Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—French austerity, Alibaba ditches Hong Kong, UN inspectors return to Syria

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What to watch for today

French belt-tightening. The government will present its 2014 budget, with a deficit that will climb from 2.9% to 3.6% of GDP despite 15 billion euros ($20.2 billion) in spending cuts. France’s business confidence index is out too, with downbeat August data expected.

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 hunt for more clues in Syria. Investigators who left the country when US air strikes seemed imminent will return to look for more chemical weapons evidence.

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

Alibaba’s Hong Kong IPO talks broke down. China’s biggest e-commerce firm will reportedly pursue a US listing after discussions with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange hit a road block over the company’s attempts to maintain control for its existing partnership structure.

SAC criminal charges could be settled for up to $2 billion. Prosecutors proposed a settlement in the landmark insider trading investigation, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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

A British national was arrested for the Nairobi mall attack. The 35-year-old Briton of Somali origin was nabbed trying to leave Kenya. Officials said militants stashed machine guns in a shop in the mall ahead of the attack; several may have escaped by disguising themselves as civilians.

Garment workers protested over low wages in Bangladesh. Police used tear gas and rubber bullets on demonstrators who rallied in industrial areas where clothing is made for brands like H&M and Wal-Mart.

China executed a kebab vendor, prompting online outrage. Chinese citizens took to social media to compare the man’s death sentence with the fate of Gu Kailai, the wife of fallen politician Bo Xilai, whose own death sentence for murder was suspended.

Cambodia’s opposition party called for a general strike. Former finance minister Sam Rainsy says prime minister Hun Sen orchestrated a “constitutional coup” in the country’s disputed general election.

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

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.

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.

India’s slowdown could affect its diplomacy. The country’s dealings with the U.S. and other powers look set to take a hit.

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 gallery.

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

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

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

Turkey has banned studio apartments. Critics say the government is trying to promote marriage and stop Turks from living alone.

Flights out of Venezuela are booked for months in advance. Currency controls are to blame.

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