Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—US default averted, UK surveillance probe, Google’s ad addiction, baby rats on a plane

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What to watch for today

Federal workers return to their jobs. The government says employees are due back today since the shutdown is over, although agencies’ differing guidance could lead to some confusion.

Merkel continues her coalition partner search. The German chancellor’s party kicks off a new round of discussions with the Social Democrats after talks with the Greens failed.

Britain’s surveillance inquiry. An intelligence oversight committee begins an investigation into GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations, including some public hearings. Separately, Snowden’s dad said “there’s more to be shared” after visiting his son in Russia.

Can Google shake its dependence on ads? Analysts expect a 14% bump in earnings and will pay attention to the search giant’s plan to unite mobile and desktop ad sales. But we’ll be watching to see whether the company’s app store, cloud computing services and Chromecast video-streaming device are making any money.

Verizon’s first post-buyout results. The telco spent $130 billion to buy out Vodafone’s share of Verizon Wireless, and its earnings announcement will give an inkling of how the move will benefit the company in the future.

While you were sleeping

The US debt showdown ended with a Republican whimper. President Barack Obama signed a last-minute bill to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling, after GOP legislators conceded they couldn’t push their policy agenda by threatening a default. The shutdown may have cost the economy $24 billion—and there could be another face-off in early 2014.

Nestlé reported higher sales in the third quarter on strong emerging market demand, in stark contrast to its rival Unilever’s lagging sales in the developing world.

BBVA sold a $1.3 billion stake in China Citic Bank. The Spanish lender’s move comes ahead of new international laws that will make it costlier to hold minority stakes in financial institutions.

UK retail sales rebounded, up 0.6% in September after a decline the previous month. The figures, which surpassed analyst expectations, were fueled by strong furniture demand—yet another sign of the frothy UK property market.

Syngenta lowered its profit guidance as a writedown on seed stocks and emerging market currency fluctuations took a toll on the agrochemicals giant.

Alibaba wants to be the PayPal of the East. The Chinese e-commerce giant is readying an international expansion of its Alipay mobile payments system, targeting markets like Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Taiwan.

Nearly 30 million people are working as slaves around the world, according to a new index that looks at debt bondage, forced marriage and human trafficking. India has the most slaves of any country, with almost 14 million, and Mauritania has the highest proportion enslaved—about 4% of its population.

Japanese manufacturers are in a good mood. A Reuters poll found that confidence remained steady as the effects of Abenomics boosted manufacturing, but the service sector’s mood declined for the second straight month, suggesting that private spending is losing momentum.

Quartz obsession interlude

Roberto A. Ferdman on the dangerous state of the global food industry. ”Food consumption has exceeded food production for five of the last ten years, and it appears to have caught up with us. World grain reserves haven’t been this low since 1974. Without a healthy level of reserves to fall back on, the world is woefully unprepared for any and all unexpected bouts of severe weather. Meager harvests by any of the world’s main exporters of grain, which includes corn, wheat and rice, could leave significant portions of the earth without enough food. Compounding the problem are spiking global food prices: Dangerously low reserves have pushed food prices up to near record levels.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The US budget deal isn’t a long-term remedy. Xinhua’s Liu Chang, who called earlier this week for a “de-Americanized” world, says Washington merely “prolong[ed] the fuse of the US debt bomb one inch longer.”

The US government’s credit rating should be downgraded. Even though default was averted, the world has lost its faith in the American political system. should have gone open-source. It’s crazy that public projects don’t rely on a public development process.

Transparency makes CEOs even more overpaid. The more companies disclose, the more executive pay goes up.

Surprising discoveries

Get up, stand up. Standing rather than sitting for three hours a day, five days a week, is enough to shed eight pounds of fat in a year.

Rats flying business class. Inspectors found ten “suckling rat pups” in a nest under a business class seat on a flight from Hong Kong to Xiamen, China; the mother rat was located the next day.

The Web killed softcore porn. Case in point: Cinemax After Dark is being discarded in favor of more respectable programming.

Should runners land on their heels or toes? Despite fierce arguments, there’s no single best way to run.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, and airborne vermin anecdotes to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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