Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Greek banking bargains, detoxifying Syria, robot simpletons, China’s blog police

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What to watch for

The US shutdown enters week two. President Barack Obama and US speaker of the house John Boehner continue to dig in their heels about whether to include Obama’s signature healthcare law in debt ceiling negotiations.

21 world leaders meet in Indonesia. Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation member countries will meet in Bali to discuss how to juice growth in a down economy. US president Barack Obama won’t make it thanks to the US shutdown.

Japan reports its August trade balance. In a sign of improvement, the country’s surplus is expected to have doubled to $6.5 billion due to a smaller trade deficit and increased investment income.

Tech bidders request a piece of BlackBerry pie. The company’s board is considering alternatives to taking the company private, and Google, SAP and Cisco are among the interested buyers, reports Reuters.

While you were sleeping

Demonstrations in Egypt turned violent. Supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi clashed with Egyptian security forces on the 40-year anniversary of Egypt’s last war with Israel, leaving at least 34 dead.

Investors are bargain hunting in Greece. US hedge fund manager John Paulson and a crew of other US hedge funds are investing in a number of Greek banks that shaped up after the country’s crippling crisis.

Abenomics lost some mojo. Prime minister Shinzo Abe told the FInancial Times that labor reforms will not be part of Japan’s forthcoming policy package.

The UN began detoxifying Syria. It’s the beginning of a highly-ambitious program (paywall) that promises to obliterate the country’s lethal chemical arsenal in just nine months.

France tweaks its bean-counting strategy. In a win for French businesses, finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said the government would scrap plans for a new corporate tax, which the government had announced in its 2014 budget plan last month.

Quartz obsession interlude

John McDuling on the $1.2 billion New York start-up you’ve probably never heard. “Selling databases is by no means a sexy business, which is why you may not have heard of MongoDB. But databases are the lifeblood of corporate IT departments. MongoDB, whose name is derived from the word ‘humongous,’ has been quietly chipping away at database king Oracle’s stranglehold on the sector with an open-source version of its technology.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The US should merge with its northern neighbor. The US and Canada should become one to fend off an economic takeover by China and Russia.

Robots have nothing on humans.  Even the most cutting-edge robotic contraptions are a far cry from the dominating intelligent machines that inspire needless technophobia.

Poor people have a skill money can’t buy. They’re better than rich people at empathizing, and the gap in understanding is worsening inequality.

Technology isn’t always the great unifier. The internet and cell phones only bring us closer together until we step off the grid.

Surprising discoveries

China has a blog-policing army. The country employs more than two million people to monitor web activity.

The sun used to be a lot cooler. It wasn’t even warm enough for life when life began.

Working through lunch is good for you. Socializing with coworkers at lunchtime can lead to higher levels of fatigue.

Google wants to handle your dinner bill. The company filed for a patent on a product that will help patrons split the bill at the end of meals.

Soccer is more than a sport; it’s architecture. A Spanish architect designed a luxurious soccer-ball house in homage to soccer superstar Lionel Messi.

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