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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Hong Kong’s standoff, JPMorgan’s data breach, Cameron’s Afghanistan visit, smelling imminent death

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

What to watch for today

Stalemate and skirmishes in Hong Kong. Chief executive CY Leung refused pro-democracy protestors’ demands to step down and instead attempted to split the student-led movement. Meanwhile, the city was forced to shut government offices because protesters barricaded the entrances, and people opposed to the protests scuffled with the demonstrators and tore down some of their encampments.

The US plays whack-a-mole with the Islamic State. The bombing campaign against IS is forcing a change in tactics by the extremist group. In Iraq’s Anbar province, locals will face curfews on vehicle use so it’s easier to spot extremist fighters trying to relocate.

The US talks jobs, officially. Payroll firm ADP says 213,000 US jobs were created in September, but it’s the US labor department’s report that’s being watched most closely. Will the jobless rate stay low at 6.1%?

While you were sleeping

JPMorgan’s data breach turned out to be absolutely enormous. A cyberattack exposed the personal information of 76 million households and seven million businesses; the bank previously said only one million were vulnerable. The hacker attack, now among the largest ever, gained access to names, addresses, phone numbers, and emails, putting customers at risk for further fraud attempts.

David Cameron made a surprise appearance in Afghanistan. The UK prime minister arrived in Kabul to meet with newly sworn-in president Ashraf Ghani. Cameron also said the UK would add two more fighter jets to combat the Islamic State, and warned the fight against extremists would take “many, many years.”

Radio Shack gasped for air. The electronics retailer agreed a $590 million refinancing deal with a hedge fund consortium to allow it to restock ahead of the Christmas shopping season. The deal may also allow the company to close more than 1,000 underperforming stores to stem its losses.

China’s service sector lost some steam… The country’s non-manufacturing purchasing managers’ index dipped to 54.0 in September, from 54.4 in August, suggesting slower growth in a sector that’s crucial for the transformation of the Chinese economy.

…As did the UK’s. The country’s services sector, which accounts for two thirds of its GDP, also posted lower growth in September, with the Markit/CIPS services PMI falling to 58.7, from 60.5 in August.

Maybe the euro zone isn’t so sick after all. August retail sales were up by nearly 2% over the year before, surpassing analyst expectations of little or no growth. Germany, France, Spain, and just about every other country posted year-over-year gains.

The US is partially lifting its arms embargo against Vietnam. Washington said the decision to sell some weapons to its former adversary is intended to “improve maritime security”—a thinly veiled reference to China’s maneuvers in the South China Sea.

Quartz obsession interlude

Lily Kuo on why Hong Kong’s protesters want chief executive CY Leung to go to hell: “Critics deride Leung as a puppet of Beijing … But as the son of a police officer who eventually built his fortune as a real-estate executive, earning him the nickname ’emperor of the working class,’ he is also seen as a symbol of one of the elite members of Hong Kong’s increasingly unequal society.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The biggest threat to the Islamic State isn’t bombs or drones. It’s women being educated.

China is not Hong Kong’s enemy but its future. Those protesting Beijing’s rule are just resentful of China’s rise.

The Middle East is entering a warlord era. Nation states are dissolving and millions are living under self-declared rulers.

Retirement is a pipe dream for the middle class. The global cost-cutting race means you’re going to work until you die.

Surprising discoveries

Nobody wants the 2022 Winter Olympics. The corrupt bidding process has put off every country but China and Kazakhstan.

A US president refused to use White House light switches. Benjamin Harrison was afraid he’d be electrocuted.

Beer is a memory booster. A flavonoid found in hops boosts mental performance—but only if you drink the equivalent of 2,000 liters a day.

The human nose knows when death is near. Once your sense of smell starts to go, you’re three times more likely to die in the near future.

All those auto recalls really add up. One in six US vehicles—37 million in all—has an unfixed fault.  

Click here for more surprising discoveries on Quartz.

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