Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Obama’s travel woes, EU vs. Gazprom, Facebook corporate housing, in-flight weeping

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What to watch for today

Will Barack Obama make it to Asia? As China President Xi Jinping tours Indonesia, the US president has already had to scale back his trip to the region because of the government shutdown. If he also has to miss next week’s APEC and ASEAN summits, it could weaken his position (paywall) just as the US is trying to negotiate a crucial trade treaty.

EU vs Gazprom. European regulators are preparing anti-competition charges against the Russian gas giant for abusing its market position, which could result in fines of up to $15 billion.

Constellation reaches for the stars. Alcohol giant Constellation Brands, which owns Svedka vodka and bought beer conglomerate Grupo Modelo in June, releases its quarterly earnings report. Revenue is expected to leap 119% year-over-year.

Kerry to Iran: it’s got to be real. The secretary of state, speaking in Tokyo, said discussions with President Hassan Rouhani over Iran’s nuclear program will only proceed if the country takes clear steps to resolve the standoff.

While you were sleeping

US shutdown talks went nowhere. Obama and congressional leaders gathered at the White House Wednesday evening for the first time since the impasse began, but the talks failed to yield a deal. Chinese state media criticized the US for its political dysfunction and voiced worries that the US could potentially default on its debts.

Euro zone retail sales surprise. Shoppers boosted spending by 0.7% in August, much more than expected, and sales for July were also revised up, pointing to a possible consumer-led recovery.

Iran’s cyber warfare chief killed. Mojtaba Ahmadi was reportedly found shot to death outside of Tehran; the Telegraph reports that police are seeking two assassins riding a motorbike.

Fukushima sprung another leak. Workers at the nuclear plant were trying to prevent a leak but accidentally caused an overflow of 430 liters of radioactive water; it’s the second breach in as many months.

Indonesia arrested its top judge. Anti-corruption authorities detained the head of the country’s constitutional court for allegedly taking bribes worth $250,000.

Bill Ackman hedged his Herbalife risk. The activist hedge fund manager modified his firm’s $1.5 billion short position in the nutritional-supplement maker, which he has accused of being a pyramid scheme.

BP won a legal battle. A New Orleans court tightened damage assessment standards for the the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, meaning the company may not need to pay billions of dollars in additional costs.

China’s service sector hit a six-month high. The country’s official non-manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) increased to 55.4 last month from 53.9 in August, driven by new orders and lower costs.

Quartz obsession interlude

Matt Phillips presents the history of Twitter as told through awkward descriptions in the New York Times. “I’ve culled some of the many thousands of times Twitter has appeared in the New York Times, from its first year in 2006 to the wall-to-wall coverage that accompanied its announcement of a planned IPO last month. Along the way, Times wordsmiths grappled with exactly how to explain an entirely new form of media to the American populace.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

It’s OK to have a big carbon footprint. But you have to make up for it by paying others not to.

Sen. Ted Cruz “pushed House Republicans into traffic and wandered away.” So says Grover Norquist.

Talking to kids makes them smart. Children aren’t born intelligent; they need their parents to converse with them a lot.

Guadalajara is the new Bangalore. Well, not quite, but many Indian IT firms serving customers in the US are setting up shop in Mexico.

Restaurant menus leave a lot to be desired. Esoteric ingredients, useless information and poor design are to blame.

Surprising discoveries

Your tired brain is ruining your workouts. Mental fatigue can can reduce physical endurance, even when your body still has gas in the tank.

Why movies on airplanes make you cry. It’s not just the baggage fees—it’s also the strange calm of sitting among strangers.

Fracking wastewater is radioactive. Duke University researchers identified radium in publicly accessible waters downstream from a Pennsylvania treatment plant.

Coming soon: Facebook-ville. The social network is building its employees a predictably luxurious 394-unit housing complex (paywall) within walking distance of its Silicon Valley campus.

Rio Tinto’s robot trains. The conductors who haul iron ore through Australia’s outback make $224,000 a year; no wonder the mining company wants to replace them with the world’s first automated rail system.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, in-flight sob-fests and corporate housing requests to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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