Quartz Daily Brief—Asia Edition—UK inflation, Asian smog, BlackBerry sale, merchants of meth

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What to watch for today

Retail therapy in the US. Retail sales are expected to have risen for the the fourth straight month in July, as employment gains and higher household wealth encouraged Americans to loosen their purse strings.

Inflation relief in the UK. The CPI is expected to have cooled in July to 2.8% as a fall in food prices offset an increase in petrol prices. Industrial production data and economic sentiment report for the euro zone will also be released.

ASEAN talks about smog. Foreign ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations will hold a meeting in Thailand, to discuss regional issues including the worst haze problem since 1997, caused by slash-and-burn agriculture.

While you were sleeping

US headed for the lowest budget deficit in five years. The deficit came in at $98 billion in July as increased tax revenues helped offset spending on health care, pensions and the military. At this rate it’ll be down 39% year-on-year when the 2013 budget year ends on Sept. 30.

The Greek recession is losing its sting. The economy shrank by 4.6% on an annual basis in the second quarter, the slowest pace since 2011, and slower than the 5.6% contraction between January and March. The fiscal discipline too seems to be paying off with the budget swinging into a surplus.

Mexico’s watered-down energy reforms. President Enrique Peña Nieto’s proposal stopped short of allowing private companies outright ownership of oil fields (paywall).  Instead, it would allow public-private joint ventures for big projects.

BlackBerry put up for sale. The board officially announced the company is for sale, after its new operating system and high-end phones failed to arrest the decline in its market share and the fall in its stock price. Microsoft, Chinese smartphone makers and private equity players could be among the interested buyers.

Quartz obsession interlude

Toddy Woody on why bureaucrats, not Big Oil, stand in the way of the solar future. “US solar prices are high compared to those in other countries. An installed solar system in Germany, for instance, cost half the US price in 2012, while one in Australia was 41% cheaper. Given that all these countries get most of their solar panels from the same source—China—the differences in price mainly come down to so-called ‘soft’ costs such as labor, installation, and the time and money it takes to secure permits. Such costs can account for more than half the price of a solar system.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Follow Benjamin Franklin’s strategy for making the US an economic superpower: Embrace immigration.

China needs a separation of powers. And premier Li Keqiang may be the man to do it.

Greece needs a Marshall Plan. Here’s how one funded by the EU, for a modest €30 billion, could work.

The Syrian time bomb. The collapse of the central government could turn Syria into al-Qaeda’s preferred haven.

Space storms threaten civilization. Solar winds disrupted the telegraph in 1859; the world is now far more wired, and therefore exposed, than it was back then.

Surprising discoveries

An architectural blunder of epic proportions. Developers in Spain built a 47-story building but gave it 20-story elevators.

Merchants of meth. Big Pharma is lobbying to protect the drugs that cooks turn into methamphetamines.

Class-action creativity. The settlement in a Facebook privacy case allots nothing to the plaintiffs and about $2.3 million to their lawyers.

This is your brain on caffeine. How the addiction works: It isn’t a stimulant, but enables other stimulants..

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, skyscraper blueprints and meth recipes to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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