Quartz Daily Brief—Japan’s super typhoon, Archer Daniels Capri-Sun, “Transfomers” China success, unfinished Picketty

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What to watch for today

A mega storm hits Japan. Super typhoon Neoguri is causing winds of up to 250km/h (155 mph) and could gain even more power before hitting an island that houses two nuclear power plants. Landfall is expected on Tuesday morning local time.

Argentina begins debt talks in New York. The talks are only to set conditions for more court-mediated talks with holdout creditors, but they may lead to a deal that could save the country from a July 31 default deadline.

An armed showdown in Ukraine. Government security forces are preparing to lay siege to Donetsk (paywall), the regional capital of eastern Ukraine and the last major city held by pro-Russian rebels. Ukrainian forces pushed rebels back over the weekend, after Moscow made no move to help.

India’s parliament gets down to business with a month-long session that will produce Narendra Modi’s first budget and other major policy initiatives.

Will Afghanistan name a president? The country’s election commission is scheduled to reveal preliminary results of a runoff vote, but front-runner Abdullah Abdullah wants the results delayed pending an electoral fraud investigation.

Over the weekend

Angela Merkel began a China tour… The German leader started in Chengdu, in Sichuan province, where more than 150 German companies do business, and met with premier Li Keqiang before he announced German companies will be free to invest up to 80 million yuan ($12.9 million) in China’s stock exchanges.

…As China’s growth showed signs of strength. China’s economy likely grew by 7.4% in the second quarter, according to a Reuters poll, suggesting the government’s targeted stimulus may be working. Earlier in the day, premier Li Keqiang said further stimulus will still be required to sustain growth.

France lashed out at the dollar. French finance minister Michel Sapin said the world needs a “rebalancing” to end the hegemony of the US dollar (paywall). His comments come after France’s biggest bank was banned from clearing dollar transactions.

British companies grew cautious, but its house builders feel good. Large UK companies showed a smaller appetite for risk over the last three months, according to a survey by Deloitte. Meanwhile, UK homebuilder Taylor Wimpey built more houses and sold them at higher prices in the first half of the 2014 than in the same period a year ago.

An American food giant really likes Capri-Sun. Archer Daniels Midland agreed to buy Swiss-based Wild Flavors, which makes the popular foil-pouch kids’ drink along with other products, for €2.3 billion ($3.1 billion) in cash.

Transformers 4 is on track to be China’s biggest film of all time. It made more than $200 million in its first 12 days, surpassing ticket sales in North America. The movie is packed with Chinese product placements and parrots Beijing’s policies.

Mexico made a move against its richest man. The Mexican senate approved a bill to overhaul its mobile and fixed-line telecom sector, challenging the longstanding dominance of Carlos Slim and his  company, América Móvil.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on how IBM is using big data to fix Beijing’s pollution crisis. “IBM plans to improve the quality of data by installing its latest generation of optical sensors, incorporating meteorological satellite data and running that through its artificial-intelligence computing system. The visual maps it generates will identify the source and dispersal pattern of pollutants across Beijing with a street-level degree of detail 72 hours in advance.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Wall Street will create the first conscious machines. The financial industry is putting AI research to meaningful use.

NASA could learn from India’s space program. How to pick a visionary goal, and accomplish it on the cheap.

The US and Germany are heading for a divorce. US spying is destroying the bond between the once-close allies.

The weak Iraqi state is responsible for the ISIL crisis. Anxious citizens are falling back on sectarian identity in times of strife.

The US should stop targeting tax cheats. It’s doing more harm than good (paywall).

Surprising discoveries

Nobody is finishing ”Capital in the Twenty-First Century.” Thomas Picketty’s best-seller may be going largely unread. 

People hate to be alone with their thoughts. Study participants, especially men, preferred to receive an electric shock instead.

There’s a plausible scenario to colonize Venus. Not on the overheated surface, but floating 30 miles above it.

Black people were once denied vanilla ice cream in the southern US states. Except on July 4.

Omens for a stormy marriage. These Saskatchewan newleyweds  got photobombed by a tornado.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Picketty crib notes, and thought avoidance strategies to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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