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Quartz Daily Brief—Asia Edition—US GDP revision, Indonesia’s currency, Syria tensions, human brains created in labs

By Quartz Staff

What to watch for today

Strong economic data strengthen the Fed’s hand. Second-quarter US growth is expected to be revised upwards to 2.2% from a first estimate of 1.7%, thanks largely due to strong exports, raising expectations that the central bank will start winding down its stimulus program as early as September. Weekly jobless claims too are expected to fall.

An emergency rate hike in Indonesia. The central bank has called for special policy meeting and will probably raise rates to support its currency, which has fallen 12% this year. Rates are already up 75 basis points since June, but slowing growth forced Bank Indonesia to keep them steady at its last scheduled meeting in August.

Earnings medley. The world’s second biggest retailer, Carrefour, is expected to post improved performance (paywall) on the back of a strong showing in its home country, France. Advertising giant WPP’s earnings are likely to be overshadowed by what the management has to say about the merger between its rivals Publicis and Omnicom. Beauty products giant L’Oréal will probably be bogged down by currency headwinds, while cloud computing firm Salesforce.com is expected to report a drop in earnings. Campbell’s Soup, Krispy Kreme, Pernod Ricard and Vivendi are some of the other companies that will report.

While you were sleeping

The US and UK could strike Syria without a UN nod. The US is finalizing plans for multilateral airstrikes against the Bashar al-Assad regime, after a British draft motion to the UN Security Council met with the expected resistance from Russia.

The Bank of England swaggered; markets shrugged. In his first big public speech, BoE governor Mark Carney tried to convince markets that the central bank would be generous with its measures to stimulate the economy, but the pound barely jumped and UK debt yields rose.

Switzerland closed in on a tax deal with the US. The agreement would allow the country’s notoriously secretive banks to settle with US authorities probing their role in helping Americans evade taxes. Under the deal, banks may have to pay a fine of between 20% and 50% of the value of their undeclared American accounts.

The US housing recovery faltered. Sales of previously owned homes fell 1.3% in July, a sign that recently rising mortgage rates could slow the momentum in the housing market.

China set its sights on the moon. Beijing announced that it would launch its first unmanned lunar rover by the end of the year. It will transmit images and dig into the moon’s surface to test samples. Meanwhile, NASA said it discovered water native to the moon from data sent by an Indian lunar mission in 2009.

Quartz obsession interlude

Steve LeVine on why, though Syria is roiling oil markets, the real story is the chaos in Libya and Nigeria. “The Syrian oil trade—in which investors are betting on expected US-UK-French retaliation for a suspected Aug. 21 chemical attack by Damascus—is exceptionally speculative (paywall). There are almost no repercussions for oil in the actual theater of war: To affect global oil, hostilities would have to spill into Iraq (a bombing of the Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline), the Strait of Hormuz (which channels 17 million barrels of oil a day, a fifth of the world’s oil supply) or Saudi Arabia (a roiling of local Shias)… The real threat to oil prices—which has already caused a 16% price surge since April despite a reasonable global surplus of crude—comes from other geopolitical chaos in two key supplier nations: Libya and Nigeria.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Bombing Syria isn’t about helping Syrians. The West doesn’t want to get dragged into Syria’s conflict; it just wants to send the message that no country can use chemical weapons with impunity.

An unlikely alliance is defending solar power. Hippies and libertarians who see independent power generation as a right are joining hands to stop the war against solar.

Skype could have been so much more. Now celebrating its first decade, the voice-over-internet software stopped innovating years ago (paywall).

Leaders are born, not made. A study shows that fish can learn to follow but struggle to learn to lead. Humans too should stick to the roles they’re most comfortable in.

Surprising discoveries

Mini human brains grown from stem cells. The pea-sized structures aren’t conscious, but the breakthrough could help treat rare disorders like autism and schizophrenia.

Inhabit someone else’s body. An experiment demonstrated one person’s brain controlling the movements of another person’s finger—over the internet.

New Delhi wants to outdo New York. A proposed urban megapark in India’s capital will be 50% larger than Central Park.

Why men give in to temptation more. New research suggests their desires are simply more intense.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, mind-control devices, and intense desires to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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