Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Scotland votes, Alibaba’s IPO prices, Hyundai’s Gangnam splurge, Germans pay cash

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What to watch for today

Alibaba names its price. The Chinese e-commerce giant will price its record-setting IPO, which could raise as much as $25 billion, ahead of the stock’s debut on the NYSE on Friday. Earlier this week, the company raised its share price range to $66-$68 due to increased demand.

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.

A tricky call for Switzerland. The Swiss central 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.

While you were sleeping

Scotland began its fateful vote. About 4.3 million registered voters, or 97% of the potential electorate, started casting their votes at 7am UK time; polls close at 10pm and results will be declared “around breakfast time” on Friday. The latest opinion poll puts the “no” vote against independence ahead, 52-48, excluding the  6% of voters who are undecided—but after months of intensive lobbying, what are they waiting for?

Australia said it foiled an Islamic State beheading plot. More than 800 police officers conducted raids across the country and detained 15 suspects who were allegedly planning to abduct and behead a random Sydney resident on camera in the name of the extremist group. A senior Australian member of IS made “quite direct exhortations” to “conduct demonstration killings” in Australia, said prime minister Tony Abbott.

Apple’s says it can no longer give customer iPhone data to the cops. Its iOS update takes encryption keys out of the company’s hands. It’s an engineering solution to a legal quandary—but data stored in iCloud is still fair game for law enforcement.

Hyundai made a Gangnam Style” splurge. The Korean conglomerate paid more than $10 billion for a plot of land in Seoul’s exclusive Gangnam district, trumping an offer from Samsung. Hyundai shares fell sharply as investors expressed dismay that the company had paid more than triple the appraised value to build offices, a hotel, and an auto theme park.

China’s property squeeze tightened. Official data showed a month-on-month fall in property prices in 68 of the 70 major cities surveyed in August, compared with 64 cities in July. Average prices fell 1.1% in August.

Japanese exports fell 1.3% in August. The decline added to concerns that international demand might not be able to offset a consumer slump induced by April’s sales tax rise. Still, the bad news had a silver lining: analysts were expecting a 2.6% decline.

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.

U2 is the new Nickelback. Everybody hates the band because it wants so much to be liked.

Twitter executives “probably” smoke too much pot. PayPal founder Peter Thiel thinks the company is “horribly mismanaged” as a result.

Russians and Scots have something in common. Their nationalism outweighs rational economic thinking.

Space travel isn’t just for governments anymore. It’s time for NASA to leave low-orbit work to the private sector.

Surprising discoveries

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

Diet sodas may cause blood sugar spikes. A study found that artificial sweeteners interfere with crucial bacteria in the stomach.

Early Eurasians were a randy bunch. A “sexually prolific” group from what is now northern Russia gave rise to modern-day Europeans.

An English couple has been holding hands for 700 years. Archaeologists found their skeletons in a 14th-century pilgrimage site.

New York City is looking to hire a new blacksmith. The annual pay is $100,725.12; preferred applicants will have five years’ experience, good communications skills, and be familiar with Microsoft Office.

Click here for more surprising discoveries on Quartz.

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