Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—US-Russia talks, North Korea’s nuclear restarts, Dell’s buyout of Dell, quiet loudspeakers

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What to watch for today

Thrashing out a solution for Syria. US secretary of state John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov will meet in Geneva to discuss the Kremlin’s plan for Syria’s chemical weapons.

Indonesia’s currency crisis. The central bank is poised to hike benchmark interest rates for the fourth time this year to 7.5%, as part of its efforts to support the falling rupiah.

The US economy chugs along. The federal budget deficit is expected to have fallen to $150 billion in August, while import prices likely rose 0.4% due to higher fuel costs. Weekly jobless claims are expected to hover around pre-recession levels. Industrial production data out of Europe is also likely to be positive (paywall).

Dell buys out Dell, at last. Shareholders are expected to approve the sweetened $25 billion buyout offer by the computer maker’s founder, Michael Dell, after activist investor Carl Icahn threw in the towel earlier this week.

While you were sleeping

North Korea is probably producing plutonium again. Satellite imaging of a reactor at the Yongbyon nuclear complex suggests that the country has restarted production of radioactive ingredients used in nuclear weapons, according to the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins. Also, Kim Jong Un officially wished Bashar al-Assad “Happy Birthday.”

Syrian rebels despair. Some Free Syrian Army commanders said that hope of US military intervention has all but disappeared since US president Barack Obama asked the US Congress to vote. Rebels said that the delay has destroyed their chance to oust President Assad and sideline extremists (paywall).

Demand for Verizon’s record debt sale was overwhelming. Lured by what was seen as a bargain price, investor demand for the telecom giant’s $49 billion corporate bond sale sparked a buying “frenzy” (paywall). The money raised will be used to fund Verizon’s buyout of Vodafone’s 45% stake in their joint venture.

Some of the old magic. Shares in Facebook rose above $45 during Wednesday trading, exceeding their value during the company’s much-hyped IPO last year, which valued Facebook at $100 billion before investor sentiment turned against the company.

Is Société Générale planning a sale in Asia? Reuters reports that France’s number two bank is exploring the sale of its Singapore-based private banking arm for around $600 million, as it struggles to compete in the region with larger rivals.

Australia lost 10,800 jobs. The August data is disappointing and unexpected, given that the country was expected to gain about the same number. Unemployment rose to 5.8%, adding to the economic difficulties facing Australia’s incoming government.

The US remembered 9/11. Memorials took place across the country on the 12th anniversary of a terrorist attack that killed almost 3,000 people. Ceremonies were fairly low key, marked by several moments of silence.

Quartz obsession interlude

Jason Karaian on why Sweden wants homeowners to pay off their mortgages faster. “Fixed-rate ‘bottom loans’ cover up to 75% of a home’s value while a variable-rate ‘top loan’ is added on if borrowers need more. But for the bottom loan, they don’t have to pay off the principal as long as they keep paying the interest. So, once the pricier top loan is paid off, many Swedes simply pay the minimum interest due on their remaining debt. Forever.“ Read more here.

Matters of debate

If the UK leaves the EU, it will also leave innovation behind. Europe is focusing its scientific efforts and providing its members with a scientific boon. The UK would miss out.

Li Keqiang talks big at the “Summer Davos,” but his walk is what matters. The Chinese premier is advocating reform, but his chances of success are mixed.

American “exceptionalism” is dangerous, as is intervention in Syria. Russian president Vladimir Putin addresses the American public directly in an op-ed.

Hiring myths exposed. Analysis shows that job-hoppers, the long-term unemployed, social media addicts and ex-convicts are not bad hires.

Surprising discoveries

Quiet loudspeakers. Scientists can synthesize the important parts of speech during public announcements so you only hear the important stuff, even at low volumes.

Expat records. More people than ever before are living abroad—232 million, according to the UN—with the most popular destination remaining the US.

The most popular online classes aren’t what you’d expect. Yes, there’s coding and finance, but a lot of the most sought-after courses explore human thinking and behavior.

Use your finger as a loudspeaker. A new microphone from Disney allows users to record sounds and transmit them by touching another person’s ear.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, birthday greetings for Assad and responses to Putin’s op-ed to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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