Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Merkel celebrates, China thrives, Nairobi siege, audacious oil thieves

September 23, 2013
September 23, 2013

What to watch for today

Angela Merkel celebrates her third term as German chancellor. Exit polls showed that Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union won 42% of the vote in Sunday’s election. Her coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party, did not win enough to gain representation in parliament, but Merkel could still form a “grand coalition” with her closest rival, the left-leaning Social Democratic Party.

Kenyan shopping mall siege continues. Most hostages have been rescued, but Kenyan security forces are still battling the al-Qaeda-linked Somali militant group al-Shabaab, whose fighters stormed an upscale Nairobi mall on Saturday. At least 68 people have been killed and 175 injured; 10 to 15 guerrillas are still holding an unspecified number of people.

Diplomatic wrangling at the UN. The General Assembly in New York City will be dominated by developments in the Middle East: A diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis, thawing of US-Iran relations, and the US-brokered peace talks between Israel and Palestine.

Microsoft plays catch up.  The company will unveil its next generation Surface tablets aimed at challenging Apple’s dominance in the tablet market. The response to Microsoft’s tablets has so far been underwhelming, forcing the company to take a $900 million inventory loss in its most recent earnings report.

Please switch off some electronic portable devices. The US aviation regulator is expected relax restrictions on portable gadgets during takeoff and landing after an advisory panel meets this week, but email, phone calls and Wi-Fi will still be forbidden.

Over the weekend

Recovery signposts. China’s flash manufacturing index rose to a six-month high, indicating the country’s rebound is strengthening due to increased domestic and foreign demand. The flash Purchasing Managers Indexes for the euro zone and the US, due later today, are expected to show an uptick as well.

Typhoon Usagi lashed southern China. After causing flooding and throwing Hong Kong flight schedules into disarray, the year’s most powerful typhoon slammed into southern China, killing 21. The fatalities occurred in Guangdong province, after the storm veered away from nearby Hong Kong.

China makes a point with Bo Xilai’s sentence. The former Communist Party Politburo member was sentenced to life in prison for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power, ending China’s most politically charged trial in decades. Bo has pledged to clear his name and return—somehow—to politics.

Was the Fed’s no-taper decision leaked? Nanex LLC, a Chicago-based research firm that monitors trading activity, says large orders for gold ETFs and gold futures—placed at the exact millisecond the news was officially made public—represented “overwhelming” evidence of a leak.

Greece sits down with creditors… again. Representatives from the troika are reviewing austerity measures to decide if Athens should get its next installment of cash. Unions have planned strikes on Tuesday and Wednesday, as public sector workers in Greece face further cuts.

LinkedIn sued for hacking email address books. Four customers accused the professional networking site of accessing their e-mail accounts without permission,downloading contacts’ addresses, and spamming those people with invitations to join the service.

Mexico could adjust its 2014 budget after massive rains hit the country. President Enrique Pena Nieto said Mexico’s national disaster fund wouldn’t cover the damage after twin storms triggered flooding and landslides that have killed 110.

Venezuela arrested soldiers in a blockbuster cocaine bust. Authorities have detained three national guard officials after some 1.3 tons of the drug—worth about $270 million—was found crammed into 30 suitcases on an Air France flight from Caracas to Paris.

Quartz obsession interlude

Steve Levine on why even the Chinese government can’t command progress on electric cars. “On Sept. 17, Beijing renewed subsidies for electric cars, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles. They are substantial—a buyer of an electric car receives a direct payment of $9,800. (The payment is $5,700 for a plug-in hybrid and up to a whopping $81,000 on the purchase of a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle.) But analysts doubt the renewed subsidies will finally trigger a buying binge; the cars will still cost more than pure gasoline-fueled vehicles, and will cover less ground and lack the convenience of quick refueling. In short: Despite the new subsidies, China still faces an uphill battle to get motorists to embrace electrics.”Read more here.

Matters of debate 

A world of higher interest rates looms. Emerging economies should heed the Indian central bank’s warning and hike rates to deter investment in unsustainable activities.

What the Middle East should learn from the birthplace of the Arab Spring. Tunisia has its problems, but its rational, systematic approach to its transition should serve as a model for others in the region.

The actual US poverty rate is about zero. Certain benefits and aid through the tax system are not counted in the current definition of poverty.

The Bitcoin crackdown is the right move. Regulations will help integrate Bitcoin into the financial system and make virtual currencies more dependable.

Surprising discoveries

One surrogate per family? Wealthy Chinese are signing up American surrogates to avoid one-child restrictions and eventually obtain US green cards.

How to steal 100,000 barrels of oil a day. Thieves in Nigeria are puncturing pipelines, using taps to ply oil from hoses, and even stealing from export terminals.

Microwaves can double up as power sources. Energy that escapes through the microwave doors can power gadgets like cooking timers and digital scales.

Being a judge is no laughing matter. A judge in New Jersey resigned after being told that he can’t moonlight as a stand-up comic.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, judicial stand-up routines, and oil heist movie plots to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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