Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Chinese economy check-up, US-Russia sit-down, Pakistan embassy pull-out, standup comedy in-flight

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What to watch for today

A new hope for US-Russia relations. Two days after US president Barack Obama cancelled his summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel meet their counterparts from Russia. Contentious issues include asylum for Edward Snowden, the conflict in Syria and Iran’s nuclear program.

Apple strikes back. The US International Trade Commission could ban the import of four Samsung smartphones for violating Apple patents, just a week after US president Barack Obama overturned the commission’s last ruling, which banned some Apple iPhones for violating Samsung’s patents.

Return of the POTUS. Obama will hold his first solo news conference since April, in which he is expected to address the cancelled summit with Russia and face questions about embassy closures.

A phantom menace in Pakistan? The US ordered the evacuation of all non-essential staff in the Pakistani city of Lahore, citing an imminent terrorist threat, and warned US citizens not to travel to the country.

While you were sleeping

A deluge of Chinese data. Consumer inflation in July was unchanged at 2.7% from a year earlier, with producer prices continuing their decline, down another 2.3%. Factory production was up 9.7% in July, retail sales were up 13.2% in the month, and fixed asset investments excluding rural households rose 20.1% in the first seven months of this year. Credit growth fell to a 21-month low.

French factories flopped. The figures came in way below estimates, with output shrinking by 1.4% in June from May due to poor production in agriculture, energy, and mining.

Japan’s national debt has fifteen zeros. The country’s finance ministry said public borrowing reached 1 quadrillion yen ($10.46 trillion) at the end of June, putting pressure on the government to refill public coffers with an increased sales tax.

Taiwan’s Fukushima? Taiwan said that its First Nuclear Power Plant in the north may have been leaking toxic water for up to three years, complicating an already controversial plan to build more reactors.

America Movil goes shopping in Europe. Carlos Slim’s telecoms giant will pay 35% over Royal KPN’s current share price to buy out the 70% of the company that it does not already own, valuing the Dutch carrier at around 10.25 billion euros ($13.72 billion).

Tesco considers a China merger. Britain’s biggest retailer is exploring a joint venture with China Resources to combine the companies’ Chinese supermarkets and liquor stores; Tesco would own 20% of the combined firm.

Blackberry’s Hail Mary? The ailing phone maker is warming to the idea of going private to fix its mounting problems, although finding a buyer might be difficult.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on why China’s crazy love affair with steel is an example of how its finances could implode. “Some think this means the economy is stabilizing; “steel demand is quite strong” (paywall), Maquarie analyst Graeme Train said. But it’s weird, because China’s businesses really don’t need new steel. It’s so hard to find buyers that steel mills are now storing 225,000 tonnes of steel, up 1.8% from last year. By one estimate the industry has a fifth more production capacity than it needs. And of China’s major steel mills, 40 out of 86 operated at a loss in H1 2013.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Eight triggers for creative destruction. 3D printing, LED lighting, Big Data and e-cigarettes are some of the themes on Goldman Sachs’ list.

US technology firms concerned about privacy are in a quandary“Become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away.

Brazil’s “currency war” era is over, but if it gets caught between inflation and stagnation, its problems may be only just beginning.

Militant atheism goes too far. Richard Dawkins’ tweets on Islam are just as irrational as the rants of an extreme Muslim cleric.

Why the euro zone will come apart. The single currency has failed to become the harmonizing force it was supposed to be.

Surprising discoveries

Irreconcilable differences over NSA leaker Edward Snowden forced a Chinese couple to get a divorce.

Gone to ground. A father and son who fled into the jungle during Vietnam war have been found in hiding 42 years later.

Camels might be responsible for the Mers coronavirus. Dromedary camels have been found carrying the disease that has caused 46 deaths.

“…and boy are my arms tired.” Certain Virgin Airways flights will feature live stand-up comedy.

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