Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Putin’s provocation, Saudi Arabia’s warning, Hong Kong protests, partisan groceries

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What to watch for today

Putin picks at the wound. The Russian president called for talks on “statehood” for the eastern part of Ukraine, and said Kyiv should negotiate with pro-Russian rebels. Talks are scheduled today in Minsk between Russian, Ukrainian and separatist leaders, including the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said an “immediate ceasefire” is the priority.

Small islands, unite! The third United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States begins in Apia, Samoa. Some 41 island nations will discuss sustainable development.

Brazilian economic data arrives.  Brazilian reports on its trade performance, days after confirming the country is in recession.

Britain acts on homegrown jihadists. The UK is planning to announce measures to block British citizens fighting in Syria and Iraq from returning home, though they could keep their passports. More than 500 British fighters are estimated to be involved. One of three militants dubbed “the Beatles” is suspected of killing journalist James Foley.

Pakistan’s political crisis heats up. Protestors marched through rain today in Islamabad, storming the headquarters of PTV national television and taking it off the air. Three people died over the weekend and over 400 were injured as demonstrators tried to enter prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s home. Pakistan’s army is calling for a political solution to protestors demands that Sharif step down.

Over the weekend

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists vow to fight. Hong Kong protestors were pepper-sprayed today (paywall) at a news conference held by a Chinese official to explain Beijing’s controversial decision that candidates for Hong Kong’s next leader should be pre-approved by an election committee. Last night, an activist told a crowd of thousands that this decision marks “era of civil disobedience.”

Germany’s GDP contracted. The Federal Statistics Office confirmed that Germany’s GDP for the second quarter shrank by 0.2%. It’s looking more likely that Germany will need to adopt measures to boost growth (paywall).

Israel is appropriating land in the West Bank. Israel said it will take 990 acres in the occupied West Bank as a punishment for the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers. It’s a move that is likely to exacerbate tensions, and the US State Department asked Israel to reconsider.

Modi began his Japan visit. The Indian prime minister arrived in Japan for a five-day visit on Saturday. Today, he spoke to business leaders about the need for Japan and India to counter 18th century “expansionist” policies in the region, widely interpreted as a reference to China. Muji will be Japan’s first retailer to enter the Indian market, the Nikkei business daily reported.

A new iPayments system? Maybe Apple and leading payment networks can do what Google hasn’t yet, and make consumers love the mobile wallet. Bloomberg reports that Apple will partner with Visa, AmEx and Mastercard in a new payment product that will be unveiled next week, when the iPhone 6 is expected to debut.

Chinese manufacturing slowed, India’s and Taiwan’s are still strong. China’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index fell in August, coming in at 51.1, lower than a Bloomberg estimate of 51.2. The weak expansion suggests that economic momentum is slowing. India and Taiwan, however, had better news, with India’s PMI coming in at 52.4 and Taiwan’s at 56.1.

You’re next, Saudi king warned the West. Jihadist attacks “will reach Europe in a month and America in another month” unless world leaders halt ISIL, said Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah. His words echo John Kerry’s call for a global military effort to confront the brutal militants who are sweeping through Iraq and Syria.

Quartz obsession interlude

Svati Kirsten Narula on how Americans may soon find out that butter is a luxury. “The amount of butter stored in refrigerated warehouses across the US is 42% lower this summer than last, according to the USDA. On Aug. 29, butter futures reached an all-time high of $2.55 per pound on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Don’t hire people for what they know. Instead, ask if they can learn to do the job.

Brunch is a waste of time. And the people who brunch are often the people who can’t really afford the time or the money.

Burma is gaining geopolitical leverage. In negotiations with China and India, it’s continuing a long-established tradition of balancing great powers.

History reveals a “terracentric” bias. Many important ideas were born at sea.

Selling cultural assets is one way to balance a budget. Portugal will sell dozens of paintings by Joan Miró in London, after a judged ruled they are not part of the country’s protected cultural heritage.

Surprising discoveries

Spaniards haven’t swapped a lot of pesetas. They’ve kept 1.7 billion euros ($2.2 billion) worth of the notes and coins, 12 years after they stopped being legal tender.

Farming consumes 80% of the US’s freshwater. But it doesn’t have to—one urban farming experiment reduces water consumption by 98%.

Libraries don’t need books anymore. Not paper ones, anyway.

Your IQ isn’t constant. It changes over time.

Sweden’s highest peak is shrinking. The glacial mountaintop is melting, and will likely be the country’s second-highest point next year.

Clorox Wipes scored 63.25% Democrat. A new app called BuyPartisan lets you scan groceries to see how much companies donate to different political parties.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, sea-based innovations and late library books to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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