Quartz Daily Brief—Syria threat, big pharma deal, Greece’s struggle, roaches on the run

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What to watch for today

The US is closer to military action in Syria. White House officials said there was very little doubt that president Bashar al-Assad’s forces used chemical weapons against civilians last week, which reportedly killed hundreds in a Damascus suburb. The US also rejected the Syrian government’s offer to let United Nations investigators inspect the site of the attack saying the offer was meaningless.

A big deal in big pharma. Amgen is reportedly close to finalizing an agreement to buy Onyx Pharmaceuticals (maker of cancer drug Kyprolis) for about $125 a share in an all-cash deal worth $9.16 billion.

US durable goods orders to fall. Economists expect orders of items like cars and refrigerators to have declined 4% month-over-month in July, from a 3.9% increase in the previous month. A sharp drop in Boeing aircraft orders is largely to blame.

Hamid Karzai’s peace mission to Pakistan. The Afghan president will seek Pakistan’s new government’s help in arranging talks between Afghan negotiators and Taliban representatives.

Over the weekend

Greece tacks on another 10 billion euro ask. Greek finance minister Yannis Stournaras admitted that the struggling euro zone nation may need a third bailout to avoid a default—and that the country wouldn’t do more budget-cutting to get it.

Central bankers calmed nerves at the Jackson Hole summit. Top officials from the UK and Japan said their policy initiatives will support global growth even if the US Federal Reserve starts winding down quantitative easing. International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde also said emerging markets count count on continued lax policies from other central banks.

The NSA reportedly bugged UN headquarters. The US National Security Agency secretly monitored the United Nation’s internal video conferencing system, according to Germany’s Der Spiegel. Quoting documents leaked by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, the article said the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency were among those targeted. Meanwhile, the NSA has admitted a few analysts used its systems to spy on their love interests.

Bo Xilai gets even feistier. After calling his wife “insane,”, the disgraced Communist party leader turned on his former second-in-command, Wang Lijun, calling the police chief a “vile character” who faked testimony to cover up a murder committed by his wife. Despite denying many of the prosecution’s central charges, Bo will likely be found guilty and sentenced to at least a decade in jail.

Quartz obsession interlude

Matters of debate

A stalemate in Syria is best for the US. If either president Bashar al-Assad or the rebels manage an outright victory, Syria will be even more hostile towards the US.

The internet is prying open the gates to democracy in China. Despite harsh censorship, discussions among China’s dynamic cyber community has awakened its people’s democratic consciousness.

Egypt’s military needs an exit plan. The legal setbacks for military strongmen in Pakistan and Turkey are a warning to Egypt’s military leaders.

Carbon farms could save the planet. Studies show large plantations of a hardy little shrub known as Jatropha curcas could reverse global warming. But not everyone is convinced.

The media should call Manning “she.” There will be more like her who will need their pronouns changed.

Surprising discoveries

Music as a social glue. Many theorists believe music was invented to cultivate a close-knit community among early humans.

One million cockroaches on the run. The insects reportedly escaped a farm in China where they were being bred for use in traditional medicine.

Your morning coffee may become a mouth spray. Two inventors claim four squirts of their aerosol caffeine delivers as much energy as a small cup of coffee.

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