Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Ukraine ceasefire shaky, Ebola vaccine trial, asteroid near-miss, gutter oil mooncakes

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What to watch for today

Ukraine’s ceasefire looks shaky. The three-day-old truce between Kyiv and pro-Russian rebels may crumble, with reports of fighting near Donetsk airport and shelling near the city of Mariupol.

The US readies a game plan for  the Islamic State. President Barack Obama is preparing to present a case for broader military action without getting ensnared in the broader regional conflict. Meanwhile, the Arab League said it would support international action, implicitly endorsing US and Iraqi efforts.

Economic updates for the UK. The British Retail Consortium will report on how retail sales fared in August, and an improvement is expected.

Alibaba begins its investor roadshow. The Chinese internet giant is meeting investors in the US and Asia in a 10-day tour ahead of its IPO, which will seek to raise up to $24.3 billion and value the company at a record-setting $155 billion. Potential investors are looking for answers about the company’s recent $4.6 billion M&A shopping spree.

News from Boeing and Ryanair. Ryanair is reportedly looking to order 100 to 150 of Boeing’s latest jetliners, the 737 MAX 8, in a deal that would be worth an estimated $10 billion.

Over the weekend

So far, so good for the Ebola vaccine. Human tests will begin for GlaxoSmithKline’s experimental drug following a successful five-week monkey trial. Separately, Sierra Leone announced a four-day curfew that will confine citizens to their homes in order to “deal with the spread of Ebola once and for all.”

A majority of Scots favored independence for the first time. With less than two weeks to go before the Scottish referendum, a new poll has pro-independence voters ahead 51% to 49%—a dramatic turnaround from a month ago, when polls showed a double-digit lead for unionists.

Japan’s economy is shrinking. The country’s second-quarter GDP plunge was revised down even further, to a 7.1% decline from 6.8%, as prime minister Shinzo Abe’s tax hike hurt even more than expected. The shrinkage was due to a drop in both capital expenditure and consumer spending, putting pressure on the central bank to expand its stimulus program.

Greece’s economy is growing again. The beneficiary of two huge bailouts from the European Union and the IMF is due to report its first quarterly expansion since 2008, its finance minister said. The Greek economy is expected to grow 0.6% this year—a triumph after years of painful austerity.

China’s exports are booming. The world’s second-largest economy reported a record trade surplus of $49.8 billion. Officials said that overseas shipments rose by a better-than-expected 9.4%, and imports decreased by 2.4%.

A kickback scandal hit Brazil’s presidential candidates candidates. Both incumbent Dilma Rousseff and opposition candidate Marina Silva have been pulled into a scandal after a former director with state-owned Petrobras named politicians, including the candidates’ colleagues, who allegedly pocketed bribes.

An asteroid just missed Earth. The rock known as Pitbull is 60 feet in diameter—similar to the asteroid that blew up over Russia last year. It was 25,000 miles (40,000 km) away at its closest point, or just beyond the orbit of geostationary satellites.

Quartz obsession interlude

Matt Philips on how American families are learning the difference between median and mean.” That’s why, despite the fact that mean income rose 4% to $87,200 per family, median income actually fell by 5% to $46,700 between 2010 and 2013.The mean was driven by the fact that the highest percentile of the income distribution saw their income surge by 10% to $397,500 between 2010 and 2013.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

People don’t mind dirty restaurants so long as they are authentic. Especially when it comes to Asian food.

Banning laptops and tablets in cafés can be profitable. One coffee shop found people spent more when they surfed less.

Tech startups don’t need project managers. Or meetings, offices, or email.

Not all futurists are useless. A technique called “superforecasting” makes reasonably good predictions (paywall).

Failure is the secret to successful exams. Botching a pre-test makes you learn more quickly.

Surprising discoveries

Most people don’t mind if you recline your seat. Only 41% of fliers think it’s rude.

The US has more dollar stores than McDonald’s.  And there are 14,000 Golden Arches.

Donkey Kong has a new score to beat. The previous record lasted four years.

Some Taiwanese mooncakes taste even worse than usual. They may have been tainted with “gutter oil” recycled from kitchen waste, leather plants, and slaughterhouses.

Online gaming can shed light on the real world. Pricing and wealth work the same way in virtual and actual realms.

Click here for more surprising discoveries on Quartz.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, asteroid dust, and Ms. Pac-Man high scores to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.