Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Chinese growth, Australian bushfires, Obama’s Homeland Security pick, brain toxins

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What to watch for today

GE’s flat earnings. The US industrial conglomerate is trying to shift away from its once-lucrative finance arm and into old-fashioned manufacturing, but for the time being its back-log of orders and low US demand are expected to leave it with a moribund quarter.

Bush fires continue to rage across Australia. Hundreds of fires are burning near Sydney, driving residents from their homes, and firefighters are struggling to bring them under control.

A partial lunar eclipse. The earth will move between the moon and the sun for the last time this year, with the best visibility (map) in Africa and Europe.

San Francisco rail workers could strike. Barring a last-minute deal on a new contract, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) employees will walk off the job, making commuting even tougher in one of the US’s most traffic-clogged cities.

While you were sleeping

China’s economy grew 7.8%. Third quarter expansion from a year earlier matched estimates and keeps the country on track to meet its 2013 growth target of 7.5%; that’s better most big economies, but would still represent China’s slowest growth in 23 years.

Obama picked a new Homeland Security chief. If confirmed by the Senate, Jeh C. Johnson, a legal advisor to the president during the president’s first term, will take over for Janet Napolitano.

Snowden said he didn’t bring classified documents to Russia. The ex-National Security Agency contractor said he passed the secret materials to journalists, ensuring the files were safe from Russian spies.

A nuclear deal with Iran is not at hand. A senior western diplomat warned that major differences remain over the country’s nuclear program following recent talks in Geneva; the next round of discussions comes in November.

Sands China beat estimates. Billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Macau casino operator reported strong third quarter earnings thanks to growth in the world’s biggest gambling hub.

Lenovo will examine BlackBerry’s books. The Chinese tech manufacturer is sniffing around the troubled smartphone company. A purchase would be one of the largest deals between a Chinese and Western firm, if Lenovo can get around cyber-security concerns. Markets are skeptical.

JPMorgan Chase sold a New York landmark. China’s Fosun International will pay $725 million for One Chase Manhattan Plaza, built by then-president of Chase Manhattan David Rockefeller in 1960.

Quartz obsession interlude

Chris Mims on the giant coffee machine that could be the robot barista of the future. ”The Briggo coffee kiosk knows how to make a perfect coffee because it was ‘trained’ by an award-winning barista, Patrick Pierce. He’s since left the company, but no matter: as in the techno-utopian Singularity, whose adherents believe that some day we will all upload our brains to computers, once a barista’s essence has been captured by Briggo, his human form is just a legacy system.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

China can laugh at the US’s political woes all it wants… including via a cartoon on how to become president of the US, but the country must soon grapple with some complex economic reforms of its own.

…That said, the renminbi may overtake the dollar within the decade. China can oust the US currency even faster after the US debt ceiling debacle.

How to create more competition in the audit business. The Big Four dominate—Deloitte has audited Procter & Gamble since 1890—but change could be on the way. 

Are currency markets flawed, or fraudulent? Why regulators around the world fear traders are manipulating exchange rates.

Surprising discoveries

KFC’s popularity isn’t about spices. The secret to the fried chicken chain’s success lies in the art of pressure frying.

Sleep may clean our brains. Research shows cerebral spinal fluid washes around the brains of slumbering mice, eliminating biological waste products.

Apple can read your iMessages. The company has claimed otherwise, but researchers say Apple can decrypt your data if they want.

Hard-luck Greece is importing millions in expensive furs. Turns out there’s a method to the mink-ness.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, lunar eclipse sightings and pressure frying recipes to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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