Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Merkel celebrates, manufacturing surges, Nairobi seige, iPhone fingerprint hack

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What to watch for today

Nairobi shopping mall siege continues. Kenyan security forces are still battling the al Qaeda-linked Somali militant group al-Shabaab, which killed at least 68 people and injured 175 in a Saturday attack. Ten to 15 guerrillas, three of whom may be American, are still holding an unspecified number of hostages. The attack on a symbol of Kenya’s economic progress shows that its prosperity is only as secure as its borders.

Diplomatic wrangling at the UN. The General Assembly in New York City will be dominated by developments in the Middle East: a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis, thawing of US-Iran relations, and the US-brokered peace talks between Israel and Palestine.

Microsoft plays catch up.  The company will unveil its next generation Surface tablets aimed at challenging Apple’s dominance in the tablet market. The response to Microsoft’s tablets has so far been underwhelming, forcing the company to take a $900 million inventory loss in its most recent earnings report.

Please switch off some electronic portable devices. The US aviation regulator is expected relax restrictions on portable gadgets during takeoff and landing after an advisory panel meets this week, but email, phone calls and Wi-Fi will still be forbidden.

Greece sits down with creditors… again. Representatives from the troika are reviewing austerity measures to decide if Athens should get its next installment of cash. Unions have planned strikes on Tuesday and Wednesday, as public sector workers in Greece face further cuts.

Over the weekend

Angela Merkel won her third term as German chancellor. Exit polls showed that Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union won 42% of the vote in Sunday’s election. Her preferred coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party, didn’t win enough to gain representation in parliament, but Merkel could still form a “grand coalition” with her closest rival, the left-leaning Social Democratic Party.

Recovery signposts. China’s flash manufacturing index rose to a six-month high, indicating the country’s rebound is strengthening due to increased domestic and foreign demand. The euro zone’s index rose by the most since June 2011, marking the sixth straight month of gains, driven by increases in France and Germany. US manufacturing data is due later today.

Typhoon Usagi lashed southern China. The year’s most powerful typhoon slammed into southern China, killing at least 25, causing flooding and flight delays. The fatalities occurred in Guangdong province after the storm veered away from nearby Hong Kong.

China made a point with Bo Xilai’s sentence. The former Communist Party Politburo member was sentenced to life in prison for bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power, ending China’s most politically charged trial in decades. Bo has pledged to clear his name and return—somehow—to politics.

LinkedIn sued for hacking email address books. Four customers accused the site of accessing e-mail accounts without permission, downloading contacts’ addresses, and spamming them with invitations.

A magnate is planning an $8 billion Chinese version of Hollywood. China’s richest man, Wang Jianlin, drew a throng of Hollywood A-listers to a party for the sprawling complex, which will have 20 film studios—including one underwater—when it launches in 2017.

Citi’s trading revenues have dropped. The US’s third biggest bank by assets has been hit by a slowdown in markets businesses, the Financial Times reports.

German hackers claim they bypassed the iPhone 5s’s fingerprint sensor. The Berlin-based group says it photographed a user’s fingerprint and used it to unlock Apple’s new phone.

Quartz obsession interlude

Steve Levine on why even the Chinese government can’t command progress on electric cars. “On Sept. 17, Beijing renewed subsidies for electric cars, plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles. They are substantial—a buyer of an electric car receives a direct payment of $9,800. (The payment is $5,700 for a plug-in hybrid and up to a whopping $81,000 on the purchase of a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle.) But analysts doubt the renewed subsidies will finally trigger a buying binge; the cars will still cost more than pure gasoline-fueled vehicles, and will cover less ground and lack the convenience of quick refueling. In short: Despite the new subsidies, China still faces an uphill battle to get motorists to embrace electrics.” Read more here.

Matters of debate 

The Fed’s no-taper decision was leaked. A research firm says large orders for gold ETFs and gold futures were placed at the exact millisecond the news was made public.

A world of higher interest rates looms. Emerging economies should heed the Indian central bank’s warning and hike rates to deter investment in unsustainable activities.

What the Middle East should learn from the birthplace of the Arab Spring. Tunisia has its problems, but its rational, systematic approach to its transition should serve as a model for others in the region.

The actual US poverty rate is about zero. Certain benefits and aid through the tax system are not counted in the current definition of poverty.

A Bitcoin crackdown is the right thing to do. Regulations will help integrate Bitcoin into the financial system and make virtual currencies more dependable.

Surprising discoveries

One surrogate per family? Wealthy Chinese are paying American surrogates to avoid one-child restrictions and eventually obtain US green cards.

How to steal 100,000 barrels of oil a day. Thieves in Nigeria are puncturing pipelines, using taps to ply oil from hoses, and even stealing from export terminals.

Microwaves can double up as power sources. Energy that escapes through the microwave doors can power gadgets like cooking timers and digital scales.

Being a judge is no laughing matter. A judge in New Jersey resigned after being told that he can’t moonlight as a stand-up comic.

How old is globalization? Older than you might think: The influx to Europe of Mexican and Bolivian silver during the 16th century was one early example.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, judicial stand-up routines, and oil heist movie plots to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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