Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Pain in Russia, another plane crash, reality TV, Darth Vader’s popularity

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What to watch for today

Signs of pain in Russia. Fitch and Moody’s update their sovereign debt ratings for Russia, the state oil behemoth Rosneft reports earnings, and the Russian central bank issues an interest-rate decision, all of which could give clues as to whether Western sanctions are doing anything. The EU also extends its travel ban (paywall) and asset freeze to a further 15 prominent Russians and 18 companies and organizations, with wider-ranging sanctions possible next week.

An Indonesian election challege. Prabowo Subianto, the former general who narrowly lost Indonesia’s presidential race to Joko Widodo, is expected to submit a court claim (paywall) challenging the outcome. Lawyers don’t rate his chances, and his own support base is weakening.

High hopes for the UK. Britain’s Office for National Statistics is expected to give its first second-quarter GDP estimate. Although the International Monetary Fund cut the global growth forecast yesterday, it upgraded the forecast for the UK for the fourth time in nine months.

Shinzo Abe walks in the footsteps of Xi Jinping. Japan’s prime minister embarks on a five-country tour of Latin America and the Caribbean, just after China’s president returned from the region, as the two Asian powerhouses compete for clout.

While you were sleeping

Israel hit a UN shelter. A UN-run school used as a shelter for Palestinians to escape fighting in Gaza was shelled by Israeli tanks, killing 15 and injuring 200, and marking it the fourth time UN facilities have been hit in the 16-day long conflict so far. Both Hamas and Israel continued to resist US attempts to broker a ceasefire.

Yet another passenger jet crashed. Air Algerie Flight 5017 disappeared over northern Mali after rerouting for bad weather. French troops found the crashed plane, which was carrying 110 passengers and 6 crew members. The cause is still unknown, though officials say Malian insurgents don’t have weapons that can bring down a cruising airliner.

Ukraine’s politicians decided life wasn’t complicated enough. Two major parties pulled out of the governing coalition, causing it to collapse, and prompting prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to resign abruptly in protest. The parties’ likely goal was to allow the recently elected president, Petro Poroshenko, to call elections this fall, two years early.

It wasn’t all bad for GM. General Motors announced it would need to set aside an estimated $400 million to compensate families who died in cars with faulty ignition switches, and saw a 85% drop in net income from last year because of huge recall and repair costs, but surprisingly saw a rise in revenue, despite bad press.

Vogue slimmed down. The fashion magazine’s September issue—seen as a barometer for the health of the US print magazine industry—will have 631 pages of ads this year, down from 665 last year; it had been on a steady pace of recovery after diving drastically post-recession.

A good day for Sodastream, Zillow and Trulia investors. The Israeli maker of home soda machines saw its shares soar after the announcement that it was in possible talks about a sale to an investment firm, while the announcement of a possible deal that would combine the two real estate websites led to a jump in their shares.

Quartz obsession interlude

Adam Epstein on how American cable channels have become an indistinguishable swamp of reality TV. “TLC is not the only one abandoning its roots. Dozens of basic cable networks no longer adhere to any core identity or defined genre of programming. MTV (which stood at one time for “Music Television”) infamously airs very little music programming. Two of the most popular shows on The History Channel (now just called History) are Pawn Stars and Ice Road Truckers. Animal Planet’s most watched program last year was a pseudoscience “mocudrama” on mermaids.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

India’s new populist party leader could learn from Indonesia’s president-elect.

 The two leaders 

have a lot in common

, but India’s Arvind Kerjiwal is struggling to find his feet.

Israel’s airports should have remained open. ” [C]losing down access to major infrastructure networks in the face of terrorist threats can be self-defeating,” says former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Iraq needs to respect black Iraqis. It’s about time the country addressed its discrimination problem (paywall).

China’s top leader has too much power. Xi Jinping’s many roles pose a threat to Asia.

Russia shouldn’t host the World Cup in 2018. Not unless its president offers some answers on downed Malaysia Airlines flight 17.

Surprising discoveries

A solar storm almost destroyed Earth. The most powerful solar storm in more than 150 years barely dodged our planet in 2012.

Surgeons removed 232 teeth from a teen in India. They believe it may be a world-record operation.

Powerful people have a distorted perception of time. Their feelings of control make them think they have more time than they do.

Star Wars characters are more popular than US Congress members. Even Darth Vader polled higher than all potential 2016 candidates.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, baby teeth, and favorite Star Wars characters to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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