Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Alibaba prices, Scotland votes, Germans pay cash, goldfish surgery

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

What to watch for today

Alibaba names its price. The Chinese e-commerce giant will price its record IPO today (it could raise as much as $25 billion), before its debut on the NYSE on Friday. Earlier this week, the company raised its share price range due to increased demand.

Scots take it to the polls. After months of lobbying, the people will vote in Scotland’s independence referendum. The latest opinion poll puts the “no” vote ahead by just 2%, though bookmakers are giving “no” fairly strong odds. The voting starts at 7am UK time and ends at 10pm; results will start arriving early Friday morning. Here’s what to expect after that.

Ukraine’s president pays Obama a visit. Petro Poroshenko will seek military and economic aid during talks with the US president, amid a shaky ceasefire with separatists. Although the meetings will put increasing pressure on Obama to arm Ukraine, Poroshenko shouldn’t get his hopes up; Obama isn’t likely to act.

An tricky call for Switzerland. The Swiss National Bank will probably leave its benchmark interest rate near zero and reaffirm the franc’s peg to the euro, but it might just take the rate into negative territory, in reaction to last week’s similar move by the European Central Bank.

A possible purge of Pakistan’s protestors. Prime minister Nawaz Sharif has threatened to clear a camp of protestors calling for his resignation outside the government offices in Islamabad. The protestors, led by cricket star Imran Khan, have refused to leave until Sharif, accused of rigging the latest election, steps down.

While you were sleeping

The Fed saw the light at the end of the QE tunnel. The Federal Reserve announced it will cut monthly bond-buying by $10 billion in October as it steps back from the unconventional monetary policies adopted during the Great Recession. Still, it didn’t change its promise to keep interest rates low for a “considerable time.”

Apple launched iOS 8. Millions of iPhone users eagerly tried to download the latest operating system—and got stuck on discovering they’d need 5.7 GB of free space on their phones. (You can get around that by downloading it to a computer instead.) From those who managed, the new OS is getting good reviews, but read this before you upgrade.

Obama got the go-ahead to arm and train Syrian rebels. The US House of Representatives approved the $500 million plan for helping the rebels fight the Islamic State; the main objection from Republicans was that it wasn’t enough. Some seized on remarks by the chief of staff that American might still send in its own forces.

An oligarch’s arrest spooked Russia’s markets. Investors already rattled by sanctions against Russia sent the MICEX index down by the most in seven weeks after the arrest on Tuesday of billionaire Vladimir Yevtushenkov. The case against him looks a lot like the Kremlin’s takedown of oil mogul Mikhail Khodorkovsky a decade ago.

Ebola’s financial devastation. The World Bank warned that the epidemic could drain billions of dollars from West African economies, particularly hurting tourism and trade. Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone could lose $359 million in economic output this year alone.

FedEx predicted a bounteous holiday season. The US package delivery company surpassed analysts’ expectations, earning $606 million in the first quarter, up 24% from last year. A rise in online shopping drove the results, which bodes well for the coming peak season.

Quartz obsession interlude

Matt Phillips on why Germans love paying in cash. “[T]heir attitudes toward currency must owe something to Germany’s tumultuous monetary history. During the Weimar-era hyperinflation that peaked in 1923, prices rose roughly a trillion-fold, as Germany attempted to pay its onerous war reparations with devalued marks. The sheer lunacy of the sums involved make this everyone’s favorite hyperinflation.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Investors should be terrified of Alibaba. Chairman Jack Ma is trustworthy, but the corrupt, opaque Chinese political system isn’t.

Just let the Islamic State be a “state.” Attacking it will only strengthen it; left alone, the extremist group will fail spectacularly and discredit itself.

Russians and Scots have something in common. In both places, nationalism outweighs rational economic thinking.

The US just got a new weapon in the space race with China. NASA’s contracts with Boeing and SpaceX mean it can get out of government-only mode.

Surprising discoveries

New York City is looking to hire a new blacksmith. The annual pay is $100,725.12.

Hair extensions were a thing 3,300 years ago. Archeologists found the remains of an ancient Egyptian woman with an elaborate coiffure still intact.

An American man was caught trying to swim to North Korea. He wanted to meet Kim Jong-un.

A Chinese woman sued her boyfriend for taking her “right to virginity.” She won $5,000 after finding out he was married.

A pet goldfish underwent surgery to have a tumor removed from its head. The Australian owners spent hundreds of dollars to give the 10-year-old fish a new lease on life.

There’s a black market for pumpkin spice latte syrup. The pilfered Starbucks ingredient can fetch up to $120 per jug.

You can now attach your iPad or iPhone 6 Plus to your face. A Kickstarter project wants to turn the products into portable virtual-reality viewers.

Click here for more surprising discoveries on Quartz.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, blacksmithing applications, and goldfish brain scans to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

Sign up for the Quartz Daily Brief here, tailored for morning delivery in Asia, Europe & Africa, and the Americas.