Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—China’s free trade deal, Starbucks closures, North Korean drought, Pop-Tart calorie counts

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What to watch for today 

The Fed concludes its policy meeting. The US central bank is expected to keep benchmark rates near zero until September, but will update its forecasts for inflation, growth, and jobs.

Tensions rise in Hong Kong. Protestors (and police) are gathering outside the city government headquarters awaiting details of a controversial reform giving residents the right to vote for their leader for the first time. The catch: Beijing will vet the candidates first.

Oracle’s cloudy forecast. The database software giant is expected to post a quarterly earnings decline as it transitions from selling software to a new cloud-based computing model. Revenues are projected to fall by 3.5%, to $10.9 billion.

FedEx delivers its quarterly results. The shipping giant’s revenue is expected to climb by more than 10%, to $12.3 billion, as the US economy improves. Investors will be looking for news on the company’s attempted acquisition of European rival TNT, which faces regulatory hurdles.

While you were sleeping

China signed a free trade deal with Australia. Beijing described the agreement as the “most liberal“ it has signed with any country, following a decade of deadlocked negotiations. In Australia, the deal will boost beef, wine, and dairy exports.

North Korea warned of the worst drought in a century. State broadcaster KCNA reported that 30% of the country’s rice paddies were “parching up.” The last major drought, in the 1990s, killed hundreds of thousands; the public broadcast may be a sign North Korea wants outside help.

Starbucks shed its bakery brand.The US-based coffee chain will shutter its 23 La Boulange bakery outlets as well as two manufacturing plants that supply them. Starbucks will also close an Evolution Fresh outlet in San Francisco, part of the business it purchased in 2011 for $30 million. (An earlier version of this post incorrectly reported that the entire Evolution Fresh business would be closed.)

Japan’s exports unexpectedly slowed… The value of shipments rose by 2.4% in May from a year earlier, lower than expected and the first monthly deceleration since August last year. The slower growth, caused in part by sluggish Chinese demand, could hamper Japan’s recovery.

…As Singapore’s shrank. Non-oil shipments fell 0.2% in May from a year earlier, well short of an expected 2.3% gain. A drop in demand for electronics dragged exports down.

GlaxoSmithKline invested in cell research. The British drugmaker announced it will spend $95 million creating a US-based research institute to investigate how a cell’s operating system works. That brings GSK back to fundamental research, diversifying away from a reliance on pharmaceuticals.

Quartz obsession interlude

A paleontologist reviews a dinosaur blockbuster. “Yes, some of the scientific inaccuracies in Jurassic World are a little annoying. I wish the dinosaurs were feathered, for instance, as we know many would have been from spectacularly preserved fossils. But Jurassic World is not a science documentary, and we shouldn’t expect it to be.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

US presidential hopefuls ought to consider the “atheist vote” in 2016. Non-theists could soon challenge evangelicals in numbers.

The pope says he wants to end climate change. So why is he bashing cap-and-trade?

Overbearing parents should get a life. It will help their kids find one of their own (paywall).

South Africa has sided with tyranny. Allowing indicted Sudanese leader Omar ​al-​Bashir to leave is an insult to human rights.

Racial identity is porous and complicated. But it’s wrong to appropriate black culture without enduring its hardships.

Surprising discoveries

Nigerian legislators got a $43 million clothing allowance. $90,000 per lawmaker will buy some very fancy threads.

China just screened the original Star Wars for the first time. The 1977 film had never been shown in mainland theaters.

Nintendo used graph paper to create Super Mario BrosThe side-scrolling video game classic was designed by hand.

Mathematicians are hoarding “dream chalk.” The Japanese maker of Hagoromo Fulltouch went out of business.

Unfrosted Pop-Tarts have more calories than frosted ones. Their crust is thicker to compensate for the lack of frosting.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Super Mario maps, and unwanted frosting to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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