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Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—US allies are unhappy, BofA court defeat, manufacturing data, Mexican clowns deny hit

By Newley Purnell

What to watch for today

An Obamacare inquiry begins. The first congressional hearing will be held into the healthcare.gov rollout, which cost more than $400 million and has suffered technical problems since launching three weeks ago as the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s signature health-care law.

A big drugs deal. McKesson Corp, the largest US drug distributor by revenue, is expected to announce an offer to buy Germany’s Celesio AG, one of Europe’s biggest distributors, valuing it at up to $7.6 billion. McKesson hopes to gain purchasing power with drug makers and obtain more clout in emerging markets (paywall).

European manufacturing data. The Euro-zone Purchasing Managers’ Index, which dipped last month after August’s 26-month high, is out today, providing a window onto business activity in the region.

A bevy of corporate earnings. Microsoft might reveal details about its search for a new chief executive and its strategy for competing with Apple and Google. Amazon is expected to post another loss, but that likely won’t be a major worry since its revenues are still on the rise. Also reporting are Zynga, 3M, Ford, Hyundai, Daimler, América Móvil, Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, Altria, and Dow Chemical.

While you were sleeping

Bank of America court defeat. In a victory for the government, a jury found the bank’s Countrywide Financial unit liable for fraud for selling defective mortgages to government-backed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in a program called “The Hustle.” Prosecutors want BofA to pay an $848 million fine.

US allies are unhappy. German chancellor Angela Merkel demanded that Obama respond to reports that the US had monitored her mobile phone conversations, and France wants to put US spying on the agenda of an EU leaders’ summit. Meanwhile, Israel and Saudi Arabia are unhappy with US foreign policy in Egypt, Iran and Syria.

The US government is investigating at least nine banks’ sales of mortgage-backed securities (paywall). The Department of Justice task force behind JPMorgan’s $13 billion settlement is also probing lenders including Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Scotland, and UBS.

Chinese manufacturing increased. A preliminary survey showed October manufacturing activity was 50.9 on the flash Markit/HSBC Purchasing Managers Index, a seven-month high. Separately, Chinese interbank interest rates spiked to a four-month high of 5.7% on fears of a central bank liquidity crackdown.

Obama and Sharif met at the White House. In their first face-to-face meeting, the US president and the Pakistani prime minister discussed drone strikes, Pakistan’s economy, and the country’s nuclear arsenal.

Pinterest raised $225 million from Fidelity Investments and others in a new round of financing. The popular site for collecting images, which has almost no revenue, is now valued at $3.8 billion.

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on how your McDonald’s dinner will cost you more because of climate change. ”Since 2011, rising temperatures across the United States have  led to drought conditions in cattle-ranching states like Texas and Oklahoma. Ranchers have had to cull herds facing limited pasture and pay more for feed, leading to fewer, more expensive cattle on the market. When cattle cost more, so does ground beef.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

We’re too obsessed with Twitter and the tech economy. What about jobs for the non-digerati?

Financial institutions should be allowed to fail. Opposing reforms because they “wouldn’t have prevented Lehman Brothers from going bust” misses the point.

The West has become the global norm. Globalization is not an economic event—it’s a psychological phenomenon showing Western values have become accepted around the world.

Fear of genetically modified foods is irrational. They can feed the world’s growing population (paywall) and protect the environment. And they’ve caused no health problems in two decades.

Surprising discoveries

The most distant galaxy yet, located using the Hubble Space Telescope, is so far away that by the time its light reaches us, it appears as it was 13.1 billion years ago.

Mexico’s clowns denied any link to a cartel assassination. A former drug boss was reportedly gunned down recently by men dressed as clowns. “The people who do that, they’re not clowns,” a leader at a Mexico City convention said.

Chairman Mao invented “traditional” Chinese medicine. It was part of a gigantic propaganda campaign aimed at domestic and Western audiences.

Ja Rule is releasing a microwave cookbook. During his almost-two-year stay behind bars, the American rapper learned to cook using a microwave to avoid dismal prison food.

A pushup bra for guys. A new confidence-boosting undershirt reshapes skinny arms and man-boobs into bulging biceps and sculpted pecs.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, microwave cooking recipes and body-sculpting manziers to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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