Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Pistorius verdict, Catalonian yearnings, Scots on the rocks, camel leotards

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

The EU and US impose sanctions on Russia. The US will join the EU in imposing a new set of sanctions on Moscow for provoking the conflict in Ukraine. The US sanctions are expected to target Russia’s financial, energy, and defense industries, and the EU’s measures will focus on curbing Russian oil production and exploration.

Will Oscar Pistorius be found guilty? Although he was acquitted of murder on Thursday, the 27-year-old South African athlete might still face a manslaughter conviction for killing his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in 2013. The judge will finish reading her lengthy verdict today.

Russia’s central bank stands still… The bank is expected to leave its benchmark interest rate—8%—untouched to support a weakened economy. But some analysts aren’t ruling out a surprise rate hike, since Russia’s ban on food imports (a tit-for-tat in response to Western sanctions) is boosting inflation.

…and so does South Korea’s. The central bank is under increasing pressure to slash rates yet again due to weak growth and inflation. Since it cut rates last month to 2.25% from 2.5%, it’ll probably hold for now, but some analysts expect a further rate cut before the end of the year.

Double data from the US. Retail sales could see a boost thanks to the back-to-school shopping season, after falling flat in recent months. A strong report would be encouraging, as the figure is a good gauge of consumer spending, which makes up 70% of the country’s GDP. Consumer sentiment figures could also see a turnaround.

While you were sleeping

Catalonia flexed its muscles. As separatist groups around the world draw inspiration (paywall) from Scotland’s upcoming independence vote, organizers claimed that up to 2 million people flooded into the Catalonian capital, Barcelona, to demand their own vote for secession. The regional government has planned a Nov. 9 referendum, but Spain will likely block it.

The Arab world threw its weight behind the US. Ten Arab leaders told US secretary of state John Kerry (paywall) that they would join its war against the Islamic State. Kerry didn’t want to call it a “war,” though, but rather “a very significant counterterrorism operation.” And—surprise, surprise—Syria, Iran, and Russia are trying to be spoilers.

Argentina tried to dodge the US courts. The country’s congress approved a proposal to pay back foreign creditors via non-US banks. The scheme is a way to evade a US court ruling on paying its creditors, which led the country to default in July. The judge who made that ruling has called the scheme illegal.

RadioShack aired its woes. The electronics retailer made its deteriorating finances very public, in a filing that essentially said it is running out of cash (paywall). The company is looking for ways to perk up its balance sheet, but may end up in bankruptcy court after a long, gradual demise.

Yahoo showed its scars. The tech firm promised to publish court documents unsealed today showing how the US government threatened to fine it $250,000 a day in 2008 unless it handed over user data. Yahoo lost its challenge to the order in court, and was forced to join the PRISM surveillance program that Edward Snowden later revealed.

Banks warned that independence could put the Scots on the rocks. RBS and Lloyds—Scotland’s biggest banks—threatened to relocate to London if Scotland votes to secede next week, while the IMF said that it would unsettle the markets (paywall). A new poll showed a small lead in favor of staying part of the UK.

Quartz obsession interlude

Leo Mirani on how the internet is getting too big for just one kind of Wi-Fi. “Wi-Fi has come a long way from its first tentative steps in the 1990s. Over the years, as new specifications have come along, the speed at which data can be transferred over the air has increased more than 1000-fold. It now blankets universities, Starbucks coffee shops and, in some cases, entire cities. But it needs to evolve to as the Internet evolves.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

You don’t need venture capital to create a huge business. The best way to start a company is to use your own money.

Arab leaders need to learn some strange new habits. To rally their people against the Islamic State they’ll have to start explaining themselves and winning public approval.

There’s still a gap in our understanding of 9/11. A classified section of a congressional report details Saudi government support for the 9/11 hijackers.

Liberal democracy isn’t historically inevitable. Francis Fukuyama’s latest book is still much too optimistic about where the world is headed.

The US should let Russia take over eastern Ukraine. It could learn from the pragmatic choices the British Empire made in the 19th century. 

Surprising discoveries

A newly discovered swamp pig has been named after Mick Jagger. They both have big, luscious lips.

You can do just fine with half your neurons missing. A Chinese woman is one of just nine people to have lived with no cerebellum, the part of the brain that normally controls movement and balance.

Why so many Koreans are called Kim. It has to do with the history of the country’s feudal system (paywall).

There’s a jetpack for runners. It helps soldiers run a four-minute mile.

The gourmet burger meets fast food. Japan’s Burger King outlets are selling sandwiches with ingredients like bamboo charcoal and squid ink.

For the camel who has everything: a form-fitting leotard. A company is developing them to help prize camels race faster and stand taller. 

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, gourmet burger recipes, and camel clothing designs to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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