Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—US-Russia talks, China’s anti-pollution measures, Royal Mail’s IPO, the world’s best lasagna

September 12, 2013
September 12, 2013

What to watch for today

Thrashing out a solution for Syria. US secretary of state John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov will meet in Geneva to discuss the Kremlin’s plan for Syria’s chemical weapons.

Politics as usual in New York. After a day off out of respect for the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, candidates for the New York city Democratic primary will return to campaigning ahead of a recount on Friday of votes cast earlier in the week.

The US economy chugs along. The federal budget deficit is expected to have fallen to $150 billion in August, while import prices likely rose 0.4% due to higher fuel costs. Weekly jobless claims are expected to hover around pre-recession levels.

Dell buys out Dell, at last. Shareholders are expected to approve the sweetened $25 billion buyout offer by the computer maker’s founder, Michael Dell, after activist investor Carl Icahn threw in the towel earlier this week.

While you were sleeping

When bad news is good news. Greece’s finance ministry expects the country’s economy to shrink up to 3.8% in 2013, according to a national newspaper, less than the 4.2% contraction previously forecast by its creditors.

Indonesia’s currency crisis. The central bank hiked its benchmark interest rate by 0.25%, a surprise to most analysts who expected a hold, as part of its efforts to support the falling rupiah.

China announced new pollution-cutting measures. The government laid out plans to cut coal consumption in some key industrial areas in a bid to reduce air pollution in Beijing and other cities, though meeting the targets will be tough.

The Royal Mail will soon be public. The 360-year-old British postal service will sell a majority stake in an IPO “in the coming weeks,” a controversial move that has angered many in its 159,000-person workforce. Royal Mail, which is thought to be worth around $4.7 billion, hopes privatization will give it an edge over European competitors in the lucrative package delivery business.

Japan plans for a sales tax rise. Shinzo Abe’s government is almost ready to announce a long-expected sales tax increase, active from April next year, but will likely pump 5 trillion yen ($50 billion) into the economy to soften the blow (paywall).

Syrian rebels despair. Some Free Syrian Army commanders said that hope of US military intervention has all but disappeared since US president Barack Obama asked the US Congress to vote. Rebels said that the delay has destroyed their chance to oust President Assad and sideline extremists (paywall).

Société Générale is trimming in Asia. Reuters reports that France’s number two bank is exploring the sale of its Singapore-based private banking arm for around $600 million, as it struggles to compete in the region with larger rivals.

Australia lost 10,800 jobs. The August data is disappointing and unexpected, given that the country was expected to gain about the same number. Unemployment rose to 5.8%, adding to the economic difficulties facing Australia’s incoming government.

Quartz obsession interlude

Jason Karaian on why Sweden wants homeowners to pay off their mortgages faster. “Fixed-rate ‘bottom loans’ cover up to 75% of a home’s value while a variable-rate ‘top loan’ is added on if borrowers need more. But for the bottom loan, they don’t have to pay off the principal as long as they keep paying the interest. So, once the pricier top loan is paid off, many Swedes simply pay the minimum interest due on their remaining debt. Forever.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

American “exceptionalism” is dangerous, as is intervention in Syria. Russian president Vladimir Putin addresses the American public directly in an op-ed.

Formal school lessons should begin after age five. Early childhood play time is important for developing values and a sense of self.

Wall Street is wrong about the new iPhone 5C. This is a phone for the Snapchat generation (paywall). If the older folks don’t like it, they can probably afford the flashier 5S.

If the UK leaves the EU, it will also leave innovation behind. Europe is focusing its scientific efforts and funding research and innovation that the UK would miss.

Surprising discoveries

The world’s best lasagna was created by a salesman from outside Dallas. His recipe has been at the top of AllRecipes.com for over a decade.

Quiet loudspeakers. Scientists can synthesize the important parts of speech during public announcements so you only hear the important stuff, even at low volumes.

Expat records. More people than ever before are living abroad—232 million, according to the UN—with the most popular destination remaining the US.

Some unusual reasons that you’ll live longer than your grandparents. Cotton, fluoride and satellites are among the list, not to mention the good folk of Framingham, Massachusetts, who have been participating in a heart disease study for generations.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, lasagna recipes and life-extending discoveries to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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