Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Bendy iPhones, India’s Mars probe, US investigates Pimco, London supermarket mushrooms

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What to watch for today

Obama addresses the UN again. The US president’s speech will discuss the Islamic State and attempts to marshal a global response to the Ebola outbreak and the Ukraine crisis. Obama will also convene a Security Council meeting where members will adopt a resolution to prevent terrorist recruitment.

BlackBerry hopes that it’s hip to be square. The troubled Canadian smartphone maker is holding three events around the world to show off the Passport, a handset with a 4.5-inch by 4.5-inch display, which it hopes will do better than last year’s disastrous BlackBerry 10.

Will the ruble bounce back? Moscow is set to auction 10 billion rubles ($259 million) worth of bonds in the country’s first debt sale in 10 weeks. Russia’s currency has depreciated 15% against the dollar this year.

A look at US house sales. The Mortgage Bankers’ Association releases its mortgage purchase application index, and the Census Bureau releases new-home sales data.

While you were sleeping

The International Monetary Fund gave China a pep talk. The IMF said the country is likely to achieve growth “well above” 7% next year and has the tools necessary to avoid a serious slowdown. Changyong Rhee, director of Asia Pacific for the IMF, said China’s property market isn’t heading for a hard landing but “a gradual adjustment.”

Some iPhone 6 Plus owners are bent out of shape. Their devices have developed a pronounced bend in the middle, suggesting a possible structural flaw. Unlike other phones that are supposed to flex as a design feature, the iPhone is not meant to be bendy.

Germany’s business sentiment fell for a fifth consecutive month. The Ifo Institute’s business climate index—a measure of confidence among 7,000 companies—dropped to its lowest level in almost a year and a half due to uncertainty over Ukraine and a slow European recovery.

Starbucks bet on green tea frappuccinos. The coffee chain will spend $913.5 million to buy the 61% of its Japanese business it doesn’t already own, paying off public shareholders and Sazaby League, which formed a joint venture with Starbucks in 1996. Starbucks thinks it can sell more ready-made beverages in Japan, where they are popular.

US regulators investigated Pimco. The Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into whether the bond giant inflated the rate of returns for a fund aimed at small investors, according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall).

A Scotland spin-off that worked, sort of. The Royal Bank of Scotland, which is 80% owned by the British government, floated 25% of its stake in Citizens Financial for $3 billion. But the partial IPO of the US retail and commercial bank didn’t go perfectly: shares sold for $21.50 per share, below the anticipated $23-$25 range.

India’s probe made it to Mars on the cheap, carrying cameras and a methane gas sensor that could detect conditions favorable for life. The Mangalyaan (“Mars craft” in Hindi) spacecraft cost a mere $74 million—a tiny fraction of the cost of other Mars missions—and will send data back to Earth for six months before it runs out of fuel.

Quartz obsession interlude

Max Nisen on how wildly high CEO pay has become. “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

Obama is cheerleading the fight against climate change. What he should be doing is leading.

The US should bomb the Islamic State’s oil installations. It would hit the extremist group where it hurts the most.

Threats against Emma Watson are an affront to all women. The actress is under attack for her gender equality campaign (though the threats themselves may have been a hoax.)

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

The German economic powerhouse is a myth. The country isn’t driving growth in the euro zone, but it is spreading economic instability.

Surprising discoveries

Paris unclogs its sewers with massive iron balls. They are bowled down tunnels to knock blockages loose.

“Mohammed” is the most popular baby name in Israel. The Israeli government was forced to backtrack after initially releasing a list with only Hebrew names.

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

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

A new species of mushroom has been discovered. Not in an untouched jungle or on on 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, black tie jumpsuits, and new mushroom species to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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