Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Bo Xilai in the dock, Eli Lilly bribery accusations, PMI deluge, the danger of big chairs

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What to watch for today

The central bankers’ powwow starts, without its stars. The central bank heads of the US (Ben Bernanke), the UK (Mark Carney), and the EU (Mario Draghi) will all skip the annual Jackson Hole Symposium. But Bernanke will still be the center of attention, as everyone ponders who will replace him.

The “Pharaoh” walks free. Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak could leave prison, where he was serving life for complicity in the killing of demonstrators during the 2011 revolution. In an attempt not to look too lenient, the military will then put him under house arrest.

Robert Mugabe kicks off his fifth term. The 89-year-old leader, who has ruled Zimbabwe for 33 years, will be sworn in after a constitutional court dismissed opposition claims that the elections had been rigged.

The Fort Hood jury deliberates. They will decide the fate of the Army major responsible for killing 13 people on a military base in 2009.

While you were sleeping

Eli Lilly was accused of bribery in China. The US drugmaker, reacting to a report in a Chinese newspaper that it paid $4.9 million to bribe doctors in the country, said it was “deeply concerned” and would look into the matter.

China’s manufacturing sector grew. Preliminary data show China’s companies hanging on as a recovery in Europe and the US improves outlook. HSBC/Markit’s flash index came in at 50.1, just above the 50-point line separating expansion and contraction, and up from 47.7 in July.

Bo Xilai stood trial. The former regional party boss was accused of accepting 21.8 million yuan ($3.6 million) in bribes, with the help of his wife and son. Appearing in court, he denied one of the bribery charges against him, claiming that he admitted it previously against his will.

Mixed manufacturing data from Europe. Activity in Germany improved in August, with a preliminary index hitting 53.4, up from 52.1 last month. In France activity fell to a two-month low, scoring 47.9, in line with expectations.

A damning report for Tepco. The operator of Japan’s leaking Fukushima nuclear power plant was urged at a “less than friendly” meeting with an advisory panel to tighten water management procedures weeks before new reports of another massive leak.

Syrian forces pounded rebel-held areas of Damascus. Activists said that troops loyal to Bashar al-Assad began firing on suburbs in the city a day after an apparent chemical weapons attack killed anywhere between 500 and 1,300 people. Meanwhile, the UN security council was unable to agree on any definitive action.

Philippine stocks tumbled. The country’s stock exchange index fell almost 6% on Thursday, the most in five years, as trading resumed after a three-day hiatus caused by floods and a bank holiday.

Quartz obsession interlude

Nandagopal J. Nair on why Malaysia could be the next country after India and Indonesia to fall prey to investor panic. “What’s behind Malaysia’s woes? Falling commodity prices and weakening demand from China. But what makes the country particularly vulnerable to international investor sentiment is the fact that investors hold nearly 50% of its bonds (paywall), much higher than 30% on average for emerging markets.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Dithering is at the root of India’s problems. A central bank that stops and starts rather than soothing investors ends up looking like it’s panicking (paywall).

A few simple laws could significantly affect criminal behavior. A convicted murderer explains why he’s for gun control.

Assad knows he can get away with using chemical weapons. The evidence is pretty strong already and, despite the ultimatums, little is being done to stop him.

“Work hard, retire early” is no longer an option for bankers.  A long, exhausting life of toil is the only option, and it takes a permanent physical toll.

Surprising discoveries

Popular myths. Nearly a third of all Louisiana Republicans think Obama was mostly to blame for the poor response to hurricane Katrina, despite the fact that he did not take office until three years afterwards.

Sitting in a big chair can make you cheat. A sprawling posture changes your behavior.

Google hides “Easter Eggs” everywhere. Examples include a hidden space invader game in YouTube and an angry cartoon mob in Hangouts.

The lowest temperature in which life can survive is -20 degrees Celsius. Below that, cells become like glass.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, anti-dithering tactics and pictures of your favorite big chair to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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