Quartz Daily Brief—#Abe’s new cabinet, #ISIL hostage execution, #China services boom, radioactive boars

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Western countries dig in against Russia. The EU is proposing new, tougher sanctions on Russian companies, and is even considering boycotting the 2018 World Cup (paywall). Barack Obama is headed to Estonia to give US allies a pep talk, and NATO is planning a military exercise in Ukraine this month with more than 1,000 troops.

New gadgets on parade. New smartwatches, phones, and TVs will be on display from manufacturers like Samsung and Sony at the IFA tech show in Berlin, as they attempt to claim a bit of the spotlight ahead of Apple’s Sept. 9 event.

No surprises in Brazil or Canada. In its last monetary policy meeting before the upcoming election, Brazil’s central bank is expected to leave its benchmark rate unchanged (paywall), though the economy has just entered recession. The Bank of Canada will also likely stay the course ahead of rate hikes expected to start next year (paywall).

Economic tales from around the US. The US Federal Reserve releases the Beige Book, a periodic business survey of its 12 regional banks, and is expected to reflect economic growth. US factory and auto orders are also due.

A kiss-and-tell on François Hollande. Paris-Match publishes extracts (French) fromMerci Pour Ce Moment (Thanks For This Moment), a memoir by Valérie Trierweiler, the French president’s ex-partner, whom he spurned for an actress.

While you were sleeping

ISIL beheaded another journalist. Steven Sotloff, an American reporter captured last year in Syria, has been executed by the jihadist group, according to a video that is being checked for authenticity. The video also threatens a British captive, David Haines, with a similar fate.

Shinzo Abe reshuffled his cabinet. Japan’s prime minister appointed an advocate for higher taxes and a pro-China politician (paywall) to key posts. He is also expected to appoint more women in an effort to boost his popularity, but his key economic ministers and chief cabinet secretary aren’t going anywhere.

Good news for China’s non-manufacturing sectors. The services purchasing managers’ index surged to 54.4 in August, according to official data, and to 54.1 according to HSBC/Markit—the strongest level of expansion in 17 months.

British retail prices evened out a bit. After July’s 1.9% fall, the steepest in seven years, prices declined by only 1.6% in August versus the previous year. Food prices rose 0.3%.

Australia GDP growth slowed. The economy decelerated but still beat analysts’ expectations with an increase of 0.5% in the second quarter, due to capital spending and increased consumption.

Halliburton settled lawsuits over the worst oil spill in US history. The contractor agreed to pay $1.1 billion to cover most of the lawsuits over its role in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. BP, meanwhile, is trying to unseat the compensation claims administrator, alleging a conflict of interest.

Home Depot investigated a security breach. Hackers may have stolen a large batch of credit- and debit-card data from the retailer, which saw its shares drop as a result. The case may be even bigger than Target’s massive security breach last year.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on why a shale gas boom in China could be an environmental disaster. “More than three-fifths of China’s shale resources are in areas where water is very hard to come by, as a new study by World Resources Institute details. That’s potentially a big problem given that the way you release gas is spraying millions of liters of water, sand, and chemicals against a shale wall until it cracks open, releasing gas.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Brazil has squandered its oil bonanza. President and former energy minister Dilma Rousseff’s policies have led to stagnant output and increased dependence on imports.

You can’t appeal to ISIL for mercy under Islam. The jihadist group is not interested in arguing theology.

Facebook’s “report abuse” button has become a tool of oppression. A tool to crack down on trolls is being used to silence anti-government dissent.

The West needs to mount a serious response to Ebola. There’s a plan, but it’s not being followed.

Surprising discoveries

Another row over reclining seats. A US plane had to be diverted yet again—the third instance in nine days.

The ice bucket challenge could be fatal if you have a plane dump 396 gallons of water on you.

Radioactive wild boars are on the loose in Germany. The Chernobyl nuclear accident is still affecting their food supply.

Scotland Yard is for sale. Just a brief stroll fromBuckingham Palace, the building is priced at $433 million.

Innovations in cockatoo tool making. A flock emulated one of the birds who carved a stick and used it to retrieve food.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, radioactive boar recipes, and cockatoo tools to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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Websim Focus sui Mercati Finanziari 02/09/2014 – WS

In assenza delle indicazioni di Wall Street, stamattina in Asia si mette in luce Tokio. Il Nikkei sale dell’1,4%, in prossimità dei massimi degli ultimi sette mesi, su aspettative di un rimpasto di governo: il premier Shinzo Abe potrebbe nominare Yasuhisa Shiozaki, un aperto sostenitore di una riforma del settore pensionistico, a ministro della salute.

Hong Kong -0,5%, Shanghai +0,5%, Mumbai +0,2%. Seul -0,8%: il listino coreano è frenato da Hyundai Motori, in calo del 2,7% dopo la presentazione dei dati preliminari sull’andamento delle vendite di automobili nel trimestre chiuso in agosto.

I future sulle borse europee anticipano un avvio in rialzo dello 0,3% circa.

Ucraina. Situazione sempre tesa, ma ieri sera a Minsk, in Bielorussia, sono iniziati i colloqui diretti tra il governo ucraino ed i separatisti delle zone a Est del Paese. Questi ultimi hanno ammorbidito i toni ed hanno detto di voler ottenere uno statuto speciale e non una piena e definitiva indipendenza da Kiev.

Bce. Fonti interne hanno detto a Reuters che una nuova mossa nella riunione di questa settimana (giovedì) è improbabile ma non impensabile. A nostro giudizio la Bce sta già facendo l’impossibile.

Per esempio, nei primi otto mesi il fabbisogno dello Stato è migliorato di circa 10,6 miliardi ? il progresso guarda caso è in gran parte dovuto al ribasso dei tassi. Dunque ancora una volta grazie Draghi!

Analisi tecnica borse. Anche la prima seduta di settembre ha messo in evidenza l’incertezza delle borse europee e il tono sostenuto delle borse emergenti (nuovo record dell’India per esempio). E’ Mancata l’indicazione di Wall Street. Siamo però convinti che la forbice a sfavore della zona euro si sia allargata a sufficienza e che in prospettiva l’indebolimento dell’euro possa giocare a favore dei listini del vecchio continente.
Brasile (Bovespa 61.141, -0,24%). Ha segnato nuovi massimi di periodo a 62.279 punti prima di correggere. Sfiorato il target indicato da Websim in area 63/64mila dove prendiamo profitto sugli acquisti fatti in area 58mila.

India (Sensex 26.957, +0,3%). Nuovo massimo storico stamattina. Si rinvia alla rubrica Fatti & Effetti per un approfondimento della strategia.

FtseMib (20.345, -0,51%). Anche settembre parte incerto, dopo quattro mesi negativi consecutivi. Al momento restano confermati i primi segnali di distensione visti con lo sfondamento di area 20mila. Solo sopra 20.500 si tornerebbe a puntare a un ritorno versi i top dell’anno a 22.500 punti.

Variabili macro.

Petrolio. Tutto fermo. Brent 102,7 dollari, Wti 95,7 usd. Trend privo di direzionalità. Stiamo fuori.

Oro. Oggi invariato a 1.285 dollari l’oncia. Quadro di fondo debole.

Forex. Euro/Dollaro (1,3121). Nuovo minimo da settembre 2013 in avvio di giornata a 1,3115. Manteniamo una visione positiva sul dollaro. Sfondato l’importante supporto a quota 1,33, il trend si proietta verso il successivo obiettivo tra 1,30/1,27. Confermiamo il suggerimento di acquistare dollari in ottica di diversificazione, possibilmente sfruttando i rari rimbalzi.

Bond periferici. Malgrado le turbolenze generate (ad arte probabilmente) dalle voci sui rapporti tesi tra Bce e Germania, tutto il comparto regge benissimo. Il rendimento del Btp a 10 anni apre invariato al 2,43%, lo spread a 154 punti base. Crediamo che lo scenario resti favorevole ai titoli di Stato periferici. Per nuovi acquisti è preferibile attendere qualche giornata “storta”: puntiamo a un target finale di spread a 100 punti base e a un rendimento tra il 2,3/2,2%.


Quartz Daily Brief—#Putin provokes, Pakistan crisis deepens, Muji heads to #India, skipping brunch

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Putin picks at the wound. Expect a response after the Russian president called for talks on “statehood” for the eastern part of Ukraine. He also said the country should negotiate directly with pro-Russian rebels. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s prime minister Arseny Yatsenyuk said he would ask parliament to give up the country’s nonaligned status in order to seek membership with NATO.

German and Brazilian economic data arrive. Monday brings the final estimate of Germany’s quarterly GDP figures, ahead of a European Central Bank meeting this week and signs of deflation. And the latest Brazilian import and export reports will be released, days after it was confirmed Brazil is in recession.

Britain acts on homegrown jihadists. The UK is planning to announce measures to block British citizens fighting in Syria and Iraq from returning home, though they could keep their passports. More than 500 British fighters are estimated to be involved. One of three militants dubbed “the Beatles” is suspected of killing journalist James Foley.

Small islands, unite! The third United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States begins in Apia, Samoa. Some 41 island nations will discuss sustainable development.

Pakistan’s political crisis deepens. Protestors tried to storm prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s home over the weekend, at least three people were killed, and 200 were injured as police fought the crowd with teargas and rubber bullets. Pakistan’s army said that they would not step in and that a political solution was necessary.

Over the weekend

No universal suffrage in Hong Kong. China has told Hong Kong its next leader will be selected via an election committee in 2017—dashing the aspirations of pro-democracy activists. On Sunday, Macau re-elected its chief executive similarly, in a vote where Fernando Chui was the only candidate. The process took 25 minutes. The Hong Kong decision raised a red flag for how Beijing might treat Taiwan.

You’re next, Saudi king warned the West. Jihadist attacks “will reach Europe in a month and America in another month” unless world leaders halt the ISIL, said Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah. His words echo John Kerry’s call for a global military effort to confront the brutal militants who are sweeping through Iraq and Syria.

Modi began his Japan visit. The Indian prime minister arrived in Japan for a five-day visit on Saturday.  Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe plans to double Japan’s $2 billion investment in India in five years, and the two are expected to discuss a nuclear pact as well as a defense agreement. Muji will be Japan’s first retailer to enter the Indian market, the Nikkei business daily reports.

A new iPayments system? Maybe Apple and leading payment networks can do what Google hasn’t yet, and make consumers love the mobile wallet. Bloomberg reports that Apple will partner with Visa, AmEx and Mastercard in a new payment product that will be unveiled on Sept. 9, when the iPhone 6 is expected to debut.

Samsung will get bigger. South Korea’s giant conglomerate announced that Samsung Heavy, the group’s shipbuilding division, and Samsung Engineering, which includes refineries and industrial plants, would merge in December. The news caused shares for both to jump. The deal’s estimated value is $2.5 billion.

As Time Warner gives up on Vice, A&E enters the fray. Walt Disney and Hearst’s jointly-owned A&E Networks cable television group is nearing a deal (paywall) to buy 10% of Vice Media, the Financial Times reported. This comes hours after a New York Times report that Time Warner ended months of negotiations to acquire a stake in fast-growing Vice.

China’s economy slowed. The manufacturing purchasing managers’ index fell in August, coming in at 51.1, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, which is lower than a Bloomberg estimate of 51.2. The weak expansion suggests that economic momentum has dropped for the world’s second-largest economy

Quartz obsession interlude

Svati Kirsten Narula on how Americans may soon find out that butter is a luxury. “The amount of butter stored in refrigerated warehouses across the US is 42% lower this summer than last, according to the USDA. On Aug. 29, butter futures reached an all-time high of $2.55 per pound on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Don’t hire people for what they know. Instead, ask if they can learn to do the job.

Your IQ isn’t constant. It changes over time.

Brunch is a waste of time. And the people who brunch are often people who can’t really afford the time or the money.

Burma is carving out geopolitical leverage. In negotiations with China and India, it’s continuing a long-established tradition of balancing great powers.

Surprising discoveries

Spaniards haven’t swapped a lot of pesetas. They’ve kept 1.7 billion euros ($2.2 billion) worth.

Farming consumes 80% of the US’s freshwater. But it doesn’t have to—one urban farming experiment reduces water consumption by 98%.

Burma’s census showed its population at 51 million. That’s nine million less than last time.

Libraries don’t need books anymore. Not paper ones, anyway.

A South Florida condo development was called, ‘ISIS Downtown.’ The name has since been changed to something more benign.

Ikea catalogs mostly feature computer-generated imagery. Three-quarters of catalog objects are fake.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, butter stashes, and alternatives to brunch to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Gaza war resumes, Pakistan’s standoff, ISIL’s message, car thieves

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What to watch for today

The Gaza war reignites. Hostilities resumed as rockets from Gaza hit Israel around eight hours before the 24-hour ceasefire was set to expire at midnight. Israel launched airstrikes in response that killed a woman and child. Peace talks in Cairo have collapsed and Israel has called its negotiators home.

The standoff in Pakistan intensifies. After opposition politician Imran Khan led his supporters through physical road blocks into Islamabad’s “Red Zone,” he called on them to make a “Tahrir Square” outside parliament to pressure prime minister Nawaz Sharif to step down.

A spotlight on US and UK interest rates. The Fed and Bank of England release minutes from their July and August meetings, respectively. Both will provide insight into when an interest rate hike is likely as the US is approaching its inflation goal (paywall) and Britain’s economy is showing mixed signals.

Brazil’s election gets a fresh jolt of energy. The Brazilian Socialist Party is expected to announce Marina Silva as its presidential candidate, after Eduardo Campos died in a plane crash last week. A poll last week showed that Silva, a former environment minister who was Campos’s vice-presidential running mate, could beat the incumbent, Dilma Rousseff.

Hewlett-Packard and Staples will report. Computing giant HP is restructuring, and revenue is expected to fall by 0.8%. Staples, the biggest US retailer of office supplies, has had a difficult year with competition from companies like Amazon, Walmart and even local drugstores. Revenues are expected to decline by 2.9%.

While you were sleeping

Good and bad news for Shinzo Abe. Japan’s trade deficit widened (paywall) again as imports rose 2.3%. Still, Japan’s exports rose for the first time in three months, a sign that overseas demand is recovering. Automobile and electric machinery shipments were the main growth contributors. Last month’s unexpectedly wide trade deficit raised serious doubts about prime minister Abe’s growth strategy (paywall).

Steve Ballmer left Microsoft’s board. Ballmer, who stepped down as Microsoft CEO in February, is quitting the company’s board too after 14 years. But don’t feel sorry for him: He owns more Microsoft stock than Bill Gates, and has a new basketball team to play with.

ISIL’s gruesome message. The group released a video showing the beheading of a man they identified as American journalist, James Foley. US intelligence is working to verify the video’s authenticity. The group also threatened to kill journalist, Steven Sotloff, unless the US stops bombing northern Iraq. Saudi Arabia’s highest religious authority, the grand mufti, pronounced ISIL  “enemy number one” of Islam.

Record high for Apple. The tech company’s stock closed at an all-time high of $100.53 a share. Apple’s shares have nearly doubled since April 2013, and the new iPhone 6, which will be released in September, will likely only strengthen the growth.

Ukraine’s forces inched closer to Donetsk. Government troops captured a town near the rebel-held city. Heavy fighting continued in Luhansk, near where 15 bodies have been recovered so far after Monday’s strike on a refugee convoy; separatist rebels are still denying they were behind it. The Ukrainian and Russian presidents are set to meet next week.

The Liberian government declared a curfew. In an attempt to contain the Ebola outbreak, the country hardest hit by the current crisis has introduced a curfew from 9pm to 6am in Monrovia and quarantined a slum. According to the latest WHO figures, the outbreak has killed 1,229 people.

Quartz obsession interlude

Leo Mirani on why every smartphone app seems to want you to turn on notifications. “Smartphone users who turn on notifications use those applications far more often than people with alerts turned off. They are also much less likely to use an app only once before abandoning it. ‘On average, 62% of users will return to the app the following month if they are being engaged with push messaging, whereas only 32% of users will return if not prompted with push,’ according to Localytics.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

America does not value black lives. That’s the message sent when police kill an unarmed black man with no repercussions.

Central bankers are contributing to a peculiar calm in global markets. Their loose monetary policy is encouraging investors to take more risks through bonds and equities.

The EU should challenge China on disputed waters. Europe can’t rely on the US alone to guarantee freedom of the high seas.

Harry Potter shaped the Millennial generation’s politics. Because of Harry and his friends, an entire generation is more likely to support equality and less likely to tolerate authoritarianism, violence, and torture.

Surprising discoveries

The Honda Accord was the most stolen car in the US. Car thieves prefer less fancy cars because they’re easier to take apart and sell in parts.

Richard III drank a bottle of wine daily. Studies of his teeth and bones show he also had a fondness for eating swan, heron, and egret.

A hard-to-refute reason for canceling the Economist. One reader spent less time reading in the bathroom, with positive health effects.

Chechnya’s president interrogated 1,000 villagers about his lost iPhone. Well, he needed it; he’s famous on Instagram, after all.

A Superman comic is worth at least $2 million. With five days left to go, an eBay auction could easily beat the last record for a copy of the series, which was $2.16 million.

Passport officers aren’t foolproof. Untrained college students had the same error rate as trained officers in matching a face to a passport photo.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, swan recipes, and nice cars to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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Quartz Daily Brief—Drug company deal-making, McDonald’s forced vegetarianism, Ebola outbreak spreads, robot hitchhiker

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Data from the world’s biggest economies. The US releases pending home sales figures for June, with conflicting signs over whether it’s business as usual. Japan’s jobless rate and household spending data will give insight into the nation’s recovery.

Reckitt Benckiser spins off its pharmaceutical unit. The consumer goods giant behind Durex condoms and Lysol cleaner is expected to detail plans to create a separate company for its US-based drug unit, rather than sell it or pursue an IPO, when it reports half-year results.

Shinzo Abe visits Latin America. The Japanese prime minister made a brief stop in Trini­dad and Toba­go this weekend on his way to Mexico, Colom­bia, Chile and Brazil, in an attempt to match the diplomatic maneuvers of China president Xi Jinping.

The First World War began a hundred years ago. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia a month after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Nations across Europe will begin the marking the centenary. Britain is spending £50 million on four years of events and ceremonies.

It’s Eid al-Fitr. Sunday was declared the last day of Ramadan—both in North America, which uses astronomical calculations, and in Middle Eastern countries, which use the phases of the moon.

Over the weekend

McDonald’s China meat supplier issued a total recall. The US-based owner of Shanghai Husi, the processor that sold expired meat, recalled all products from its Shanghai factory. Some McDonald’s outlets in Beijing, Shanghai, and other cities are only serving fries and drinks until a new supplier can be found.

Palestinians in Gaza had only a brief respite. A 12-hour Israeli ceasefire ended after continued rocket attacks from Hamas. The militant group then declared its own ceasefire, which Israel refused to recognize. More than 1,000 people have died in the nearly three-week conflict.

The US pointed a finger at Russia. Washington released satellite photos that it said show Russian artillery firing across the border at the Ukrainian forces battling separatist rebels. The fighting has prevented foreign investigators from accessing the MH17 crash site.

Boko Haram abducted the Cameroonian deputy prime minister’s wife. A local religious leader and the mayor were also abducted from a border town. The terrorist group has increased attacks in Cameroon in recent weeks, after its army was deployed to fight the Nigeria-based militants.

GlaxoSmithKline is mulling a breakup… Its CEO said the UK’s biggest drugmaker might split its consumer healthcare business, which is relaunching next year as a joint venture with Novartis, from its main pharmaceutical unit (paywall)—the latest move in an ongoing reshuffle of the drug industry.

…And Danone may sell its baby food business. The French consumer group is discussing the $5 billion sale of its medical nutrition unit (paywall) to Hospira, which would allow the US-based pharmaceutical company to move its tax-base to Europe.

Ebola killed a top Liberian doctor. Samuel Brisbane was one of the most prominent victims of the outbreak that has killed some 600 people in three countries; two US volunteer doctors have also been infected. The disease reached Nigeria on Friday via a sick airline passenger.

Quartz obsession interlude

Kabir Chibber on why Western tech giants shouldn’t worry about Chinese copycatting, but about what happens when it stops. “China’s near neighbor, South Korea, set the precedent for Chinese tech companies’ evolution. ‘In a region of fast growth, since the 1960s Korea has increased its per-capita-GDP more quickly than any of its neighbors,’ the consultancy firm McKinsey notes. That’s also the period during which the country started to move from manufacturing high-end components for Western gadget makers to competing with them.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

If corporations are people, why can’t people be corporations? Rights harmonization should flow in both directions.

The Sixth Extinction is upon us. During the Fifth Extinction, the dinosaurs died out.

The US should legalize marijuana. So says the New York Times editorial board.

The BRICS have nothing in common. “Except that they are large, emerging, and not-the-US.”

Croatia is the next EU crisis country. Growth is stagnating (paywall) and reforms are going too slowly.

Surprising discoveries

Russia fixed its gecko sex satellite. Control has been restored and the geckos should be able to return to Earth safely.

Golf courses are banned in China. To get one built, developers have to label it a “resort.”

A robot is hitchhiking across Canada. Made from leftover junk, it will take selfies with anyone who gives it a ride.

It’s really hard to avoid flying over conflict zones. Steering clear of countries like Iraq makes for convoluted and expensive routes.

Up for 44 years, gone in 10 seconds. Watch the controlled destruction of a UK coal-fired power station.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, vagrant robot selfies, and zero-G gecko fan fiction to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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Quartz Weekend Brief—China v Japan, streaming music wars, Putin’s bubble, operatic racism

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While the the kinetic conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East have dominated this week’s news, a more subtle contest, between China and Japan, has been playing out on an unlikely stage: Latin America. The leaders of Asia’s two largest economies have been hopping across the region, seeking or cementing political alliances as well as new business deals.

Barely had Chinese president Xi Jinping headed home from a week-long trip to Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Cuba, when Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe started his 11-day swing, which will take in Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago, Colombia, Chile and Brazil.

The Chinese media quickly declared Xi’s visit a grand success. The People’s Daily said it “not only fostered closer economic ties, but also led to many commercial contracts.” Expect similar triumphant proclamations from the Japanese media at the end of Abe’s trip.

While both Japan and China want stronger economic ties to a region rich in resources, they are also keen to broaden the nature of their relationships. Xi wants China to be seen as a major player in world affairs, and that means more than striking business deals. Abe is seeking international support for Japan’s long-standing ambition of joining the UN Security Council.  And although Latin America is an ocean away from the main theater of Sino-Japanese friction, the East China Sea, each leader is seeking sympathetic ears for his complaints about the other.

For Latin American nations, the heightened attention from the world’s second and third-largest economies is mostly welcome. But in political and territorial disputes, nobody really wants to pick sides between Beijing and Tokyo. Business deals will receive enthusiasm and fanfare; for the rest, polite nodding is the order of the day.—Bobby Ghosh

Five things on Quartz we especially liked

Who will win the streaming music wars? Will Spotify beat Pandora? Will Deezer surge ahead? Or will they all be swallowed up or steamrollered by a loss-leading music division of Apple, Amazon or Google? John McDuling examines the dynamics of a fragmented industry where only one or two big winners are likely to remain.

How to deal with opera’s inherent racism. A recent Seattle production of The Mikado is eliciting anger over “yellowface,” meaning white performers made up to look Japanese. Gwynn Guilford explores the history of the ethnic parodies that underpin many operas—and some ideas about how directors can treat them in a more modern way.

Ways for the West to put pressure on Russia. Gazprom, Russia’s gas monopoly, is losing its dominance as the state’s foreign-policy tool, but sanctions aimed at it could still bring pressure to bear, Steve LeVine writes. And Tim Fernholz explains how the Netherlands, as one of the chief offshore financial centers for Russian money, could do a little squeezing of its own.

Why Google will remain the king of search. The company’s share of US search queries continues to inch up, and its competitors are far behind. But as Dan Frommer explains, search is such a huge business that it makes more sense to start smaller search engines for specific niches than challenge Google head-on.

The US catches some of the world’s best salmon but eats some of the worst. Why are Americans eating bland, imported, farmed salmon when they could be feasting on the superb wild catches from their own rivers? Gwynn Guilford teases apart a paradox that’s the result of a curious mix of taste and economic history.

Five things elsewhere that made us smarter

A peek inside Putin’s bubble. Over several years of reporting, Ben Judah spoke with a wide range of current and former members of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, assembling an engrossing, impressionistic account of the inscrutable Russian president’s daily routine for Newsweek. He paints a picture largely of monotony, paranoia, and isolation. “There are no stories of extravagance: only of loneliness.”

Le tour de malaise. In Der Spiegel, Alexander Smoltczyk traces the route of this year’s Tour de France, but cycling is not on his mind. He is on the road to chronicle the “new sick man of Europe,” speaking with anyone he bumps into about the “deep gloom” that seems to be gripping France. “The state is sick, the economy is sick, its education is sick and it is sick from an excessively glorified past that won’t go away,” says one particularly disgruntled Frenchman.

How John Kerry’s Middle East peace plan crumbled. This impressively detailed account of a year of diplomacy from Ben Birnbaum and Amir Tibon in the New Republic is a microcosm of every set of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks ever held, and shows the distrust, back-stabbing and communication breakdowns that have caused them to run aground.

Seeing war through food. National-security writer John Little interviews celebrity chef and TV host Anthony Bourdain, who has made an art of reporting on the cuisine of conflict zones. “Most people seem to be pretty nice—basically good people doing the best they can,” Bourdain says. “There is rarely, however, a neat takeaway. You have to learn to exercise a certain moral relativity.”

Where restaurant reservations come from. From, umm… the need to book a restaurant, right? The seemingly silly question has a much more complicated answer, discovers Alexis Madrigal in the Atlantic—probably stemming from the 19th century, when private rooms in restaurants were the place unmarried men and women could meet without offending public decency.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, war recipes, and Putin anecdotes to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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Quartz Daily Brief—Russian sanction pain, Amazon disappoints, Algerie wreckage found, zero-G gecko peril

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Israel faces more Palestinian protests. Anger over the shelling of UN elementary school in Gaza could lead to new protests (paywall) in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Clashes between protesters and security forces began on Thursday night, after at least 15 were killed in the attack.

Signs of pain in Russia? Fitch and Moody’s will update their sovereign debt ratings for Russia, the state oil behemoth Rosneft reports earnings, and the Russian central bank issues an interest-rate decision, all of which could give clues as to whether Western sanctions having an effect.

An Indonesian election challenge. Prabowo Subianto, the former general who narrowly lost Indonesia’s presidential race to Joko Widodo, is expected to submit a court claim (paywall) seeking to overturn the outcome.

High hopes for the UK. The Office for National Statistics releases it second-quarter GDP estimate. Although the International Monetary Fund cut its global growth forecast yesterday, it upgraded the UK’s outlook for the fourth time in nine months.

Shinzo Abe follows in Xi Jinping’s footsteps. Japan’s prime minister embarks on a five-country tour of Latin America and the Caribbean, following on the heels of China’s president as the two Asian powerhouses compete for clout.

While you were sleeping

The US accused Russia of firing on Ukraine. The US State Department said it has evidence that recent artillery fire came from Russian soil, and that Russia plans to deliver heavier and more powerful rocket launchers to Ukrainian rebels.

Amazon disappointed investors. The company’s second-quarter loss was double what analysts expected, and it warned that the third quarter would be much worse. The numbers suggest that Amazon’s price war with Google over cloud computing services is starting to hurt.

Japan’s inflation dipped slightly to 3.3% in June, from 3.4% in May, in unwelcome but unsurprising news for the country’s central bank, which is trying to hit a 2% inflation target.

The wreckage of Air Algerie flight 5017 was found in a village in Mali. The aircraft changed its route to avoid bad weather but the cause of its crash has not been determined; officials say Malian insurgents don’t have weapons that can bring down a cruising airliner.

BNP Paribas got fined again. The French bank is set to pay $80 million for defrauding the US Department of Agriculture. It helped US commodities exporters claim undeserved compensation.

A tie-up in British construction. Balfour Beatty and Carillion, two of the country’s largest building companies, are in talks over a potential £3 billion ($5.1 billion) merger.

Quartz obsession interlude

Adam Epstein on how American cable channels have become an indistinguishable swamp of reality TV. “TLC is not the only one abandoning its roots. Dozens of basic cable networks no longer adhere to any core identity or defined genre of programming. MTV (which stood at one time for “Music Television”) infamously airs very little music programming. Two of the most popular shows on The History Channel (now just called History) are Pawn Stars and Ice Road Truckers. Animal Planet’s most watched program last year was a pseudoscience “mocudrama” on mermaids.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The US should expose Putin’s network of offshore accounts. Europe will hate it at first, but will thank America for it later.

India’s new populist leader could learn from Indonesia’s president-elect. India’s Arvind Kerjiwal is struggling to find his feet.

The FAA shouldn’t have banned flights to Israel. Closing down infrastructure in the face of terrorist threats is self-defeating, says Michael Bloomberg.

China’s top leader has too much power. Xi Jinping’s many roles pose a threat to stability in Asia.

Surprising discoveries

Russia’s zero-G sex geckos are in trouble. A satellite carrying the lizards (five female, one male) to study their reproductive habits is malfunctioning.

A South Korean baseball team has a robot cheering section. The Hanwa Eagles offer robotic surrogates for fans who can’t make the game.

Alibaba sells Jeff Koons knock-offs. Balloon dog sculptures on the Chinese e-commerce site the are only $500; the original sold for $58 million.

Surgeons removed 232 teeth from a teen in India. Think about this the next time you complain about a dentist visit.

Powerful people have a distorted perception of time. Their feelings of control make them think they have more time than they do.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, baseball robots, and space gecko rescue plans to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

You’re getting the Europe and Africa edition of the Quartz Daily Brief. To change your region, click here. We’d also love it if you shared this email with your friends. They can sign up for free here.