Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Phone hacking, Apple earnings, Twitter’s test IPO, deadly Tiananmen crash

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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.

…And under scrutiny in Europe. German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported that US president Obama personally authorized the spying on Angela Merkel, which may date back to 2002, while the NSA says the president was in the dark. Further leaks from Edward Snowden show the NSA monitored more than 60 million phone calls in Spain in the course of a single month.

The UK braces for storms. In what’s shaping up to be the worst storm in years, hurricane-force winds and torrential rains are lashing London and England’s southeast. Morning train services have been cancelled, 220,000 homes are without power, and flights into London have been scaled back.

Apple’s 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, which are expected to drive record fourth-quarter profits.

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.

Merck’s third-quarter results. The drugmaker’s earnings are expected to be down as the company continues to grapple with expiring patents on some top products.

Over the weekend

A car careened into a crowd of tourists in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, bursting into flames near a giant portrait of Mao Zedong. Three people were killed and many were injured; police rapidly cordoned off the area.

Toyota still tops. The carmaker sold 7.412 million cars worldwide from January through September, a 0.1% increase from the same period last year, staying ahead of competitors General Motors and Volkswagen.

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.

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 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

Of course governments gather intelligence on other governments. The question, in the wake of revelations about US spying on Angela Merkel, is whether tapping top leaders’ phones is worth it, says a former US ambassador to NATO (paywall).

The EU Robin Hood tax is “an enormous risk.” The French central bank chief says a tax on financial transactions could threaten stability.

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.

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

Surprising discoveries

China loves “Two Broke Girls.” The US sitcom has struck a chord with viewers: ”Although they are poor, they work hard together to achieve a shared dream.”

Cyber warfare on an Israeli highway. Unknown hackers hit the security camera system on a major Israeli toll road, causing it to shut down two days in a row.

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.

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

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