Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Congress grills spies, Infosys immigration fine, China investigates attack, indentured freelancers

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What to watch for today

US spy chiefs testify before Congress. National Security Agency director general Keith Alexander and other top officials face the House Intelligence Committee following reports that the US listened in on German chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone calls. President Obama may direct the NSA to stop eavesdropping on US allies.

Superstorm Sandy’s anniversary. The destructive storm made landfall on one year ago today, battering New York City, killing at least 117 people, and causing $65 billion in damage. The rebuilding continues, and some victims are still without long-term housing.

Pfizer pips its rivals. The pharmaceutical company is expected to show modest gains in profits this quarter despite a drop in sales, after rival Merck narrowed its full-year forecast yesterday. Pfizer has dozens of drugs in the final stages of testing, boding well for the future.

LinkedIn keeps growing. The professional networking site is expected to post solid growth in profits this quarter, with revenue up more than 50% from last year thanks to a growing number of users who pay for advanced features to find jobs.

A pause in US retail sales. After a 0.2% rise in August, retail sales for September are expected to have been flat as Americans prepared for October’s government shutdown.

First day of the Fed meeting. The US central bank opens its two-day meeting, although it won’t put out a statement until Wednesday. After the Fed last month decided its economic stimulus tapering, investors will be looking out for hints about the new timeline.

While you were sleeping

Chinese police are investigating Uighur suspects following yesterday’s apparent suicide car attack near Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that killed five and injured 38. The embattled Muslim minority has fought for years against Chinese rule in the country’s far western regions.

Infosys will pay a record immigration fine. The Indian outsourcing firm allegedly broke the law by sending workers to the US on visitor visas, and the Wall Street Journal reports that a $35 million penalty will be announced Wednesday.

BP’s third quarter profit fell less than expected, sliding to $3.7 billion from $5 billion a year ago. That prompted the oil company, which is focusing on its most profitable oil fields following the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, to boost its dividend.

India raised interest rates again. The central bank increased rates by 25 basis points to 7.75%, the second hike in as many months, warning that inflation could remain elevated amid slow growth.

Japan consumer spending rose. September data showed sales were up 3.1% from a year earlier, exceeding expectations as shoppers made purchases before a sales tax kicks in next year.

Australia upheld a ban on Huawei. The country will not allow the Chinese technology firm to bid on contracts for Australia’s $38 billion National Broadband Network due to cyber-security concerns.

Gunmen stole $54 million in Libya. Two men robbed a van in the city of Sirte that was carrying foreign and local currency from the country’s central bank.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on what an unpaid $115,000 tab for pig trotters tells us about Chinese local government debt: “The debts were incurred because the trotter restaurant was designated as a host for official ‘inspection tours,’ in which cadres fete higher-ups in town to check in on the town’s performance. A Party official’s career prospects depend largely on how he strengthens relations with more powerful officials. Showering them with gifts and stuffing them with local delicacies is routine… But as China’s economy has slowed, the wasteful spending that results from this system has plunged local governments deep into debt.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Periodic breaks from technology are therapeutic. But it isn’t necessary to go completely cold turkey.

Twitter is a well-oiled argument machine. With its global reach, restrictions on length, and frictionless replies, it’s the perfect medium for people to be nasty to one another.

We can eliminate texting while walking. When people absorbed in their smart phones stroll toward you, just refuse to get out of their way.

The freelancer economy is making young people into indentured servants. Piecemeal work through companies like Taskrabbit is a poor substitute for full-time jobs.

Surprising discoveries

The other French laundry. Money launderers from Asia and Eastern Europe have been snapping up French vineyards to provide a legitimate provenance for dirty funds.

The UN will protect us from asteroids. The agency plans to set up an International Asteroid Warning Group to share information about hazardous space rocks.

Silicon Valley secessionists. Techno-utopians in California want out of the United States.

Young people prefer Old Spice. InfoScout, an app that lets people scan and upload receipts anonymously, is finding out some surprising things about people’s buying habits.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, anti-texting walking strategies and random receipts to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.


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