Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—China’s uneven slowdown, US recovery, NSA revelations, Ai Weiwei sabotage

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What to watch for today

Central bankers in wait-and-watch mode. Both the European Central Bank and Bank of England are expected to leave rates unchanged, after ushering in a new era of frank talk at their policy meetings last month.

US and Japanese car-makers square off. Analysts expect US car sales in July to increase about 15% compared to last year, as record-low interest rates and pent-up demand led consumers into dealerships. Japan will release car sales figures too. Key question: will Toyota’s sales growth outpaces Ford’s for the first time since March 2010?

Packed earnings calendar. What analysts expect: Exxon Mobil—a sharp drop in revenue as its oil and natural-gas production continues to decline. Kraft Foods—strong sales growth on the back of new products and increased advertising spending. Time Warner Cable—strong broadband subscriber addition and reduced pay-TV subscriber losses.  Plus more from AIG, BMW, ConocoPhillips, and Procter & Gamble.

While you were sleeping

Mixed China manufacturing data. The government’s official PMI index, which mostly surveys large state-owned companies, rose more than expected from 50.1 in June to 50.3 in July. (A number above 50 indicates expansion.) But the HSBC PMI survey, which looks at smaller firms, fell from 48.2 to 47.7—its lowest level in 11 months.

Tourists flee a Thai oil spill. Thousands of beachgoers are leaving the island of Koh Samet (Coconut Island) after a ruptured oil pipeline operated by state-controlled energy company PTT sent 50,000 liters of crude into the Gulf of Thailand.

The Fed gave markets more tea-leaves to read. The US central bank described the economy’s growth as ”modest”, which experts think is a slight downgrade (paywall) from “moderate”, the word it used last time. It left rates unchanged and offered no hints as to when it would start to scale back quantitative easing.

Another candidate for Fed chair? Besides Janet Yellen and Larry Summers, former Fed vice-chair Don Kohn may be in the running. Here’s what you need to know about him.

A positive surprise from the US economy. GDP growth unexpectedly accelerated in the second quarter, to an annualized 1.7% versus the 1.1% in the first quarter. Broad revisions of GDP data back to 1929 also showed the economy as having expanded faster in 2012 than previously thought.

Yet more surveillance revelations. The Obama administration released newly declassified documents about its program for collecting data on all domestic phone calls in the US. Meanwhile The Guardian published more leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden, describing XKeyscore, a system that lets analysts search vast databases of emails, online chats and web browsing histories without prior permission.

Risk of fresh violence in Egypt. The interim government ordered the police to disperse supporters of the ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, who have been occupying two large squares in Cairo.

Quartz obsession interlude

Zachary M. Seward on why it’s so difficult to figure out what Larry Summers, the front-running candidate for Fed chairman, is thinking. “In speeches and informal talks over the last few years, Summers has developed a new kind of disclaimer before commenting on controversial subjects. He often prefaces his remarks by saying something along the lines of, ‘If, at the end of this, you feel like you’ve understood me completely, then you have misunderstood me.’ It’s a riff on what Alan Greenspan, who served as Fed chair for more than 18 years, famously told Congress in 1987.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Is Huawei wiring Africa for surveillance? The Chinese telecoms firm is offering exceptionally competitive prices, generous financing, and running networks to win local governments’ trust.

All this talk about inequality won’t help the poor. It could undermine support for free markets and hurt economic opportunity.

Your company is only as good as your writing. Poor grammar and jargon-riddled writing can hurt companies’ prospects.

Three questions for whoever takes over the Fed. What would they do on the “zero lower bound,” nominal GDP targeting, and bank equity requirements?

Surprising discoveries

Ai Weiwei’s guide to closed-circuit sabotage. The Chinese artist and dissident shows how to turn a spray paint can and a corkscrew into an anti-surveillance device.

Poorly designed apps are making us fat. Wasting cognitive resources makes us less able to resist temptation.

Why more and more movies begin with “A”. Because Americans are too lazy to scroll all the way through the alphabet.

Dom Pérignon originally tried not to make champagne. The monk who invented sparkling wine was brought in to prevent the bubbles from forming.

$4.1 million for four days in jail. A student in San Diego got a big payout after he was forgotten in a prison cell.

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