Quartz Daily Brief – Asia Edition –, Apple, Lego

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Final maneuvering before Tuesday’s US presidential election. Some latest polls show President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney essentially even nationally, though Obama appears to have a slim edge in some tight states that could give him a more solid electoral college win. The Financial Times has now endorsed Obama, following The Economist’s endorsement last week. (For what it’s worth, there’s no evidence newspaper endorsements impact voters’ choices.)

Major progress in the Northeast US’s efforts to recover from last week’s superstorm. Power has been restored to millions of Sandy’s victims, most subway lines are running again in New York City, fuel is making its way into the region, and the week should generally bring more normalcy from a business perspective. But 1.9 million customers in the region were still without power. And, with the Caribbean nation still struggling to recover from the storm, the government of Haiti issued a new plea for humanitarian assistance.

An eclectic basket of earnings reports. Among those scheduled to report are Chinese travel agency, James Bond film studio Pinewood Shepperton, electric car maker Tesla Motors, and Weight Watchers International

While you were sleeping

Speculation mounted that Sharp will require a government bailout. The Japanese electronics maker last week warned that it expected a ¥450 billion ($5.6 billion) loss in the year to March. A strong yen and weak TV sales are at fault–but as at Panasonic and Sony, management’s struggle to redirect the company to a long-term viable strategy is also to blame.

Turkish newspapers reported Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines were in merger talks. The two are both members of the Star Alliance and already have a regional joint venture in Turkey.

Other news from the weekend

Apple reported that it paid less than 2% tax on profits outside of the US during its last fiscal year. The disclosure to US regulators could fuel controversy in the UK and elsewhere over US multinationals’ success in minimizing their tax exposure overseas.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the euro crisis would last at least another five years. She also told members of her political party that time had come for “a bit of strictness,” signaling her continued belief in the necessity of European austerity measures.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s approval rate fell below 18%, according to a Kyodo News poll. The drop comes amid legislative gridlock and pressure from opposition lawmakers to call an election before the end of the year.

New data suggested a strengthening Chinese economy. Following data last week suggesting an improvement in manufacturing, new numbers indicated that other sectors of the Chinese economy are rebounding as well, with a notable increase in the non-manufacturing purchasing managers’ index.

A former Hong Kong judge suggested the rule of law was under threat. Kemal Bokhary, who stepped down recently as a permanent judge of the Court of Final Appeal, told a TV interviewer that his tenure wasn’t extended because of his liberal views.

Quartz obsession interludes

Steve LeVine on the man the oil industry goes to for a voice of gravitas in the US election, Daniel Yergin: ”In recent years, Yergin has morphed into the go-to consultant for high-brow research backing up the main political objectives of the oil industry. If the subject sits at the broiling center of politics, all the better. Last year, Yergin helped apply pressure on President Barack Obama to lift the moratorium on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. In the Nov. 6 election, Yergin has made the case for one of Romney’s central planks—that he will put Americans back to work first and foremost by opening up more of the country to oil and gas drilling.” Read more here.

Christopher Mims on a website that has convinced some of the world’s smartest data scientists to moonlight for free.  Kaggle hosts dozens of “big data” contests that pit thousands of data scientists against each other, crunching numbers in real time on behalf of various companies. These businesses are glutted with data, everything from users’ musical preferences to US census data. They want skilled number crunchers who can act as the 21st-century equivalent of oracles, using past data to scry the future—like predicting which product a buyer will want based solely on its features. Using Kaggle to round up these oracles turns out to be a pretty good deal for the companies.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Investors in education are throwing their money awayLess than 4% of students in an MIT online course passed the final.

Lego isn’t manufacturing enough toys for the coming holiday season (Danish). The controversial Lego Friends series for girls has proved popular.

Germany’s ThyssenKrupp needs to get out of steel production fast. “In the future, we will work less and think more,” CEO Heinrich Hiesinger tells colleagues.

Surprising discoveries

Britain has invaded all but 22 countries in the world. Guatemala, Tajikistan, and Luxembourg are among the few spared.

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