Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Fed minutes, Syrian gas attack, Mubarak’s freedom, the internet for all

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What to watch for today

Hawks at the Fed. The recent emerging market sell-off could intensify after minutes of the US central bank’s July meeting are released if they suggest that policy hawks who want a quicker end to the Fed’s $85-billion-a-month asset purchase program have the upper hand. Asian stocks retreated slightly on Wednesday but Europe was unchanged in early trading.

Will Mubarak be set free? An Egyptian court is scheduled to review a petition to free former president Hosni Mubarak, whose 30-year rule ended in 2011 as a result of a popular uprising. Meanwhile, former vice-president Mohamed ElBaredei is being sued for “betrayal of trust” because he resigned from the country’s interim government in protest as more civilians were shot by government forces.

Bradley Manning’s sentence. The 25-year-old army private may face a prison sentence of up to 90 years for passing classified US military files to the website Wikileaks. In July he was convicted on 20 counts, including espionage and theft.

The US housing recovery continues. Sales of existing homes are expected to rise Wednesday, even though mortgage rates have also edged up. If data on Friday show new housing starts are also up, overall US home sales may hit a three-year high.

A health check on the Malaysian economy. The country’s GDP is expected to show growth, but weak exports may push the current account towards a deficit.

Earnings roundup. Hewlett-Packard is likely to report muted earnings as PC sales continue to shrink. US retailers Staples and Target will also report.

While you were sleeping

More chemical weapons in Syria? Local activists report that at least 213 people were killed in a nerve gas attack on Wednesday by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, even as UN weapons inspectors visit the country to assess previous accusations from both sides that chemical weapons had been used.

China threatened foreign companies. Reuters reports that around 30 foreign companies operating in China were threatened by a senior official in July to confess to any anti-trust violations. They were warned not to use external lawyers to fight any regulatory challenge and showed how to write “self-criticisms.”

Mark Zuckerberg pledged to bring the internet to everyone. In a post on his Facebook page, the social network CEO said he was joining with Samsung Electronics, Nokia, Qualcomm and others to connect the 5 billion people without internet access.

Heineken got rained out. The brewer said first-half profit fell 17% on poor weather, poor demand in Europe and the US, and slow growth in developing countries.

America Movil got the money to buy KPN. Carlos Slim’s telecoms giant hopes to buy the 70% of the Dutch group that it does not already own, an offer it expects to proceed in September.

Japan raised Fukushima’s danger level. Recent leaks of contaminated water from Japan’s stricken nuclear power plant have forced officials to raise warning levels to three, a classification used for a “serious” radiation incident.

China Telecom cashed in on iPhone contracts. Net income at the country’s third-biggest operator was up 21% in the second quarter, to 5.52 billion yuan ($902 million), beating estimates, after sales rose 14% thanks in part to customers buying new data packages.

Quartz obsession interlude

Todd Woody on why California’s oil industry has shot itself in the foot. “The oil industry had seemed on the verge of defeating attempts to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in California. But revelations that some oil companies were already using the technology (which involves injecting chemical-laced water under high pressure to break up rock formations containing oil and natural gas) off the coast of southern California have revived a campaign to impose strict controls on it.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Can Google really be trusted with the stratosphere? The company, which also plans to bring the internet to all, will put unmanned aerial vehicles all over the world.

The annual check-up is worthless. Every day 177,000 perfectly healthy Americans will visit a doctor to no measurable benefit.

The US should back Egypt’s military. If the Muslim Brotherhood wins, say goodbye to the peace treaty with Israel (paywall) and stability in Sinai.

Supporting Egypt’s military is a false choice. The generals are making things worse and do not offer a choice between anarchy and order.

Surprising discoveries

The US is working on facial recognition for crowds. The federal government is making great progress on the system, known by the acronym BOSS.

But what’s in his couch cushions? A parking meter mechanic in Buffalo managed to steal $210,000 by rigging broken meters, collecting 10,000 pounds worth of quarters.

There are seven confirmed cases of the CIA overthrowing governments. Here they are on a map.

The Chinese city of Shenzhen will fine inaccurate toilet users. Missing the urinal could cost men $16.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, authoritative acronyms and Google blueprints for world domination to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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