Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Second NSA leaker, “Zero Hour” in Iraq, HK democracy arrests, the plants are listening

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What to watch for today

Narendra Modi goes to Kashmir. India’s prime minister will make his first visit to territory claimed by both India and Pakistan, where he will find intense security preparations and separatists staging a “shutdown” in protest of Indian rule.

“Zero hour” in Iraq. Insurgents are rallying as part of a plan to take over Baghdad using sleeper cells within the city, which one militant told Reuters could happen “any minute.” Saudi Arabia has deployed 30,000 troops to its border with Iraq.

Hurricane Arthur causes trouble in the US. The hurricane will travel up to New England but begin to weaken at the end of the day. It made landfall in North Carolina at around 11pm (EDT) and cut power for thousands.

World Cupdate. It’s the quarterfinals! France v Germany is at 12pm (EDT), while Brazil v Colombia is at 4pm. Here’s a quick run-down of the teams’ strengths and weaknesses.

Americans wave flags and shoot off fireworks. The United States is celebrating its independence day, and markets there are closed.

While you were sleeping

China arrested six Vietnamese fisherman. They were detained in disputed waters and taken back to China, according to Vietnamese state media. The move is likely to provoke a strong response from Vietnam, which is spending $540 million to build new patrol ships in response to China’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea.

More South African unions went on strike. The NUMSA union of 200,000 engineering and metal workers rejected an increased pay offer, leading automaker GM to suspend production at a key assembly plant. Labor unrest is battering South Africa’s economy—a five-month strike by platinum miners only recently ended.

Hong Kong police arrested democracy march organizers. Five members of the group that organized this year’s July 1 march marking the anniversary of the city’s handover to China were arrested for “breaching the terms of their march” and a traffic violation, supporters said. Organizers say they are being politically persecuted.

Hamas offered a ceasefire with Israel. Egyptian intelligence officials brokered a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, according to the BBC. Israel is yet to comment, but Hamas said it will stop firing rockets if Israel stops its air raids on Gaza.

The NSA may have a second leaker. A report the US security agency is monitoring anyone who even searches for privacy-enhancing software tools has raised speculation that there is another person leaking information besides Edward Snowden.  

China and South Korea cooperate. Xi Jinping and and his South Korean counterpart Park Guen-hye agree North Korea’s nuclear weapons should be discouraged, and that six-party talks should resume—but differences between the two countries remain great.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on how China’s answer to PayPal is taking on its state-owned banks. “Yu’e Bao’s astonishing growth makes it a huge force of “grassroots interest rate liberalization,” in the words of Bank of America/Merrill Lynch’s David Cui. So dangerous is that force to Chinese banks that the government has threatened a crackdown on Yu’e Bao, including limiting the amount users can transfer from their traditional bank accounts into the electronic payments system Alipay.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

America should adopt the world’s elephants… Their numbers are dwindling in Asia and Africa, but they’d be right at home in the US.

…And invest in infrastructure. With low interest rates and labor force slack, this is a great time to build more infrastructure.

Sarkozy may survive his prosecutors. But the amount of corruption the case exposes will damage France’s political class for good.

Canada is acting very un-Canadian about the environment. The country is on a mission to develop its energy industry and is sacrificing plenty to get there.

Crossing the US-Mexico border is more dangerous than ever. Children are increasingly the most at risk.

Surprising discoveries

Hong Kong’s subway is repaired by artificial intelligence. Computers decide what engineering work needs to be done, and when.

Plants can hear themselves getting eaten. The sound of chomping caterpillars prompts the release of defensive chemicals.

Your US flag is probably not made in China. Some $4 million worth of the Stars & Stripes are imported every year from China—but US flag-makers own the market, producing almost 100 times that amount every year.

“Six times eight” is the toughest sum. Multiplications with medium-sized numbers catch the most people out.

“Flushable” wipes really aren’t. A growing fondness for moist towelettes instead of toilet paper is bringing grief to sewage engineers everywhere.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, homemade American flags, and plant ear plugs to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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