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Quartz Daily Brief—Europe and Africa edition—Jack Ma visits Obama, Japan’s rebound, “excess sunlight” delays

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What to watch for today

Mark Zuckerberg meets with US conservatives. The Facebook founder sits down with right-wing media outlets to talk about allegations that the service’s trending news curators habitually suppressed stories with a conservative bent.

Protests in Hong Kong. In conjunction with a visit by Zhang Dejiang, a high-ranking Chinese Communist Party official, demonstrators are rallying for greater democracy and press freedom. Some 8,000 officers have been deployed to maintain security, with activists saying they have to break rules to be heard

Earnings, earnings: Tencent, Target, Cisco, Lowe’s, Staples, SABMiller, Burberry, and Salesforce.com all report their quarterly results.

While you were sleeping

Chinese manufacturer Midea wants Germany’s industrial-robots maker Kuka. The appliance maker plans to disclose a takeover offer, sources told Reuters, possibly today. With labor prices and protests increasing in China, Midea is at the forefront of replacing humans with robots.

Germany and the US agreed to share more counter-terrorism data. They’ll also work together to counter Islamist extremist propaganda online and exchange data about people who may be planning attacks.

The Alberta wildfires encroached on oil sand facilities. They destroyed a work camp (employees had been evacuated) and crept closer to key infrastructure, with teams experienced in fighting industrial fires standing by. The halt in production has contributed to a jump in global oil prices.

Japan’s economy rebounded sharply. The world’s third-largest economy expanded 1.7% in the first quarter, contrasting with expectations of 0.2% and a 1.7% contraction last quarter. But it was helped by an extra leap year day, and concerns remain over weakness in the current quarter.

Jack Ma quietly met with Barack Obama. The founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba—who is Asia’s richest man, according to some estimates—told reporters outside the White House that his meeting with the US president was “very good.” An Alibaba representative declined to disclose the nature of their discussion.

The US eased sanctions on Myanmar. The move, ahead of a visit by US secretary of state John Kerry next month, is designed to reward the country’s transition to democracy. But human rights concerns remain: Leader Aung San Suu Kyi won’t even admit to the existence of the country’s persecuted Rohingya minority.

The US Justice Department opened an investigation into Russia’s Olympic doping. It started a criminal probe into state-sponsored sports cheating involving Russian government officials, coaches, athletes, and watchdogs. The same agency also broke last year’s FIFA bribery scandal.

US lawmakers advanced a bill that would let 9/11 victims sue Saudi Arabia. The White House has vowed to veto the measure. The Saudis, who deny responsibility for the attacks, have threatened to sell $750 billion in American assets if it becomes law.

Quartz markets haiku

Investors thinking
The Fed could raise interest rates
Sent stocks tumbling down

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on the World Bank’s decision to drop “developing country” from its data presentations: “The change marks an evolution in thinking about the geographic distribution of poverty and prosperity. But it sounds less radical when you consider that nobody has ever agreed on a definition for these terms in the first place.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

In the future, computers will be trained like dogs. Machine learning could spell the end of software coding as we know it.

Free will doesn’t exist, but that’s not the point. We need to believe we’re morally responsible for our actions, even if biology is actually in charge.

Startup founders are not tragic Greek heroes. We shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss entrepreneurs who don’t fit the archetype.

Surprising discoveries

“Excess sunlight” caused train delays in London. Drivers couldn’t safely exit platforms when bright rays blocked their CCTV monitors.

Iraq shut down the internet to prevent cheating on exams. It’s the second year in a row.

A jelly bean mogul is being sued for a gruesome tank accident. Jelly Belly chair Herman Rowland owns an M5 tank from World War 2 that fatally struck a man last year.

Ford is trying to make car seats out of carbon dioxide. The goal is a car made entirely out of sustainable materials.

The US postal service almost invented email. The proposal for “Electronic Computer Originated Mail” was ultimately rejected.

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