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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—US government shutdown, Italy teeters, Abenomics in action, China’s golden iPhone fever

By Quartz Staff

What to watch for today

The US government shutdown is here. A series of back-and-forth legislative maneuvers on Monday night failed to solve the budget standoff over Obamacare, shutting down the US government for the first time since 1995. The impasse will cost the economy $300 million a day, and federal employees on furlough will be breaking the law if they so much as check their email. Does the shutdown mean the Tea Party won?

Stocks rallied anyway. Asian and European shares advanced along with US futures as investors calculated that improving global economic conditions would outweigh the costs of the US political standoff.

The Affordable Care Act launches. The president’s signature health reform will take effect despite the government shutdown. That means the marketplaces where lower-income Americans can buy health insurance are open for business.

Italy’s government teeters. A credit rating downgrade is looming and two of its major banks are in turmoil, but a muted market reaction suggests that Italian dysfunction has finally lost its capacity to surprise. 

While you were sleeping

Abe raises the sales tax in Japan. In an effort to tackle massive government debt, Japan’s prime minister said the levy will rise in April to 8% from 5%. Abe is set to outline a $50 billion stimulus program to cushion the blow.

European unemployment remains high at 12% in August, equal to July’s revised figure. In Germany, the number of people out of work rose to 6.9% in September, indicating an uneven European rebound.

Euro zone factory activity increased for the third straight month in September. Manufacturers hiked prices for the first time since mid-2012 thanks to strong demand.

JP Morgan reportedly has a mole. A US criminal probe of the company’s mortgage securities is being assisted by a cooperating JP Morgan employee who is providing emails and other evidence to investigators, according to the Wall Street Journal. The bank and the government are negotiating a settlement worth around $11 billion.

Google moved closer to an EU deal. Brussels praised the search giant’s newest offer to abide by legal restrictions on its search results. That means Google’s European antitrust battle looks set for a settlement (paywall).

China searched for dozens of missing fishermen. Rescuers scoured the South China Sea after tropical storm Wutip sank three fishing vessels.

Two US generals were effectively fired. In a rare public censure, two senior Marines were forced into retirement for failing to defend a US base in Afghanistan during a 2012 Taliban strike that killed two soldiers.

Quartz obsession interlude

Roberto A. Ferdman on the sorry state of Peru’s gold-mining industry. “In total, Peru now exports more illegally produced gold than cocaine, which is staggering, considering that Peru happens to be the world’s largest exporter of cocaine. The working conditions in Peruvian mines, which often include severe isolation, staggering amounts of child labor, extreme cases of overworking, and countless incidences of forced labor and abuse, rival those of most any poorly-regulated industry around the world.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The government showdown is small change. It’s the looming debt ceiling breach that is truly scary.

Blame Germany for the U.S. debt ceiling. American lawmakers created the fiscal device to fund the country’s involvement in World War I.

Don’t write off Indian manufacturing. Pressure to compete is at last bringing about a quiet revolution in the country’s management culture.

Cursive is an art; keep it alive. 45 US states are demoting joined-up handwriting from their curricula in favor of keyboard skills, but they’re missing the point.

How to get rich on the internet. Don’t try to invent something new; just solve a really basic human need better than anyone else (says the co-founder of Twitter).

Surprising discoveries

Fast food is getting slower. The lines at drive-thru windows are getting longer due to complicated new menus. The average wait at McDonald’s is now 189.5 seconds—the longest ever.

One in eight people around the world go hungry. A UN survey on food security found that 842 million people suffer from chronic hunger.

Found: a mysterious 13th century volcano. Indonesia’s Samalas Volcano on Lombok island may be responsible for a massive explosion in 1257 that left its mark in Arctic and Antarctic ice.

China just loves those golden iPhones. The new gold-colored iPhone 5s is in short supply, but you can get a gold sticker for your regular iPhone for just $2.

Fort Knox, eat your heart out. India’s temples are holding an estimated 2,000 tonnes of gold worth roughly $84 billion.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, golden iPhone stickers, and notes in cursive to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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