Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Phone hacking, Apple earnings, Twitter’s test IPO, the 2032 asteroid

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What to watch for today

Phone hacking on trial in Britain. The trial for the phone-hacking scandal that shut down Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World begins today. Among the eight defendants are former tabloid executives Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson.

Phone hacking questions in Germany. What did US president Barack Obama know about the tapping of chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone, and when did he know it?  German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported Obama personally authorized the spying, while the NSA says the president was in the dark; the snooping may have begun as early as 2002.

Storms hit the UK. In what’s shaping up to be the worst storm in years, gale-force winds will start moving across England and Wales. Early morning train services have been cancelled, and flights into London have been scaled back.

Apple’s record earnings. This quarter’s earnings will include the new iPhone 5S and 5C, of which an unprecedented 9 million were sold on their opening weekend. Analysts are expecting a record fourth-quarter for the tech giant.

Iran’s nuclear negotiations. Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency will meet in Vienna to begin talks about Tehran’s nuclear program. The two sides have clashed over whether or not Iran’s nuclear capabilities are strictly part of a civilian defense program.

Poor US home sales. After declining for a second consecutive month in September, existing home sales are expected to continue to slump in October, threatening hopes of an economic recovery led by the housing sector.

Over the weekend

Georgia elected a new president. Georgy Margvelashvili, a 44-year-old philosopher and confidant of billionaire Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, won a landslide victory—after only a year in politics.

Argentina’s president suffered a setback. Cristina Fernandéz’s allies were thumped in Sunday’s mid-term elections, when voters picked half of the lower house of Congress and a third of the Senate. Fernandez has struggled with high inflation and dwindling central bank reserves.

Czech elections produced a stalemate. An election designed to end months of political turmoil failed to produce a clear winner when the Social Democrats claimed just over a fifth of the vote, which isn’t enough to form a government. The party then tried to sack its leader for the poor showing, but he refused quit.

Syria listed its weapon inventory. As part of the international agreement to destroy its arsenal, the Syrian government submitted details of its chemical weapons stockpiles two days ahead of schedule. Washington reckons Assad’s military has about 1,000 metric tons of deadly gases and nerve agents.

Twitter tested the market. The New York Stock Exchange executed a trial run of Twitter’s upcoming IPO in a bid to avoid the glitches that plagued Facebook’s market debut in 2012, a meltdown that could cost Nasdaq $41.6 million.

Settlement snag for JP Morgan. The US Justice Department is opposing JP Morgan’s request to make the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. liable for part of its record $13 billion payment, which could delay the bank’s move to bring an end to the civil claims over its sales of mortgage bonds.

McDonald’s pulled the plug on Heinz. After a 40-year relationship, the fast food chain will stop serving Heinz ketchup in its stores because the condiment king’s new chief executive, Bernardo Hees, used to run Burger King.

Lou Reed died. The singer, songwriter, and guitarist who led the Velvet Underground and shaped generations of musicians throughout a long career died of liver disease in Southampton, New York. He was 71.

Quartz obsession interlude

Eric Holthaus on what would happen if the quarter-mile-wide asteroid hurtling through space hit Earth, and you survived it. “The crater would be about twice the width of Manhattan, and about as deep as the newly constructed Freedom Tower in New York is tall. More than one hundred million cubic meters of rock would be instantly vaporized on impact. The shaking produced would be the equivalent of a 7.0 earthquake. If you were standing about 60 miles (100 km) from the impact site, within two minutes you’d be pelted with debris up to about two inches in size. Within five minutes, the air blast generated by the heat of the impact would create hurricane force winds, shattering your windows.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Arabs fear warming US-Iran relations because compromise between the two countries means nations like Saudi Arabia—but not Israel—are bound to lose out.

Amazon is playing the long game. The retail giant could easily turn a quarterly profit, but Amazon is biding its time in order to achieve world domination.

No end in sight for the euro zone crisis. Don’t be fooled by growth in Spain’s exports or the fall in Greek wages: the rising euro offsets any improvements (paywall) in the European economy.

Cinemas are their own worst enemy. Now that exclusive movie content is available on internet streaming services, movie theaters must amp up the experience they provide customers—or risk losing them.

Marijuana fears are overblown. 17 years after California legalized medical pot, there’s no civic disorder in Northern California, and teenagers don’t seem to be using the drug more.

Surprising discoveries

Technology is making us ill. Apple’s new operating system made some people feel queasy; tech gadgets can also mess with our sleep.

Homer Simpson is a math genius. Episodes of The Simpsons are full of mathematical jokes, hidden shout-outs to classic number theories, and other nerdy delights.

Bee-dinopocalypse. There was a widespread extinction of bees 66 million years ago—around the same time that dinosaurs died out.

Hacking defibrillators is highly unlikely. The real security threat with electronic medical devices and hospitals is malware.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, and Homer Simpson-inspired math theorems to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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