Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Syria inspection, the NSA’s UN bugging, a big pharma deal, roaches on the run

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What to watch for today

UN inspectors will visit the site of a chemical attack in Syria. Amid a chorus of condemnation from many of the world’s most powerful nations, Syria agreed to allow UN staff into an area where hundreds of people died last week, apparently from poison gas. The offer comes too late, the US and its allies say, because heavy shelling of the area is likely to have destroyed any evidence of chemical weapons.

US durable goods orders to fall. Economists expect orders of long-lasting manufactured goods 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 mission to Pakistan. The Afghan president will seek help from Pakistan’s new government to arrange talks between Afghan negotiators and Taliban representatives.

A senior UN official visits Iran. The organization’s political affairs chief, Jeffrey Feltman, may discuss Tehran’s warning on Sunday against military intervention in Syria, and Iran’s support of Hezbollah, the Lebanese group fighting for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

Over the weekend

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 chief Christine Lagarde also said emerging markets could count on continued lax policies from other central banks.

The NSA reportedly bugged UN headquarters. The US National Security Agency secretly monitored the United Nations’ internal video conferencing system, according to Germany’s Der Spiegel, quoting documents from NSA leaker Edward Snowden. The NSA has also admitted a few analysts used its systems to spy on their love interests.

Bo Xilai gets even feistier. 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 implicate Bo in the alleged cover-up of a murder committed by his wife. Meanwhile, Beijing arrested another high-profile micro-blogger (paywall) and social commentator, Charles Xue or Xu Manzi, part of a wider crackdown on spreading rumors online.

A big deal in pharma. The US pharmaceutical company Amgen agreed to buy rival Onyx for $10.4 billion, 44% over Onyx’s share price before negotiations were announced. The deal will give Amgen access to Kyprolis, a lucrative myeloma drug.

Russia offered to help Tepco. Responding to an appeal for clean-up help from the operator of Japan’s leaking Fukushima nuclear power plant, Russia repeated an offer it originally made two years ago to bring nuclear expertise to the site.

A stake in an African gas field changed hands. India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation bought a 10% stake in an offshore gas field in Mozambique (paywall), from Anadarko Petroleum. The deal, worth $2.64 billion, still leaves Anadarko the main operator in the gas field but indicates how valuable recent gas discoveries in the area have become.

Greece said it might need another 10 billion euros. Greek finance minister Yannis Stournaras admitted that the struggling euro zone nation may need a third bailout to avoid default, but the country wouldn’t do more budget-cutting to get it.

Quartz obsession interlude

Matters of debate

The US is gearing up to bomb Syria… The calculus is difficult and risky, but US forces are already moving into position and here’s how they might strike.

…but 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 than it is now.

A weak argument can be more effective than a dogmatic one. Logical, fact-based arguments often fail to convince because they are rejected by listeners unwilling to doubt their own judgment.

Surprising discoveries

Cocaine can physically change the brain. Hour after the drug is used, new structures linked to learning and memory can start to grow, fueling addiction.

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

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.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments and escaped cockroach sightings to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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