Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—French austerity, JP Morgan’s $3 billion mortgage tab, UN inspectors return to Syria

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What to watch for today

French belt-tightening. The government will present its 2014 budget, having revised its projections of the deficit and economic growth rate after the International Monetary Fund warned they were too optimistic. France’s business confidence index is out too, and is likely to have remained downbeat in August.

Mixed signals from the US economy. Durable goods orders in August are expected to have fallen 0.5% from July, due to a decline in aircraft orders. New home sales probably rebounded last month after plunging in July by the most in three years.

UN inspectors will hunt for more clues in Syria. Investigators who left the country when US air strikes seemed imminent will return to look for more proof of chemical weapons use. The team will also gather evidence from an alleged chemical attack in northern Syria in March.

Bed Bath & Beyond rides the US housing recovery. The home-furnishings retailer reports second quarter earnings, which are projected to rise. Investors will also pay close attention to the company’s efforts to fending off competition from online retailers like Amazon.

While you were sleeping

Telefonica tightens grip on Telecom Italia. The Spanish telecom group will gradually raise its stake in the Telco holding company that owns a 22% stake in Telecom Italia, in a cash and shares deal worth 860 million euros ($1.2 billion).

JP Morgan probe tab may reach $3 billion. The bank is reportedly negotiating (paywall) with the US Justice department to settle over half a dozen mortgage investigations in one go. But even if the deal goes through, the bank will still face criminal investigations by federal prosecutors.

Kenya proclaimed victory over al-Shabaab. President Uhuru Kenyatta said security forces killed five militants and captured 11 others in the standoff at the Westgate mall in Nairobi. At least 67 people were killed in the siege, and authorities say more bodies could be found in the collapsed shopping center.

The US government is seeking a hefty SAC settlement. Federal prosecutors want hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors to pay $1.5 billion to $2 billion to settle insider trading charges. Any deal would require founder Steven A. Cohen to plead guilty.

UK brokerage facing Libor charges. The US Justice Department is preparing to charge staff at the London-based firm ICAP with rigging benchmark interest rates, according to the Wall Street Journal.

AIG’s chief executive apologized for lynching remarks. The insurer’s head, Bob Benmosche, said he was sorry for his comments comparing disapproval of bankers’ bonuses to Deep South hangings.

A 28-year-old woman completed a solo rowing trip from Japan to Alaska. British adventurer Sarah Outen arrived in the Aleutian Islands after nearly five months of rowing, covering 3,750 miles.

Quartz obsession interlude

Todd Woody on why the number of killer thunderstorms could jump 40% by 2070. “In a first-of-its-kind study published yesterday, scientists at Stanford University have linked climate change to the increasing frequency of such super storms. By 2070, the number of severe thunderstorms, which often spawn deadly tornadoes, could increase by 40% in the eastern US, according to the computer model developed by the Stanford scientists.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Angela Merkel’s re-election is a disaster for Greece. It will result in crushing austerity unless a leftist Greek government is elected to power.

47% of American jobs could soon be done by robots… Only those professions that require creative and social intelligence will be safe from computers of the future.

…but don’t blame them for falling wages. Most of the last 25 years’ drop in US workers’ pay is due to trade, not automation.

Time to delete your LinkedIn account? The site’s email marketing policy is inherently abusive.

Amazon is not the bookstore-killer it is made out to be. Independent bookstores are, in fact, growing in the US.

Uncertainty over climate change is a good thing. It means science is working.

Surprising discoveries

A notorious Twitter spambot is actually a human being. @Horse_ebooks mastermind Jacob Bakkila unveiled his conceptual art project in a New York art gallery.

A trader lost $4 million betting on Mitt Romney in an attempt to manipulate the prediction marketplace InTrade.

The CIA’s non-human spies. In the Cold War, the US intelligence agency trained ravens to retrieve objects, pigeons to warn of enemy ambushes, and cats to eavesdrop on conversations.

A strip club is suing Oracle. The San Francisco establishment wants the software giant to pick up a $33,540 tab racked up by one of its employees.

The reason newborn babies smell so good. They trigger the same circuits in the brain as satisfying a craving for food (but please don’t eat them).

Who says newspapers are dead? A number of publications founded in the 1600s are still alive today.

Quartz turned one on Wednesday. Here’s a thank you note from our editor. And a little something for you to have fun with.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, newborn baby smells and Quartz birthday wishes to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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