What to watch for today
A Syrian strike averted? US president Barack Obama pulled back from military intervention in a speech Tuesday night, saying he has asked Congress to postpone a vote on using force after Syria pledged to surrender its chemical weapon stockpiles. US secretary of state John Kerry will meet Russia’s Sergey Lavrov Thursday to discuss the terms and monitoring of that surrender.
Verizon’s record debt sale. The US telecoms company will sell $49 billion worth of corporate bonds (paywall) on Wednesday to raise funds for its buyout of the $130 billion share of Verizon Wireless it doesn’t already own.
South African factories recover. Manufacturing output for July is expected to have increased 1.4%, partly offsetting the gloom of Tuesday’s trade data that showed the current-account deficit widening to 6.5% of GDP in the second quarter.
While you were sleeping
Bill de Blasio comes out on top in New York. The public advocate won the most votes in the Democratic primary for mayor of New York, although it was not clear whether his opponent, the former comptroller William Thompson, could demand a run-off. The Republican primary was won by Joseph Lhota.
Apple’s China iPhone launch underwhelms. The US technology company launched its new pair of iPhones in Beijng (paywall), hours after revealing them to a US audience. Disappointingly for many Chinese fans, the new handsets are aimed at the higher end of the market and there was no news of a deal with China Mobile.
More jobs for Brits. Unemployment unexpectedly fell in the second quarter, from 7.8% to 7.7%, defying expectations that the figure would remain unmoved. The result brings the Bank of England closer to its target of 7%, when it intends to raise interest rates.
Egypt’s growing terrorism. At least four people were killed and more than 10 injured when car bombs exploded outside the Sinai region’s intelligence headquarters in Rafah, on the border with the Gaza Strip, according to state television.
Norway put a lid on its sovereign wealth fund. The new government of Scandinavia’s richest economy will limit the spending of the $750 billion fund in an attempt to stem a rise in the krone, according to Conservative party leader Erna Solberg, the country’s next prime minister.
The NSA violated court rules, a lot. Declassified documents show that the US surveillance organization ignored court privacy protections between 2006 and 2009 by examining thousands of phone numbers on a regular basis, often without any “reasonable” suspicion they were connected to terrorism.
The Koreas re-open Kaesong. North Korea and South Korea have agreed on a trial run for the Kaesong Industrial Park, a jointly operated area that once employed 53,000 North Koreans and was a symbol of cooperation until its closure in April during a spike in tensions. The park will re-open on Monday.
Australian optimism. Consumer confidence rose to its highest level since 2010 on news of Tony Abbott’s election win, aided by low interest rates.
Quartz obsession interlude
Tim Fernholz on how how cigarette companies use free-trade deals to sell more cigarettes to women and kids. “As cigarette smoking has fallen in the United States and Europe thanks to public health laws and liability lawsuits, global tobacco companies have increasingly turned to developing markets to expand their business. Now they’re trying to make sure the largest trade agreement since the World Trade Organization gives them the tools they need to stop those countries from adopting the laws that cost them customers in wealthier nations.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Hackers aren’t the outlaws of the internet anymore. They’re prime hires for government and corporations, and the new front line of global warfare.
Obama has given Damascus a voice in the debate. The US president has allowed Assad to exploit the diplomatic drama between Russia and the US (paywall).
The iPhone 5S just brought us closer to a world of passive surveillance. With constant monitoring of positioning and activity, the phone can collect information on everything from weather to users’ every movement.
The conflict in Syria goes back 13 centuries. America and Europe did not exist then, but the bloodletting was depressingly similar.
Your mother tongue can influence your spending, smoking and eating habits. A study shows that the language you speak affects your way of thinking.
The pains of inequality. The richest 10% of American families made half of all income last year.
Go ahead, skip breakfast. Studies that show eating breakfast helps overall weight loss are largely observational and found no direct cause and effect.
Mammoths were killed by the weather, not humans. A new study suggests that the gigantic woolly creatures died out around 20,000 years ago during a harsh ice age.
Zero-g veg. NASA is getting ever closer to farming in space, but it is not the only group looking at the commercial benefits.