Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Airstrikes in Syria, Microsoft woos Minecraft, Alibaba’s order book, frequent flyer fibs

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What to watch for today

Obama calls for bombing Islamic State forces in Syria. The US president will make a prime-time address about his plans to expand the fight against the extremist group, but he is still searching for ways to enlist regional allies and avoid helping Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

Europe discusses Russia sanctions yet again. Having adopted new measures against Russia on Monday, the EU will now debate whether to actually apply them. Despite scattered fighting, the Ukraine ceasefire is still holding “in general,” according to the Russian foreign minister.

English leaders try to smooth-talk the Scots. Britain’s Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat leaders will all head north to cajole voters out of seceding. Polls are showing a statistical dead heat ahead of the Sept. 18 vote, causing the pound to slump.

The internet slows down. Or will seem to, if you’re browsing one of the sites (including Netflix, Reddit, and Wordpress) taking part in a net neutrality protest against proposed US rules allowing telecoms to create “slow” and “fast” lanes. The sites won’t actually load more slowly; they’ll just pretend to with “spinning wheel of death” icons.

RadioShack reports its 10th straight quarterly loss. The consumer electronics chain has struggled to compete with online and big-box retail rivals and is facing the threat of bankruptcy, according to one analyst.

While you were sleeping

John Kerry arrived in Baghdad. The US secretary of state is in the Middle East to build political, financial, and military support to combat the Islamic State. He will meet with the country’s new Shiite prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, to encourage him to be inclusive towards Sunnis.

Alibaba’s IPO order book filled up in just two days. The Chinese internet giant has already raised enough demand to cover its entire offering, according to Reuters. The IPO is likely to be the biggest-ever tech offering at up to $21.1 billion, and if underwriters exercise an option to sell additional shares it could become the world’s biggest ever, at $24.3 billion.

France will miss its deficit-reduction targets. Finance minister Michel Sapin said the country will not bring its deficit to under 3% of GDP until 2017, breaking a promise to EU members to achieve that goal by next year. The deficit is expected to be 4.3% in 2015, down from a projected 4.4% this year.

Microsoft is trying to buy Minecraft. This is going to be an interesting culture clash: Microsoft is nearing a deal to acquire the popular video game’s Swedish creator, Mojang, for more than $2 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall). The purchase of Minecraft—which has spawned books, a movie, and a near-perfect digital facsimile of Denmark—could reinvigorate Microsoft’s Xbox game business.

More bad news for Japan’s economy. The producer price index fell 0.2% in August, the first month-on-month fall since January. The dip was largely due to a 1.1% reduction in oil and coal prices, but will nevertheless put pressure on the government’s attempts to spur inflation.

Venezuela’s state oil company put Citgo up for sale. PDVSA is seeking offers for its US refinery and storage business, according to Reuters, in a deal that could be worth $10 billion. Venezuela is suffering severe cash flow problems, although the government denies this.

The US dollar-store battle is getting heated. Dollar General is launching a hostile takeover bid for Family Dollar, taking its $9.1 billion offer directly to the company’s shareholders. It is trying to thwart Dollar Tree’s agreed-upon deal to acquire Family Dollar, amid a frenzy of deals in the US low-cost retail sector.

Quartz obsession interlude

John McDuling on how Alibaba’s upcoming IPO is a true test for Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer. “As the highest-profile female CEO in a corporate world still overwhelmingly and depressingly dominated by men, Mayer is already a trailblazer. If she can set Yahoo on a sustainable post-Alibaba path, it would rank as one of the great corporate turnarounds. The problem is, to outsiders at least, there is no obvious way of achieving that.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Harvard should lose its nonprofit status. The storied institution has become a hedge fund and real estate firm with a university attached.

Asian countries need more migrants. Without overseas workers, their populations will dwindle.

Condoleeza Rice should run the NFL. The former US secretary of state is the only one who can save the troubled league.

Apple is the biggest fashion company in the world. Its new smart watch and purchase of Beats are proof.

Facebook doesn’t deserve its $200 billion valuation. But Google does.

Surprising discoveries

New York City has a million-dollar parking space. Plus monthly charges.

Nigerian email scammers are upping their game. Some are impersonating Janet Yellen.

Frequent flier programs have the right to lie. United Airlines successfully used a “fingers crossed” defense in court.

The Libyan parliament’s new home is a ferry. Legislators are taking refuge on a Greek ship anchored in a remote port city.

A Japanese bar is offering all-you-can-drink beer for a year. You’ll be making money after your 60th Asahi Super Dry Black.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, frequent flyer fibs, and NFL commissioner nominations to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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