Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Scotland’s independence, Japan’s economy, African debt, Disney villains gone soft

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What to watch for today

Scotland’s independence campaign kicks off. Supporters claim leaving the UK would boost the Scottish economy by £5 billion a year, while opponents cite the cost of building a new state and creating new policies. The BBC has a nice sentiment tracker on the referendum, which will be held on September 18.

Sparks fly in Singapore. The annual security summit known as the Shangri-La Dialogue will kick off with a keynote speech from Japan’s nationalistic prime minister, Shinzo Abe. He is expected to confront China about its increasingly assertive stance in the South and East China Seas.

Bad news in Brazil. The country’s statistics agency is on strike, but it will still release GDP data showing that growth nearly ground to a halt in the first quarter. Amid ongoing protests against the money being spent on the World Cup, the main federal workers union is set to discuss joining the work stoppage.

While you were sleeping

Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer agreed to buy the Los Angeles Clippers. The former CEO will  pay a record $2 billion for the NBA team that was thrown into chaos by a recording of owner Donald Sterling making racist comments. The deal, negotiated with Sterling’s estranged wife, could face legal obstacles if he opposes the sale.

Li Ka-shing agreed to buy Envestra. The Hong Kong mogul’s Cheung Kong Group agreed to pay $2.2 billion for the Australian natural gas distributor, after beating rival APA’s bid. The company owns 23,000 km (14,000 miles) of gas pipelines that supply customers in Victoria and South Australia.

Japan’s economy took a tax hike hit. Industrial output growth fell 2.5% in April as consumers kept their wallets shut in response to a steep increase in the sales tax. Because of the hike, consumer prices rose 3.2%, the biggest rise in 23 years.

Google begrudgingly accepted an EU privacy ruling. But CEO Larry Page told the Financial Times that giving individuals “the right to be forgotten” could damage startups and strengthen oppressive governments (paywall).

The US meat wars got even meatier. Tyson Foods, the US’s biggest meat processor, offered to buy Hillshire Brands for $6.8 billion, trumping a lower bid from Pilgrim’s Pride and setting up a possible bidding war.

Ford pulled a GM. The carmaker recalled 1.4 million vehicles, citing problems with power steering, lights that could short-circuit or spontaneously combust, and floor mats that get stuck under gas pedals. Rival automaker General Motors has recalled 16 million vehicles this year.

The IMF told Africa to take it easy. Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund’s boss, warned that Africa could derail its recent period of growth and stability if it takes on too much debt (paywall). Investors have been flocking to high-yield African bonds.

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on why US companies can earn $51 billion in the Cayman Islands even though its GDP is only $3 billion. “The foreign subsidiaries of US corporations made $94 billion in Bermuda in 2010, the latest year we have data for. That’s incredible work, since only $6 billion of goods and services were produced on the island that year. What does that tell us? It tells us that something fishy is going on.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Rising housing prices will upend Britain’s class system. The middle class will no longer be able to afford a house and private education.

The sharing economy is feeding off economic misery. It encourages people to become part-time cabbies and hoteliers out of necessity.

To spot the next bubble, follow the Harvard grads. They tend to flock to the plushest pastures, and “the getting looks best right before a crash.”

Disney’s villains have gone soft. Modern bad guys now have redeeming qualities and back-stories.

India and Pakistan may be at the beginning of a beautiful friendship. As long as the US keeps out of it, that is.

Surprising discoveries

A restaurant reservation may soon cost you… With an app as the middleman, of course.

…And so will that seat upgrade. Cathay Pacific is contemplating introducing auctions for empty premium seats.

Dots is back, and it’s better than ever. The addictive game now has characters and levels.

The modern man needs a “man bra.” For holding all his wearable tech, of course.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, favorite Disney villains, and Dots high scores to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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