Quartz Daily Brief—Eric #Holder’s farewell, #Ukraine’s cold shoulder, “Jihadi John” identified, flying fish bones

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Britain joins the fight against the Islamic State. Prime minister David Cameron recalled parliament and has all but confirmed that the UK will join the US in bombing Iraq—but will likely stay out of Syria.

Ukraine fights off the cold shoulder. The European Commission will meet in Berlin in an attempt to settle Russia and Ukraine’s natural gas dispute before the winter begins. Ukraine hasn’t received any Russian gas since June.

Apple and Samsung rush their phablets to market. The South Korean handset maker launches the Galaxy Note 4 in its home market, and tries to get it into China before Apple’s supersized iPhones receive Beijing’s approval. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus lands in Taiwan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and 19 other countries today.

An upward revision for US GDP. The Department of Commerce is expected to raise its second-quarter annualized GDP growth figure to 4.6%, compared with an earlier estimate of 4.2%.

Where in the world is Kim Jong-un? The totalitarian leader of North Korea failed to appear at a parliamentary meeting on Thursday, extending his unusual three-week absence from state media. There is speculation that Kim is suffering from health problems, but it’s almost impossible to know for sure.

While you were sleeping

Islamic State executioner “Jihadi John” was identified. The FBI has not released the name of the man who beheaded three hostages in Syria, but said it discovered his identity after working with other intelligence agencies. “John” is likely UK-born, and has threatened to kill a fourth hostage.

Japanese inflation fell more than expected. One of the central goals of Abenomics suffered another setback as core consumer prices rose by only 3.1% in August, down from 3.3% in July.

Commercial drones got a lift. US regulators cleared several Hollywood movie studios to use the flying robots, the first time that corporations can legally use them in the lower 48 states (they were previously authorized for monitoring oil pipelines in Alaska). The ruling is an encouraging sign for companies like Amazon and Google, which are pursuing their own drone programs.

The US attorney general resigned. Eric Holder won’t leave his post until his successor is confirmed by the US Senate—which won’t be an easy task.

Fatah and Hamas shook hands. The rival Palestinian factions decided to set aside their differences and form a unity government to rebuild what’s left of Gaza after a 50-day Israeli offensive. The estimated repair bill: $7.8 billion.

Paris and New York’s subways went on high alert. Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi said security forces in Baghdad have captured Islamic State fighters who claim the militant group is planning attacks on public transport systems in New York and Paris.

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Quartz obsession interlude

Zainab Mudallal on the health hazards of trekking to Mecca. “The density of bodies at Hajj creates a breeding ground for illness. A meningitis outbreak followed the Hajj in 1987, and as a result, is now a required vaccination for the visa (along with vaccines for tuberculosis, polio, influenza and yellow fever). One study calculated the meningitis carriage rate at Hajj to be as high as 80%. A cholera strain was discovered in pilgrims upon their return Egypt from Hajj in 1905, leading to the deaths of thousands of pilgrims and residents.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Obama showed us how a Nobel Peace Prize-winner starts a war: With plenty of charm.

Employees should take off all the time they want. It works for Richard Branson and his staff at Virgin (and, incidentally, for Quartz).

New Zealand has designed the world’s best government. It’s a real democracy, yet it still has a monarchy.

Japan should default on its debt. It would help redistribute wealth from the old to the young.

Surprising discoveries

The Earth’s water is older than the sun. The discovery bolsters the chances of life elsewhere in the universe.

KFC Japan makes fried chicken iPhone cases.  A deep-fried keyboard and computer mouse are also available. 

Northern Ireland is issuing “scratch and sniff” cards that smell like weed. It’s an attempt to sniff out cannabis factories.

Too much exercise may give you bad teeth. Parched athletes’ lower levels of saliva may be to blame.

Cows hate cowbells. They are heavy and as loud as a jackhammer, and the animals eat less grass when they’re wearing them.

Click here for more surprising discoveries on Quartz.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, vacation requests, and deep-fried smartphone accessories to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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Quartz Daily Brief—More #Russia sanctions, #Scotland “No” leads, Pistorius’ final verdict, camel leotards

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

More sanctions against Russia. The US will join the EU in imposing a new set of measures to punish Moscow for its provocative actions in Ukraine. The US sanctions are expected to target Russia’s financial, energy, and defense industries, and the EU’s measures—previously approved, but now actually enacted—will focus on curbing Russian oil production and exploration.

Will Oscar Pistorius go to prison? The South African athlete was acquitted of murder charges but might still face a manslaughter conviction for killing his girlfriend, as the judge presiding over the trial finishes reading her lengthy verdict.

Russia’s central bank stands still. The bank is expected to leave its benchmark interest rate untouched to support an economy weakened by the conflict in Ukraine. But some analysts aren’t ruling out a surprise rate hike, since Russia’s tit-for-tat ban on Western food imports is boosting inflation.

Double data from the US. Retail sales could see a boost thanks to the back-to-school shopping season, after falling flat in recent months. Consumer sentiment figures could also see a turnaround.

Olive Garden’s earnings. Parent company Darden Restaurants will report first-quarter results (paywall) before markets open in the US. Activist investor Starboard Value LP is pushing for a total overhaul of the company’s board.

While you were sleeping

The Arab world threw its weight behind the US. Ten Arab leaders told US secretary of state John Kerry (paywall) that they would join its war against the Islamic State. Kerry didn’t want to call it a “war,” though, but rather “a very significant counterterrorism operation.” Syria, Iran, and Russia are—surprise, surprise—trying to act as spoilers.

Facebook got a thumbs-down in China. The social network “cannot” have access to the world’s biggest internet market any time soon, the country’s top internet regulator said on the sidelines of a World Economic Forum event in Tianjin.

Scotland swung back toward a “No” vote. A new YouGov poll showed supporters of maintaining the union have regained a 52-48% lead.

The Bank of Korea held steady. South Korea’s central bank kept its benchmark rate at a near-four-year low of 2.25%, after lowering it by 0.25% in August, despite the country’s sluggish economy.

Yahoo showed its NSA scars. A federal court ordered the release of a huge trove of court documents showing how the US government threatened to fine the tech firm $250,000 a day in 2008 unless it handed over user data.

Carl Icahn made more inroads into Hertz. Three of the activist investor’s nominees gained seats on the rental car company’s board, boosting its share prices in after-hours trading. Less than a month ago Icahn announced he was the company’s largest shareholder, and at the beginning of the week he forced out its chairman and CEO.

Big donations for Ebola research. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen committed $9 million to support the fight against the disease that’s ravaging west Africa. Earlier this week the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation pledged $50 million to beat the disease.

Quartz obsession interlude

Leo Mirani on how the internet is getting too big for just one kind of Wi-Fi. “Wi-Fi has come a long way from its first tentative steps in the 1990s. Over the years, as new specifications have come along, the speed at which data can be transferred over the air has increased more than 1,000-fold. It now blankets universities, Starbucks coffee shops and, in some cases, entire cities. But it needs to evolve to as the Internet evolves.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Banks should offer lottery tickets. “Prize-linked accounts” encourage the poor to save more.

China’s global mining strategy is a failure. An attempt to secure natural resources (paywall) has resulted in a measly 20% success rate.

Liberal democracy isn’t historically inevitable. Francis Fukuyama’s latest book is still much too optimistic about where the world is headed.

The US should let Russia take over eastern Ukraine. It could learn from the pragmatic choices the British Empire made in the 19th century.

Surprising discoveries

Tiffany used to decorate handguns. They were used as showpieces at 19th century gun shows.

The world’s largest flying creature is named after a James Cameron movie. The Ikrandraco Avatar had a 12-metre wingspan and lived among the dinosaurs.

You can do just fine with half your neurons missing. A Chinese woman is one of just nine known people born without a cerebellum, which controls movement and balance.

There’s a jetpack for runners. It’s designed to help soldiers run a four-minute mile.

For the camel who has everything: a form-fitting leotard. A company is developing them to help prize animals race faster and stand taller.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Tiffany handguns, and camel clothing designs to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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#FX market briefs 02/09/2014

  • European Commission suggested to EU Ambassadors on Monday banning Russian govt-owned companies, not just banks, from borrowing in EU-Diplomats
  • Slovakia, Ukraine open pipeline carrying natural gas from EU to Ukraine
  • Estonian President says wants permanent NATO bases in Estonia
  • IMF: Under adverse scenario, where fighting in east continues throughout 2015, Kiev would require additional external financing of $19 bln by end-2015
  • USD Aug Markit Mfg PMI final 57.9 vs flash 58.0 and July final 55.8
  • USD Aug ISM Mfg PMI 59 v f/c 56.8 and prev 57.1
  • USD July Construction Spending 1.8% vs. f/c 1.0% and prev -0.9%
  • CAD Aug RBC Canadian Mfg PMI 54.8 vs July’s 54.3
  • Fonterra milk auction sees GDT Price Index -6.0%, WMP -4.3%
  • BRL July Industrial Output m/m 0.7% vs f/c 0.5% ; y/y -3.6% vs. f/c -3.7%
  • British Fin Min Osborne will deliver Autumn budget statement on Dec. 3
Source: FxWire Pro

Quartz Daily Brief—#US strikes #Somalia, #UN investigates #Iraq, fast-food protests, tennis music

Quartz - qz.com
Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

NATO weighs a response to the Ukraine crisis. NATO officials are expected to endorse a plan for a rapid-reaction force of 4,000 troops (paywall), capable of deploying within 48 hours to Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that new EU sanctions might ban buying new Russian government bonds.

Putin maneuvers to dodge sanctions. Russia is preparing to transfer a $10-billion sovereign wealth fund from a sanctioned state-development lender to the central bank, Bloomberg reports.

US fast-food workers plan protests. Organizers tell the New York Times (paywall) that fast-food workers seeking a $15 minimum wage will hold strikes and sit-ins in more than 100 cities this week.

European bonds are on the rise. Italian and Portuguese government bonds rose after a report showed factory output growth slowed, making the case for more European central bank stimulus.

Libya descends further into chaos. Tripoli said Monday that it had lost control of its ministries (paywall) after armed men from a coalition of militias stormed the capital.

While you were sleeping

The US hit Somalia. The US military carried out drone strikes near the port city of Barawe, Somalia, part of a counter-terrorism operation aimed at the al-Shabab militant group, the Pentagon said. The target of the strikes was the group’s leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, the Voice of America reported.

American citizens in North Korea pleaded for help. Under close watch, the three men detained by Pyongyang spoke to CNN and the Associated Press and asked the US for help in their release. This could be a promising sign that North Korea is looking to restart dialogue with the US, however, there’s concern that the men will be used as bargaining chips.

Momentum grew for Scottish independence. The newest YouGov poll shows that the No group only leads by six points after leading by 14 in mid-August. A leader of the Yes group said more people are realizing the value of a wealthy, independent Scotland. If Scotland breaks away, the British government has no back-up plan (paywall).

China accused British MPs of interfering in Hong Kong. The BBC reports that the Chinese ambassador to the UK has warned parliamentarians against carrying out an inquiry into the ongoing tensions over democracy in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. China will “brook no interference, either directly or indirectly, from the UK or any other external forces,” the ambassador wrote.

Minsk talks hit a wall. Officials from the self-proclaimed “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk met with representatives from Ukraine and Russia, airing demands for special recognition that fall short of full independence, but not by much. Ukraine’s defense minister called the Russia-led escalation in the easternmost part of the country a “full-scale invasion,” and likened the conflict to World War II.

Apple is looking into the iCloud hack. Apple says it is “actively investigating” the theft of photos from several celebrities’ iCloud accounts, including fake and real nude photos. Photos of Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, Kirsten Dunst, and other celebrities were posted to message boards.

The UN will send investigators to Iraq. The UN said 11 investigators, and a budget of $1.18 million, will be used to examine ISIL’s crimes against “humanity” that are occurring “on an unimaginable scale.” Reports will be ready in March 2015.

Quartz obsession interlude

Dan Frommer on why mobile payments are such a mess in the US, and a solution that may be in sight. “Now Apple, which will reportedly announce its mobile payment system next week, has a chance to kickstart the market. And it might actually succeed. Because of its size, power, and—most importantly—its focus on the user, Apple is uniquely positioned to make in-store mobile payments work. Finally.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Russia is burying its soldiers in unmarked graves to conceal their role in Ukraine. Dead and wounded Russian soldiers are being repatriated and then unceremoniously buried.

Brands are overrated. The Japanese retailer Muji, whose name, short for Mujirushi Ryohin, means “no-brand quality goods,” is betting that it doesn’t need logos to sell its understated style in India.

The threat of gun regulation is a great way to stimulate gun sales. At least, that’s how it worked when the US banned imports of Russian-made AK-47s.

Uber’s power must be checked. It is the embodiment of “unrestrained capitalism.”

Leaked celebrity photos will happen again. They are a reminder that women don’t deserve privacy.

Surprising discoveries

You can teach yourself to like healthy food. But first you have to stop eating all that junk.

Tennis can be transformed into music. The musician and DJ James Murphy, of LCD Soundsystem fame, is running data from US Open tennis matches through an algorithm that turns each match into a unique song.

A potted plant can boost your productivity. New research indicates that minimalism in office design can go overboard, and shows a link between office plants and a 15% increase in productivity.

America’s shale gas boom brought Indian farmers a fortune. But the party isn’t likely to last much longer.

It’s going to get a lot harder to buy dog stew in Seoul. The city’s most famous dog meat restaurant is closing.

Chinese insurers are appealing to clients by getting more creative. They’re covering cancelled honeymoons because of accidental pregnancies, and damage costs inflicted by “mischievous and destructive” toddlers.

Saddam Hussein meant what he said. A study of his privates tapes shows that the dictator’s bizarre worldview heard in public also existed behind closed doors.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, potted plants, and tennis music tracks to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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Quartz Daily Brief—Ukraine invasion, Abenomics takes a hit, internet crafts, face mites

Quartz - qz.com
Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

The EU tries to contain the Ukraine crisis. European Union foreign ministers begin an informal two-day meeting to discuss foreign policy in light of mounting evidence that Russian troops are fighting alongside pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine.

Bad news for Brazil. New GDP figures are expected to show that its economy contracted the most since the onset of the global financial crisis, as high borrowing costs and inflation hurt investment and consumer demand. Brazil’s leaders have been attempting to revive growth before October’s elections.

An Ebola vaccine could be coming. An experimental vaccine to curb the outbreak is in the works, with safety trials on humans beginning as early as next week.

India reports GDP. Analysts and investors will be looking at second quarter GDP numbers to see how reform-driven prime minister Narendra Modi is actually doing. However, the data won’t show real-time performance, there is a two month delay.

While you were sleeping

Japan’s economy got hit. Three indicators show Abenomics isn’t doing that well at reviving growth. Inflation held steady in July, household consumption dropped 5.9% from the previous year, almost twice the expected loss, and the jobless rate unexpectedly spiked. The recovery in Japan’s job market may have run its course (paywall).

The crisis in Ukraine escalated. NATO released satellite imagery (paywall) of 1,000 Russian troops in Ukraine and said 20,000 Russian troops were massed at the border that look like “an offensive army.” Russian tanks and armored vehicles launched missiles at border control in southeastern Ukraine, capturing a key post, according to a Ukrainian official. President Barack Obama said the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine is “plain for the world to see.

No strategy yet for ISIL. President Barack Obama said the US does not yet have a strategy to tackle the terrorist group ISIL in the Middle East. Secretary of state John Kerry is seeking a coalition to combat ISIL on an upcoming trip to the Middle East. The US has also identified about a dozen US citizens who have joined ISIL.

WHO said Ebola could affect 20,000; health workers hit hard. Since the start of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, 240 health workers have contracted the virus and 120 have died from it, nearly 8% of deaths. The victims include five of the authors of a genetics study of the virus that was published yesterday in Science. According to the WHO, $490 million has been allocated to combating the epidemic.

Another twist in the T-Mobile US ownership saga. Deutsche Telekom, T-Mobile’s biggest shareholder, would entertain offers for the fourth-largest US wireless carrier worth $35 a share, Bloomberg reports. That is below the $40 a share Sprint was expected to offer before it walked away, but above the $33 a share offer France’s Illiad has put on the table. Reuters, citing its own sources, contested the report.

The US economy surprised. The economy expanded at a 4.2% annual clip in the second quarter, faster than the 4.0% rise first reported. A burst of business spending helped push economic output up.

Quartz obsession interlude

John McDuling on how festivals are a national pastime for American millennials. “[T]he fact that Burning Man has become part of the national conversation, in certain circles at least, reflects an important behavioral shift in America: festivals are booming, as both a business and an activity. This is particularly so among the increasingly important millennial age cohort. According to research and surveys conducted by Eventbrite, an online ticketing company, a staggering one in five millennials attended a music festival in the past year. In a new study, the company claims that music festivals have become “one of young Americans’ favorite pastimes.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Don’t underestimate small militant groups. Their strong sense of unity helps them triumph over large, organized states.

Lending Club is better than a lot of banks. That’s partly because the peer-to-peer lending company isn’t subject to the same regulations.

Schools should equip classrooms with standing desks. Research shows kids who use them are more engaged and burn more calories.

The internet saved handmade goods. The reemergence of artisanal goods would be nothing without sites like Etsy and Kickstarter.

We’re only getting more and more narcissistic. But knowing what kind of narcissist you are can help you change.

It’s time for Ukraine to compromise. As Russia escalates the conflict, Vladimir Putin’s denials of Russia’s involvement are a mocking ritual to show he’ll never negotiate.

Every industry should hire teachers. For one, they never clock out because they’re obsessed with constant improvement.

Surprising discoveries

Mohammed is the most common male name in Oslo, Norway. It surpassed both Jan and Per for the first time ever this year.

New York City has 189 miles of building scaffolding. The pipe-and-plank structure shields sidewalks (paywall) all over the city.

Kebabs are one way to stop violence. The filling food is the best to put angry drunks to sleep.

You have face mites. See what they look like here.

In 12 years China built twice as many homes as there are in the UK. Many sit empty.

A deceased Bitcoin pioneer and ALS sufferer will be frozen. The cryonics company Alcor filled his blood with cryoprotectant and he’ll be moved to a long-term storage facility.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, anti-mite face cream, and remedies for narcissism to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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Market movers today 12/08/2014

Quotes from Danske Bank:

-Focus will continue to be on the international geopolitical situation, albeit tension at least for now appears to be easing. In Ukraine the risk of an imminent Russian intervention appears to have eased after Russia yesterday announced that major military exercises along the Ukrainian border have ended.

-However, so far there are no signs that the Ukrainian government will stop its offensive in eastern Ukraine and it remains a major uncertainty how Russia will respond to the outlook for a possible Ukrainian victory. In Gaza the three-day temporary cease-fire is holding and negotiations about a permanent ceasefire restarted yesterday in Cairo. Finally, in Iraq the US bombings appear to have halted ISIS’s advance.

-We have a relatively light data calendar today. In Europe the most interesting release is the German ZEW business sentiment indicator for August. We expect both current conditions and the expectations component to have declined further,underscoring that the German export engine has lost some steam recently.

-In the US the Small Business Confidence for July also deserves some attention. Although it declined slightly in June, it remains strong with more and more companies reporting that they intend to increase prices and have difficulties filling vacancies.

Source: FxWire Pro

FX market briefs

  • US Pres Obama tells Ukraines Poroshenko any Russian intervention in Ukraine is unacceptable
  • Swedish CB’er Ekholm says if more expansionary monetary policy necessary, rate cut would be first step
  • Mexican Pres Nieto signs landmark energy legislation into law, will announce which oil fields available for first round tenders & round zero allocation for Pemex this week
  • Brazil weekly survey ’14 inflation f/c 6.26 v 6.39%, ’14 GDP growth 0.81 v 0.86%
  • Moody’s sees Italy’s deficit to GDP ratio at 2.7% in ’14/’15, w/significant risk of upward revision
  • CA House Starts, Annualized Jul 200.1k, f/c 193.0k, 198.7k-prev
  • MX Industrial Output YY Jun 2%, f/c 1.7%, 1.9%-prev
  • MX Industrial Output MM Jun -0.2%, f/c 0.19%, 0.3%-prev
  • Russia to provide Ukraine with humanitarian aid only upon agreeing the move with all counter-parties
  • NATO’s Rasmussen sees no sign of withdrawal of Russian troops from close to border
  • Ukraine’s Lysenko says Russia has 45k troops on border w/Ukraine, with tanks missile systems warplanes & attack helicopters
  • Ukraine’s Poroshenko says Obama supports Ukrainian initiative for int’l aid mission to Luhansk under the Aegis of the Red Cross w/the participation of the EU, Russia, Germany & other countries
Source: FxWire Pro