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Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Square BlackBerry, Ebola explosion, Philips split, undiscovered mushrooms

What to watch for today

BlackBerry unveils the future, and it is square. The troubled Canadian smartphone maker is holding three simultaneous events around the world. It’s expected to show off the Passport, a handset with a perfectly square 4.5-inch display, which it hopes will do better than last year’s disastrous BlackBerry 10 phones.

Will the ruble bounce back? Russia is set to auction 10 billion rubles ($259 million) worth of notes tomorrow, the country’s first debt sale in 10 weeks. Even if investors prove enthusiastic, Russia’s currency has depreciated 15% against the dollar this year, so keep your expectations in check.

Obama addresses the UN. The president’s speech at the General Assembly will discuss ISIL, again, but the real question is, what will his buddy David Cameron announce in terms of British support for the cause? He may recall Parliament from recess to vote on airstrikes as early as this Thursday.

Gloom in Germany. The Ifo Institute publishes its business climate index, and investors are expecting it to show that German companies’ confidence levels have hit a 16-month low. Trouble with Russia, plus a slow recovery, is to blame.

While you were sleeping

The CDC warned of an Ebola explosion. The US health research institute warned Ebola cases could reach between 550,000 and 1.4 million by the end of January. At least there are nurses brave enough to volunteer their services in West Africa, and vaccines currently in human trials.

Amnesty International exposed China’s torture industry. The human-rights watchdog said over 130 Chinese companies are exporting torture instruments, up from just 28 a decade ago. Most of the devices, including spiked batons, are being sent to Africa; Amnesty wants nothing less than a full ban (pdf).

Samsung pulled back in Europe. The Korean tech giant said it would stop selling laptops and Chromebooks in the region, citing “market needs and demands.” It might be a rather questionable decision if Gartner’s latest report on the PC market bouncing back is to be believed.

The EU antitrust chief fired a parting shot across Google’s bows. Joaquin Almunia, the outgoing competition commissioner, said the case building against Google’s dominance in online search could cost it $6 billion, much more than the one against Microsoft a few years ago.

Philips is splitting into two. The Dutch electronics maker said the separation between its lighting and its healthcare divisions will take 18 months. Restructuring costs are expected to come in at €50 million a year until 2016, but yield €300 million in cost savings.

Jack Ma is China’s richest man. According to a new list from Hurun Reports, Ma’s $25 billion fortune after the Alibaba IPO puts him just past real-estate mogul Wang Jianlin’s $24.2 billion. More impressive, perhaps, is that Xiaomi co-founder Lei Jun is 10th richest, despite his phones selling at a nearly zero margin.

Quartz obsession interlude

Max Nisen on how wildly high CEO pay is. “In the US, the average CEO makes an estimated 354 times as much an average unskilled worker ($12,259,894 vs. $34,645). People all around the world are broadly unaware of how wide the pay gap is, and they are almost universally of the opinion that CEOs should be paid much, much less… According to the survey data, people in the US think that the ideal pay gap between an unskilled worker and a CEO is 6.9—or 50 times less than the real gap.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Sweden is no longer a role model. Economic inequality is growing, the left is losing popularity, and benefits are being cut.

Climate change refugees should be given asylum. Shouldn’t countries that sell fossil fuels offer a home to people driven from their islands by rising sea levels?

The German economic powerhouse is a myth. The country’s not driving growth in the euro zone, and is spreading economic instability.

The Cosby show gave us TV’s greatest feminist. Clair Huxtable, the fictional mother of Bill Cosby’s five children, was an incredibly strong woman and a pioneer 30 years ago.

Surprising discoveries

London is now the world’s most expensive city. According to the estate agent Savills, it has displaced Hong Kong as the costliest place to both live and work in.

San Francisco redefines business casual. Say hello to the “Suitsy“, a one-piece jump suit that tries oh-so-hard to look like a typical off-the-rack suit.

Soda makers are kinda admitting responsibility for obesity. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Dr Pepper-Snapple Group are promising to reduce the number of calories (paywall) Americans drink by 20% by the year 2025.

A restauranteur in China put opium in his noodles. He was caught when traffic police drug-tested one of his patrons a few hours later.

The key to perfect workflow is to not work one-quarter of the time. For maximum productivity, take a 17-minute break every 52 minutes.

A new species of mushroom has been discovered. Not in an untouched jungle. Not on the cliff of an unexplored mountain. But in a London supermarket.

Click here for more surprising discoveries on Quartz.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, one-piece suit designs, and new mushroom species to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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