Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Ukraine crisis, Brazil’s bad news, smartwatch wars, standing desks

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What to watch for today

The EU tries to contain the Ukraine crisis. European Union foreign ministers begin an informal two-day meeting to discuss foreign policy in light of mounting evidence that Russian troops are fighting alongside pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine.

Some tea-leaf reading in Japan. National inflation data for July and Tokyo’s inflation data for August will help economists gauge whether the government effort to reinvigorate economic growth, known as Abenomics, has helped the country finally win its decade long battle against persistently low prices.

Bad news for Brazil. New GDP figures are expected to show that its economy contracted the most since the onset of the global financial crisis, as high borrowing costs and inflation are hurting investment and consumer demand. With little luck so far, Brazil’s leaders have been attempting to revive growth by October’s elections.

An Ebola vaccine could be coming. The World Health Organization said the spread of Ebola—3,069 reported cases, 1,552 deaths—will continue to accelerate and eventually surpass 20,000 cases. An experimental vaccine to curb the outbreak is in the works, with safety trials on humans beginning as early as next week.

While you were sleeping

The crisis in Ukraine escalated. Russian tanks and armored vehicles launched missiles at border control in southeastern Ukraine, capturing a key post, according to a Ukrainian official. Markets dipped as Ukraine president Petro Poroshenko said Russia deployed troops in the east.

More grim news for European banks. Lending continues to contract in the euro zone, with loans to the private sector falling 1.6% in July compared to the prior year. Business lending is shrinking at an even faster clip, dropping  2.3% in July compared to the prior year. Not exactly a recipe for dynamic growth.

Samsung and LG tried to beat Apple to the punch. Samsung debuted a new version of its smartwatch which can make and receive calls without a phone. LG also showcased a new wearable; it’s round with a retro look. (Apple is reportedly set to unveil a wearable gadget on Sept. 9.)

Erdogan was sworn in as Turkey’s president. He immediately appointed Ahmet Davutoglu, his longtime foreign minister, as acting prime minister. The two men oversaw Turkey’s rise—and fall—as a regional power and now face grave foreign-policy challenges.

Carnage and capture in Syria. Fighters from the terrorist group known as the Islamic State claimed they executed hundreds of members of the Syrian army, after seizing an airbase. In the south, the United Nations said 43 of its peacekeepers were captured by “an armed group” on the Syrian side of Golan Heights; 81 other peacekeepers are trapped.

The US economy pleasantly surprised. The economy expanded at a 4.2% annual clip in the second quarter, faster than the 4.0% rise first reported. A burst of business spending helped push economic output up.

The NFL got tough on domestic violence. America’s richest sports league said players will be suspended for six games after their first offense of domestic violence or sexual assault, and face a lifetime ban after the second. Commissioner Roger Goodell apologized for the two-game suspension dealt to a player accused of assaulting his fiancée. “I didn’t get it right,” Goodell wrote to team owners.

Quartz obsession interlude

John McDuling on how festivals are becoming a national pastime of American millennials. “[T]he fact that Burning Man has become part of the national conversation, in certain circles at least, reflects an important behavioral shift in America: festivals are booming, as both a business and an activity. This is particularly so among the increasingly important millennial age cohort. According to research and surveys conducted by Eventbrite, an online ticketing company, a staggering one in five millennials attended a music festival in the past year. In a new study, the company claims that music festivals have become “one of young Americans’ favorite pastimes.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Don’t underestimate small militant groups. Their strong sense of unity helps them triumph over large, organized states.

Lending Club is better than a lot of banks. That’s partly because the peer-to-peer lending company isn’t subject to the same regulation.

Schools should equip classrooms with standing desks. Research shows kids who use them are more engaged and burn more calories.

The internet saved handmade goods. The reemergence of artisanal goods would be nothing without sites like Etsy and Kickstarter.

We’re only getting more and more narcissistic. But knowing what kind of narcissist you are can help you change.

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

Surprising discoveries

Mohammed is the most common male name in Oslo, Norway. It surpassed both Jan and Per for the first time ever this year.

New York City has 189 miles of building scaffolding. The pipe-and-plank structure shields sidewalks (paywall) all over the city.

Kebabs are one way to stop abuse. The filling food is the best for putting angry drunks to sleep.

You have face mites. See what they look like here.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, sleep-inducing recipes, and remedies for narcissism to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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