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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—EU banks flunk, HK protesters retool, Ben Bradlee RIP, chess shrinks brains

By Richard Macauley

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Total selects a new CEO. The French oil major will hold an emergency board meeting to choose a successor to Christophe de Margerie, who was killed in a Moscow plane crash. Philippe Boisseau, head of marketing and new energy operations, is a top contender.

GlaxoSmithKline investors hold their breath. The drug maker’s new respiratory drugs—Breo Ellipta and Anoro Ellipta—will be in the spotlight as GSK reports its third quarter results. The company reduced its forecasts in July due to poor sales of inhalers in the US.

Boeing is cleared for takeoff. The airplane maker has already announced the delivery of 186 commercial jets in the third quarter, up 9.4% from a year ago, and its quarterly results may have even more positive surprises, based on past results. However, an over-budget US Air Force contract may force Boeing to swallow $1 billion in excess costs.

AT&T holds steady. Analysts expect the iPhone 6 to boost revenue to $33 billion, but smaller rivals have forced it cut costs and boost marketing spending.

While you were sleeping

Back to square one for Hong Kong protestors. Live-streamed negotiations between pro-democracy groups and the Hong Kong government failed to find common ground, so protestors marched to chief executive CY Leung’s residence. Meanwhile, anti-Occupy taxi drivers tried to dismantle protest barriers, but were stopped by police.

11 EU banks will reportedly flunk their stress tests due to holding inadequate reserves, according to the Spanish news agency EFE; the European Central Bank’s stress test results will be published this weekend. Separately, the ECB is scheduled to receive €5.8 billion ($7.4 billion) from banks that took out loans during the financial crisis.

The Washington Post’s legendary editor, Ben Bradlee, died at 93. Bradlee ran the Post newsroom for 26 years beginning in 1965. He oversaw the uncovering of the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon and the publication of the Pentagon Papers, which exposed the US governent’s secret history of the Vietnam war.

Heineken’s wet European summer. Third-quarter revenue for the world’s third largest brewer rose only 0.2% to €5.1 billion ($6.5 billion) from last year, due in part to a rain-soaked summer that saw Europeans drink less beer.

Australian inflation was down. Third-quarter consumer price inflation rose just 2.3% year-on-year, down from 3% in the previous quarter. While in line with expectations, the lowest inflation in a year increases worries that deflation is possible down under.

Japan’s exports were up. A better-than-expected 6.9% rise in shipments in September is the biggest jump in seven months, and provides much-needed good news for prime minister Shinzo Abe as he mulls whether to raise Japan’s sales tax.

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on how Elon Musk built a low-budget space-travel company. “SpaceX currently charges $61.2 million per launch… Other providers often charge $250 to $400 million per launch; NASA pays Russia $70 million per astronaut to hitch a ride on its three-person Soyuz spacecraft. SpaceX’s costs are still nowhere near low enough to change the economics of space as Musk and his investors envision, but they have a plan to do so.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

There is more to life than pursuing happiness. In fact, it is the pursuit that makes us unhappy.

Narendra Modi is full of baby steps. By avoiding controversial major policy initiatives he’s getting more done.

China won’t become like Hong Kong. That is, until the mainland’s GDP growth starts slowing.

Women should go to Mars. Men weigh more, take up more space, and need more calories to survive.

OPEC’s days are numbered. Thanks to fracking and the push for renewable energy (paywall).

No one knows when single quotes should be used. So stick to double quotes.

Surprising discoveries

Playing chess will shrink your brain. And that could be a good thing.

The hoverboard is nearly upon us. It’s being crowdfunded by an engineer who has spent his life trying to make buildings float.

A Chicago voter warned Obama not to touch his fiancé. The president kissed her instead.

Shoddy safety standards lead to amazing discoveries. Artificial sweeteners were created by accident.

Old computers are remarkably useful. Hurling one at a bear can save your life.

Reminder: Get a 50% discount on our Next Billion conference in New York on Nov. 5 using the code QZBRIEF.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, hoverboard prototypes, and anti-bear PCs to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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