Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—UK inflation, Penney/Ackman talks, Musk’s Hyperloop, a town with no radio waves

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What to watch for today

Retail therapy in the US. Retail sales are expected to rise for 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 cool in July to 2.8% as a fall in food prices offset an increase in petrol prices. Industrial production data and an 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.

JC Penney and Bill Ackman talk. The US retailer and activist investor took a public dispute private after Ackman demanded the ouster of Penney’s sitting CEO and chairman.

While you were sleeping

Elon Musk presented the “Hyperloop.” The Californian billionaire unveiled plans for a futuristic transport system that would whisk passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in half an hour, although it didn’t take critics long to pick holes in his designs.

Apple might be ready to present the next iPad The company is preparing a new, thinner iPad along with a smaller iPad mini with a high resolution screen. The new products are expected in the last three months of this year.

A rethink on law enforcement and spying. A US judge ruled that New York’s “stop and frisk” police tactic was unconstitutional because it was “indirect racial profiling.” Meanwhile the Obama administration set up an intelligence and surveillance review body to assess the policy implications and effectiveness of spy operations recently brought to light by leaker Edward Snowden.

WeChat could be Singapore-bound. China’s Tencent Holdings might list its popular messaging app in Singapore instead of Hong Kong.

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 September 30.

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 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 stock price. Microsoft, Chinese smartphone makers and private equity players could be 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

It might be about time to let prisoners smoke weed. Studies show that the drug actually makes prisons more peaceful.

Trust the pregnant economist. Examining the data on wine, weight gain, soft cheese and other “rules.”

Firing people in person is hard but necessary. Here’s how to make it easier.

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

Surprising discoveries

Off the communications grid. Green Bank, West Virginia, where there is no television, radio or cell phone reception, attracts the “electrosensitive.”

Beware the sun. Space storms like the one in 1859 could knock out the world’s entire critical communications infrastructure.

Global road deaths, in map form. By 2030 road deaths in the developing world will overtake HIV/AIDS, malaria and others as a major killer.

Neanderthal technology. Researchers have found specialized bone tools suggesting man’s distant cousins were more advanced than previously thought.

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

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, tech-free retreats and Neanderthal tools to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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