abel Prize for mathematics.

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

The world’s best airport has a horticulture team. Singapore’s Changi airport has 500 plants as well as a butterfly garden.

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

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.”

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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