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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Debugging HealthCare.gov, China’s bank shopping, Spain exits recession, Sriracha complaints

What to watch for today

Kathleen Sebelius testifies before the House. The Health and Human Services secretary will talk about getting the bugs out of the government’s online insurance marketplace, HealthCare.gov. Some Republicans have called for her resignation over the glitchy roll-out.

China’s bank shopping spree. State-owned China Construction Bank is in talks to buy Brazil’s Banco Industrial & Comercial for upwards of $700 million to capitalize on growing Chinese commerce with Brazil and to gain a banking license there.

A big fine for Infosys. After an investigation lasting more than two years, the US government is expected to slap the India-based outsourcing company with a $34 million fine—the biggest ever of its kind—for improperly using business travel documents to keep foreign employees in the US.

Fed-speak snoozing. No one is holding their breath for a big announcement from the US’s Federal Open Market Committee. After it declined to start tapering its bond-buying program in September, the government shutdown and a spate of weaker economic data have quelled hopes that the US economy is on the mend.

Grande earnings from Starbucks. The coffee king, which opened its first tea bar last week, should post higher profits in its fourth quarter thanks to cheap coffee prices, expansion in Asia, and new baked goods.

All eyes on Facebook. The social networking giant’s revenues are expected to grow 51%. Investors will be eyeing the company’s mobile earnings and daily active user figures.

While you were sleeping

Spain ended its two-year recession by posting an export-driven 0.1% increase in third quarter GDP.

Barclays was drawn into a global currency investigation. Following requests from authorities, the bank is reviewing several years of foreign exchange trades; Royal Bank of Scotland is also looking into its forex transactions. Barclays’ quarterly profits fell but were ahead of expectations, as it shed assets to meet regulatory leverage requirements.

Volkswagen beat profit estimates. The automaker’s third-quarter operating profit rose 20% to 2.78 billion euros ($3.82 billion) compared to a year earlier as it trimmed costs and shared technology between its brands. Separately, Honda profits surged 46% on the weaker Japanese yen and strong motorbike sales in India and Thailand.

Nintendo’s struggles deepen. The video game maker posted a first-half operating loss of 23.28 billion yen ($237 million) as it struggles to adapt to the industry’s shift toward mobile phones and tablets.

Israel expands settlements. Hours after freeing 26 Palestinian prisoners as part of a plan to resume peace talks, the country said it will build hundreds of new homes—a move Palestinians have said could endanger the negotiations.

French hostages were released in Niger. The four men, who were kidnapped in 2010 during raids on French companies running a uranium mine, are on their way back to Paris.

Japan mulls a Tepco break-up… A government panel will suggest that the parts of Tokyo Electric Power Co responsible for shutting down the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant should be spun off following a series of dangerous missteps.

…And probes loans to gangsters. The country’s financial regulator will widen an investigation to see if Japan’s three biggest lenders are adhering to rules limiting transactions with criminal organizations.

Quartz obsession interlude

Todd Woody on the Pacific Rim’s new environmental superpower: “Success at creating common renewable energy and efficiency policies—for appliances, buildings, cars—across the [Western US] states and British Columbia will create a market far too big to ignore. And one that will likely create de facto national standards in the US, just as the long-standing alliance between California and northeastern states on automobile emissions led the federal government to impose similar national clean air standards. The pact may not be good news, however, for climate-denying states seeking business investment.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The most troubling NSA revelation is Obama’s cluelessness. If the US president wasn’t responsible for watching the watchers, who was?

Political gridlock, China style. Vested interests in the Communist Party and state-run industries result in “muddle-through compromises,” just like in democracies.

It’s ok for young writers to work for free. Just as businesses go through an initial unprofitable period, journalists should think of their early, unpaid pieces as a beta trial.

Republicans should suffer for the shutdown. The politicians who put ideology ahead of common sense and commerce should not be re-elected.

Surprising discoveries

Nigeria’s private bridge industry. Entrepreneurs step in where government infrastructure fails, erecting wooden bridges and charging tolls.

You can send your teddy bear on a trip to Japan. For a reasonable fee, you’ll receive a postcard and photos of your stuffed animal sightseeing in Tokyo.

A kiss isn’t just a kiss. Aside from romance, smooches are used to assess potential new partners.

Workers comp doesn’t cover sex injuries. At least not in Australia, where a court overturned an award to a government employee who suffered an indelicate mishap.

A poison cloud of Sriracha? The famous hot sauce company recently opened a new factory near Los Angeles, and local residents are complaining that the odors are burning their eyes.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, workers comp claims, and hot sauce hazards to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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