Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Congress moves on Syria, China’s deliberate slowdown, McCain’s poker face

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What to watch for today

Obama wins Congress over on Syria. The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on a bipartisan authorization for military force in Syria, and is expected to back an intervention that would bar the use of US troops on the ground. Democrats and Republicans in the House also voiced support for President Obama’s “call to action.”

Obama in Sweden. The US president will spend the day in Stockholm—a hastily arranged visit that takes the place of a one-on-one Moscow meeting with Vladimir Putin, cancelled after Russia granted asylum to Edward Snowden—en route to the G20 summit in St. Petersburg.

US economic data. The trade deficit for July is expected to have widened to $38.8 billion, and sales of new cars and light trucks are estimated to have jumped 17% year-on-year. The Federal Reserve’s “Beige Book” regional economic report will also be released.

Europe’s baby steps. Revised euro zone GDP confirmed that the region is out of recession. Data on imports, exports and retail sales will give further clues about the extent of the recovery.

Samsung’s chunky smart watch. The South Korean electronics giant will beat Apple to market with the launch of the Galaxy Gear. Leaked photos of the wearable device seem to confirm our reservations about smart watches.

Rosh Hashanah begins. Sunset today marks the start of the Jewish new year.

While you were sleeping

China said its economic slowdown was intentional. President Xi Jinping said he would “rather bring down the growth rate to a certain extent in order to solve the fundamental problems” that are holding back the economy. Meanwhile, a measure of China’s services activity reached a five-month high in August.

Toyota recalled 369,000 vehicles. The carmaker said two separate glitches in its hybrid SUV range had been identified, forcing it to recall vehicles in the US, Europe and Japan. No injuries or accidents have been reported.

Ryanair’s unhappy summer holidays. The Irish budget airline said a summer heatwave cut into earnings, and warned investors that full-year profits may come in at the lower end of its typical range, around 570 million ($750 million) to 600 million euros.

Australia beat the bulls. Its economy expanded 0.6% from the previous quarter, or 2.6% from a year earlier, offering momentum for the winner of this week’s election.

A good start for the European service sector. Spain grew for the first time since 2011, with Markit’s index coming in at 50.4 in August, up from 48.5 in July. Data from the UK showed the strongest performance since 2006 at 60.5. A number above 50 indicates expansion rather than contraction, with a larger number meaning faster growth. More readings are expected throughout the day.

Yankee Candle sold for $1.75 billion. Consumer products maker Jarden is buying the scented candle company from private-equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners.

Hedge funds are piling into JC Penney and now own 21% percent of its stock after activist investor William Ackman dumped his shares. The funds include Glenview Capital Management, with a 9.1% stake, and Kyle Bass’ Hayman Capital Management, with 5.2%.

Cleveland kidnapper found hanged in his cell. Ariel Castro was sentenced in August to life without parole plus 1,000 years for imprisoning and raping three women over the course of a decade. He was found dead from an apparent suicide.

Quartz obsession interlude

Jason Karaian on how European soccer clubs are the fiscal opposites of European governments. “If you take each country’s top league as a whole, net spending flips the common economic narrative on its head. Northern Europe shows a taste for aggressive deficit spending—led by England, with France and Germany doing their part—while the prudent periphery—Spain, Italy and Portugal—collects more than it pays out. Despite Madrid’s spending spree, on balance La Liga in Spain brought in the equivalent of $140 million more in fees than it spent on players.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

An irrational fear of risk is pushing us towards technology. Paradoxically, these measures often increase risk in other areas.

America needs the Smithfield deal. The proposed takeover by China’s Shuanghui should be approved (paywall), in part to quell the suspicion that the US is hostile to Chinese companies.

The rich will get richer. Tighter US monetary policy will hurt poorer countries and help advanced economies.

The US is probably already attacking Syria. Obama has launched a lobbying blitz to persuade lawmakers to authorize missiles, but he needs no such permission for a cyber attack.

The rise of the stay-at-home dad is over-hyped. Yes, there are almost 190,000 of them in the US—but that’s still in only 0.8% of married couples with kids under 15.

Surprising discoveries

Meet the most quoted nobody in news. Retired highway maintenance worker Greg Packer has been quoted over a thousand times in news media.

Roommates are the new spouses. The days of shifting directly from the parental to the marital home are long gone.

McCain’s high stakes at the Syria hearings. The senator from Arizona was caught playing poker on his phone. His response? “Worst of all I lost!”

The father of the search engine is 404. Jonathan Fletcher didn’t get much of the credit for the world’s first web-crawling search engine.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Greg Packer quotes and poker tips for John McCain to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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