Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Microsoft buys most of Nokia, CBS and Time Warner bury the hatchet, Kentucky Fried Soup in Japan

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What to watch for today

The White House lobbies for an attack on Syria. US secretary of state John Kerry and defense secretary Chuck Hagel will testify before the Senate foreign relations committee. Meanwhile, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon will brief the 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council on what weapons inspectors found in Syria.

Can Washington repair relations with Brazil and Mexico? The two countries have asked the US to explain reports from a Brazilian TV station, citing documents leaked by Edward Snowden, that the NSA spied on their presidents.

South Africa’s gold miners go on strike. The National Union of Mineworkers, which represents about two-thirds of more than 120,000 unionized gold miners, is demanding wage hikes of up to 60%. Here are the numbers that explain why. Just last year a series of strikes at a platinum mine ended with the deaths of over 50 people.

US factories sputter. Weakness in domestic activity may have pulled down the ISM manufacturing index to 54 in August. That’s down from a two-year high in July, though still healthy (anything above 50 signals expansion). Construction spending is expected to have picked up in July.

While you were sleeping

Microsoft bought most of Nokia. Microsoft will pay 5.4 billion euros ($7.2 billion) to buy “substantially all” of Nokia’s devices and services units, including a 10-year patent license, after the Finnish mobile phone pioneer ran out of options. News of the deal, which will be funded by Microsoft’s tax-sheltered overseas cash reserves, sent Nokia shares up by 47%.

CBS and Time Warner made up. The two companies resolved a dispute over programming fees that had led to a month-long blackout of CBS programs in some areas using Time Warner’s services. The new arrangement has not been made public, but programming resumed on Monday evening.

Japan pledged almost $500 million to clean up Fukushima. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe warned that “the world is watching,” as officials struggle to contain contaminated water at the damaged nuclear power plant.

Data from China and Australia. Non-manufacturing activity slowed in China in August, according to the official index, down to 53.9 from 54.1 (a result above 50 indicates expansion). In Australia, July retail sales grew less than predicted at 0.1%.

China sacked a senior official for graft. Jiang Jiemin was removed from his position as the head of China’s state assets regulator, two days after it was announced that he was being investigated for corruption. China’s ongoing spate of corruption probes appears to have caused a scramble among foreign companies to hire lawyers and ensure they are complying with the law.

Australia’s central bank held fast. The bank left its benchmark cash rate unchanged at a record low of 2.5%. Economists expect it to wait until after a general election on September 7 before making any new policy moves.

Bank of America’s China exit. BofA will sell its remaining 1% of shares in China’s second-biggest bank for about $1.5 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported. It bought 10% of the Chinese bank before in 2005 and sold most of that stake in 2011.

Syrian refugees topped 2 million. Calling the exodus “the great tragedy of this century,” the United Nations said that refugees had been flooding into neighboring countries in advance of expected US military action. An additional 4.5 million people have been displaced internally.

Quartz obsession interlude

Roberto A. Ferdman on how Brazil’s former richest man, Eike Batista, lost 97% of his fortune in less than two years. “Most of that is due to the struggles of OGX, the biggest of Batista’s companies. In July the company announced its plans to shutter two of its most productive wells. Last week, a run of more bad news caused the stock to lose 63% of its market value, including a whopping 40% drop on Friday alone. And its financial woes are threatening its very existence. This past June, OGX reported nearly $5 billion in debt and a net loss of over $2 billion during the second quarter. If the company defaults on its heaping pile of debt, it would mark the largest such default in Latin American history, according to Forbes.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Ever more connected, ever more alone. A viral video illustrates the isolating effects of smartphones.

Scaring your employees works. It’s fashionable to be a feel-good boss, but the data on effectiveness doesn’t really stack up.

France is run for the benefit of the old. The ‘ancien regime’ social model is a scam that lets baby boomers to cling to their advantages (paywall).

The common ground for Obama and Putin is offshore taxes. They’ll spend the G20 trying to avoid each other, but should instead be talking about tax avoidance.

Surprising discoveries

Power to the people. A dissatisfied passenger bought a promoted tweet to complain about British Airways.

Things you never knew you wanted. KFC Japan has launched a deep-fried soup special.

Dad was the bungee jumper in the family. Young men are less likely than their fathers to do adventurous things like rock climbing because they aren’t as fit and healthy.

The silver lining. Climate change could re-direct the winds that steer hurricanes, making the US east coast less of a target.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, links to promoted protest tweets and suggestions for what KFC might want to deep fry next to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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