Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—US B-52s buzz East China Sea, Nasdaq’s climb, Gulf overfishing, fake slums

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What to watch for today

Royal Mail posts a profit. The UK postal service reports its first half-year results since being floated earlier this year and is expected to show signs it’s returning to health. Also today, the UK’s business secretary appears before a parliamentary committee to defend Royal Mail’s IPO, which critics say was underpriced.

Berlusconi’s fate is decided. Italy’s senate votes today on whether to eject Silvio Berlusconi, the country’s scandal-ridden former prime minister, from his seat in the upper house following his conviction this summer of involvement in large-scale tax fraud. If expelled, Berlusconi would lose immunity from arrest.

Spain and Argentina patch things up. Spanish oil giant Repsol is expected to end an 18-month dispute by approving Argentina’s offer of $5 billion as compensation for seizing Repsol’s 51% stake in Argentine energy company YPC. It’s less than half of what Repsol asked for—and not in cash but Argentine government bonds, hardly a great guarantee.

Thai interest rates—and protests. Investors will be watching to see whether the Bank of Thailand can avoid dropping its benchmark interest rate after GDP growth fell short of expectations last week. Meanwhile, the government is facing intensifying demonstrations aimed at ousting Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

While you were sleeping

A Seattle suburb passed a $15 minimum wage. The voter initiative supporting a wage more than double the federal minimum will affect thousands of workers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and could be important for a nationwide push for livable wages.

Americans are in favor of an Iran deal. A new poll shows people in the US support the recently struck nuclear deal with Tehran by a 2-to-1 margin, a positive development for President Obama and his low approval ratings.

Cuba halted consular service in the US. Blaming ongoing economic sanctions, Havana’s diplomatic mission said it was suspending activities because no banks will do business with the country.

A book sold for nearly $14.2 million. The Bay Psalm Book, from 1640, is thought to be the first book printed in what would become the US. Philanthropist David Rubenstein bought it from Sotheby’s in Manhattan over the phone.

The Nasdaq closed above 4,000. The New York tech stock index, led by Facebook and Apple, closed above 4,000 for the first time since September of 2000.

US jets buzzed China’s no-fly zone. A US defense official said that two unarmed B-52 bombers had flown into the airspace above disputed islands in the East China Sea, which China at the weekend declared a no-go area for aircraft without prior permission. China has not responded to the US provocation.

Morgan Stanley’s China hiring practices scrutinized. The US Department of Justice is examining the bank’s hiring, part of a sweeping Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into potential violation of bribery laws, Reuters reported.

Quartz obsession interlude

Todd Woody on how Google Earth is busting Persian Gulf nations for overfishing. “Weapons-grade uranium isn’t the only thing Iran may be hiding. The country does not report its fishing catch to the United Nations, which is problematic given that the Persian Gulf, like other areas of the world, suffers from overfishing. But thanks to Google Earth, scientists now know that Iran hauls in more than 12,000 tonnes a year from 728 weirs, large structures built in intertidal zones to trap fish.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Northeast Asia must hold talks over disputed islands. The US’s recent B-52 flights must be followed by meaningful dialogue between China, Japan, and South Korea—before a flare-up threatens the peace.

Silicon Valley isn’t as meritocratic as it thinks. Behind its myth of a level digital playing field lies a closed system of privilege.

Abolish corporate income tax in the US. It’s driven domestic earnings abroad, lowering corporate taxes to just 10% of federal tax revenues.

Animals were harmed in the making of this film. And Hollywood should be held more accountable.

Surprising discoveries

A fake slum for upscale tourists. A luxury hotel in Bloemfontein, South Africa created a hygienic shanty town for its guests.

Divine dieting. The latest fad in diets, called the “Daniel fast,” is based on the Bible.

Israel Confidential. The movie producer behind LA Confidential, Fight Club and Pretty Woman was previously an Israeli spy.

A real glint in the eye. Surgically implanted platinum in the eyeball is the latest jewelry trend.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, biblical diets and eyeball adornments to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.


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