Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Gaza War restarts, Iraq airstrikes approved, Softbank struggles, Swedish muscle danger

August 8, 2014
August 8, 2014

What to watch for today

A return to fighting in the Gaza Strip. Israel’s military prepared to resume airstrikes on Gaza after 18 rockets were fired from the region, both before and a three-day ceasefire ended Friday morning local time. Israel said it was willing to extend the ceasefire under its original terms but refused Hamas’ demand to end the economic blockade of Gaza first.

Italian senators vote on whether to fire themselves. Prime minister Matteo Renzi’s flagship reform initiative would curb the senate’s power and unseat many representatives. The bill, which has received nearly 8,000 amendments, has to make two separate runs through both chambers of parliament.

Hawaii braces for double hurricanes. Category 1 Hurricane Iselle is expected to hit the Big Island with gusts of up to 85 mph (137 km/h), and her big brother Julio, a Category 2 storm, is on track to make landfall this weekend.

A North American employment bounce-back. The US Labor Department is expected to announce higher business productivity in the second quarter, which could slow a recent rise in unit labor costs. Canada’s unemployment rate for July is expected to remain at 7.1%.

While you were sleeping

The Reserve Bank of Australia announced gloomy forecasts. The central bank said GDP would grow 2-3% through June 2015, down from its 2.25-3.25% forecast three months ago. The bank’s also lowered its core inflation forecast and said the jobless rate would remain high “for some time.”

Ebola was declared an international public health emergency. The World Health Organization said the outbreak was “an extraordinary event” with particularly serious potential consequences, due to the virus’s virulence and the weak health care systems in the affected countries. The WHO suggested countries with the disease conduct exit screenings at all major ports and land crossings.

Softbank failed to inspire confidence. The Japanese wireless carrier posted a lower-than-expected first-quarter profit of 77.6 billion yen ($763 million), down 68% from the same period last year, as it struggled to grow in Japan’s saturated mobile phone market. CEO Masayoshi Son declined to answer questions about his failed attempt to acquire T-Mobile and combine it with Sprint, Softbank’s US wireless carrier.

The US authorized air strikes in Iraq. President Barack Obama said ISIL militants will be targeted if they move towards Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region, or if they interfere with US planes airlifting humanitarian aid to Yazidi refugees.

China’s trade balance took a positive swing… Exports rose 14.5% in July versus the same period last year, according to government data, almost double the expected rise. Imports fell 1.6%, creating a $47.3 billion trade surplus for the month and raising more doubts about China’s shift toward a consumer-driven economy.

…As it put foreigners on trial. A British and his American wife are facing charges of illegally obtaining information about Chinese citizens. Separately, an American working for a Christian NGO has been interrogated for three weeks, and a Canadian couple have been arrested for allegedly stealing state secrets. China’s criminal conviction rate is 99.9%.

Malaysia Airlines is being nationalized. The tragedy-prone airline will be restructured by the country’s sovereign wealth fund, which will spend 1.4 billion ringgit ($440 million) to delist the company’s shares. Minority shareholders will receive a 12.5% premium on the airline’s Thursday closing price.

Quartz obsession interlude

Svati Kirsten Narula on the real story behind secret menus that “exist at McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King, Chipotle, Jamba Juice, and other restaurants, too. They’re hardly secrets, of course, but the word ‘menu’ connotes a curation of sorts, intentionality on behalf of the food establishment—and that’s at odds with the origin stories of most of these items.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

No, America isn’t becoming Libertarian. The future path of the Republican party lies elsewhere.

India’s economy is destined to overtake China’s. Because India is a free society.

The West should arm the Kurds. A strong Kurdistan is the only hope for what remains of Iraq.

Copyright laws are hindering animal artists. How are aspiring monkey photographers supposed to make a living?

Africa needs better data along with aid. Otherwise nobody will really know how the money is being spent.

Surprising discoveries

Bolivia has a train cemetery in the desert. It’s a rusted, graffiti-covered wonderland, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Highway deaths have plummeted since Colorado legalized weed. That is not to suggest causality, however.

Don’t tell white people the US justice system is racist. It makes them like it more.

Being too muscular in Sweden is cause for arrest. Cops suspected an “unusually large” man was on steroids.

62,000 chicken heads reversed a rabies outbreak. Swiss doctors dosed them with vaccine and fed them to infected animals.

Mark Zuckerberg carried a samurai sword in the office. He used it to “motivate” Facebook staff.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, unorthodox motivational techniques, and muscle-safe countries to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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