Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Erdogan’s inauguration, Alibaba’s earnings, Shell’s retreat, Ebola jokes

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What to watch for today

A close look at Chinese hydrocarbons. Cnooc and PetroChina report half-year earnings. Beijingologists will be watching for any hints that Cnooc, the country’s biggest offshore oil and gas explorer, has to drop about the politically volatile South China Sea.

Not much interest in Dollar General’s dollars. While sales are expected to rise, investors will be more interested in learning what the US discount supermarket chain plans next, after Family Dollar rejected its takeover bid in favor of one from its smaller rival, Dollar Tree.

Carry on Erdogan. After 11 years as prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be sworn in as president—theoretically a more ceremonial role, but with the obliging Ahmet Davutoglu as prime minister, he should be able to stay largely in control. In other words, we can expect more of this.

While you were sleeping

Did Russia hack JPMorgan? The FBI is investigating a hacking attack in mid-August that lifted data from JPMorgan and at least one other bank. The sophistication of the attack suggests the hand of a government, reports Bloomberg, but cyber-criminals aren’t ruled out.

Alibaba’s earnings hyped up its debut. The Chinese e-commerce firm reported a 46% jump in year-on-year revenue and 26% jump in profit for the second quarter, but most interesting is that sales on mobile devices nearly quadrupled. These are strong numbers ahead of Alibaba’s highly anticipated US IPO, which could exceed $16 billion.

A third war front emerged in Ukraine. After presidents Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine and Vladimir Putin of Russia agreed to focus their talks on a “roadmap for peace,” tensions flared again when Ukraine said activity by Russian forces in a southeastern border town amounted to an invasion (paywall).

More horrors from the Islamic State. Pictures found on social media show the militants executing Syrian soldiers captured at Tabqa air base, which IS took at the weekend. The US has been gathering a coalition to fight IS, but it won’t act without allies. The UN said both IS and Syria are committing war crimes.

Oil majors beat a retreat from Nigeria. A consortium of Shell, Eni and Total is selling $5 billion worth of oil assets to domestic buyers, among them one of the most frequently “bunkered” oil pipelines in the world. (It’s the practice of punching holes in the pipeline and stealing the oil that leaks.)

Tough questions for Christine Lagarde. The IMF head said she’s under a formal probe by a French court for her alleged role in the French government’s 2008 payout to businessman Bernard Tapie, when she was finance minister. But the investigation could drag on for years (paywall) with ultimately no result.

Quartz obsession interlude

Matt Phillips on Argentina’s bizarrely strong stock market. “Yes, economically, the country is a mess. With dwindling foreign reserves and threadbare credit that prevents it from borrowing, Argentina has turned to devaluation to finance itself. The result is a nasty case of stagflation. GDP growth is just barely puttering forward. Private estimates of inflation hover around 40%, according to the Eurasia group. And yet, Argentina’s equity market—as measured by the Mercado de Valores de Buenos Aires, or Merval, has surged 77% this year through yesterday’s close.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The US shouldn’t team up with Bashar al-Assad against the Islamic State. Western support for a Shia dictator would make matters far worse.

American journalists shouldn’t take the risk of covering wars. Their own country is so polarized, their reporting won’t change opinions anyway.

The Putin era may be over sooner than you think. The Russian president has bitten off more than he can chew in Ukraine.

Anti-rape nail polish misses the point. It puts the onus on women to protect themselves, rather than actually stopping rapists.

Social science has an existential problem. Telephone surveys are becoming less accurate, because people don’t answer the telephone these days.

A good psychic can be worth visiting. When they’re not trying too hard to predict the future, they can give good advice.

Surprising discoveries

Hello Kitty is not a cat. She’s a little girl. Her creators think it very important that you know this.

Go ahead, make those Ebola jokes. It’s a coping strategy for people in Africa living in fear of the disease.

If Britain were a US state, it would be the second-poorest. In GDP per capita terms, only Mississippi is poorer.

An 11-year-old translated a 1,000-page American epic. He rendered scenes from the novel Infinite Jest in Lego.

Proof that London property prices are nuts. An “uninhabitable” 900-square-foot apartment is on the market for £595,000 (nearly $1 million), and someone’s already offered more.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Lego-translated classics, and badminton birdies to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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