Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—US-Russia relations get frosty, Toyota profits soar, a talk show gives away babies

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What to watch for today

How chilly will it get between the US and Russia? The American government is irate that Russia is harboring NSA leaker Edward Snowden, and is threatening to cancel President Obama’s planned visit in Moscow in September. Meanwhile, Snowden already has a job offer at the popular Russian social network VKontakte.

Will Berlusconi’s conviction bring down Italy’s government? The country’s supreme court called for a re-examination of a ban on his holding public office, but did not reject the ban. Can Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s fractious right-left coalition hold it together?

A sluggish US recovery. The economy is expected to have added fewer jobs in July than in June; unemployment is forecast to slip to 7.5% from June’s 7.6%; and core inflation for June will likely come in below the Fed’s 2% target.

Dell shareholders may finally bite the bullet. Dell shareholders are expected to vote on founder Michael Dell and Silver Lake’s buyout bid, after their request to change voting rules was rejected. Activist investor Carl Icahn has sued Dell (paywall) to prevent more voting delays.

A fresh start for Mali? Mali is expecting results from Sunday’s presidential election, originally scheduled for Thursday. The country has endured 18 months of turmoil including a soldier-led coup, an al Qaeda-linked rebel occupation in the north, and French meddling.

While you were sleeping

Toyota profits more than doubled as it benefitted from the weak yen, surpassing analyst estimates, and boosted its full-year outlook.

Japan’s sales tax will hinder growth. Shinzo Abe’s government said it expects the planned tax hike to result in 1% GDP growth in 2014-15, compared to expected 2.8% growth in 2013-14.

RBS has a new CEO. The 81% Britain-owned bank gave retail banking boss Ross McEwan a promotion, and said he would renounce his bonus for 2013 and 2014—though he will still be making £1 million ($1.5 million) a year.

Asia’s richest man is shopping for European telecoms. Li Ka-Shing’s Hutchison Whampoa plans to increase acquisitions and market share through its 3 Group Europe subsidiary.

Bank of America’s housing crisis hangover. BofA expects a civil lawsuit from the Justice Department over housing-boom era mortgage securitizations, and it said that the SEC and New York Attorney General’s office are also moving ahead with investigations.

US embassy terror alert. The United States announced that it will close nearly all of its outposts in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia through Sunday due to “credible” information that an Al Qaeda affiliate might be planning an attack.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on why New York’s ban on illegal shark fin trading may do nothing. “Sonja Fordham, president of Shark Advocates International, says that because the fins of various shark species are notoriously hard to tell apart, “There will be a whole lot more wiggle room for undetected finning” of sharks whose fins can pass for smooth dogfish fins. And with that oddly high 12% fin-to-carcass ratio for dogfish, fishermen will be tempted to pile up fins—of smooth dogfish and anything else they catch—until they hit the legal weight limit. In fact, that 12% quota is almost an invitation to illegal finners to keep finning.” Read more here.

Simone Foxman on why global economy may be doomed to lower growth—forever. “Typically, the “aggregate earnings growth rate” of the S&P 500—the average rate at which all companies grow—is 5% at the end of earnings season. So far, it’s at a measly 1.8%, according to Factset. What’s going on? With pressure on China, cash flowing out of emerging markets, and continuing tensions in Europe, no one’s surprised things are sluggish right now. However, a small but prominent group of CEOs, investors, and economists suggest that this isn’t temporary, but the start of a completely new era of slower growth.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Global warming increases violent crime. A rise in domestic violence, assault, and murder can be traced directly to rising temperatures.

China’s official unemployment rate is a basically worthless. 230 million migrant workers and a large surplus agriculture labor force aren’t factored in.

The West is misreading Hassan Rouhani. Iran’s president-elect won’t challenge the conservative clergy or end the nuclear program.

Changing the definition of cancer is no cure. Changing the terminology without improving communication will leave patients sick as well as confused.

Warren Buffett’s son’s claim that philanthropists give with one hand and take with the other is wrong. The argument belies a lack of understanding of both economics and of the extremity of global poverty.

Surprising discoveries

A Pakistan talk show is giving away babies. Controversial host Aamir Liaquat Hussain has found a questionable way to boost ratings during Ramadan sweeps.

US couch potatoes are going digital. Average time spent with digital media per day will surpass TV-viewing time for the first time this year.

No one rides used bicycles in Denmark. With world’s highest hourly wages, repairs could cost as much as $300.

Good looks could save you from bullies. A study shows that workplace bullies tend to pick on colleagues who are considered unattractive.

Queen Elizabeth had a “World War Three” speech ready. It was to be delivered in the event of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

South America may soon be covered in dust from the Sahara. Powerful winds are blowing thousands of tons of desert sand over the Atlantic Ocean.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Edward Snowden job offers and just-in-case war speeches to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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