Quartz Daily Brief—Russia tests NATO, Samsung’s struggles, China’s bad loans, brain wave duets

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What to watch for today

Germany is a downer. The latest data will likely show that unemployment in the euro zone’s biggest economy has gone up for the third month in a row.

Shell deals with cheap oil. With the price of crude oil unlikely to recover in 2015, don’t expect Shell’s third-quarter numbers be pretty.

Burkino Faso’s strongman seeks an extension. Blaise Compaoré has been president of Burkina Faso since 1987, though term limits were put in place in 2000 that make Compaoré unable to run in Nov. 2015. But now lawmakers are set to vote to abolish them, risking sanctions from France.

Numbers, numbers, numbers. Economic data to keep an eye on: European consumer confidence, US GDP, and inflation in Spain and Germany. Earnings: Alcatel Lucent, Bayer, ConocoPhillips, GoPro, Groupon, Kellogg, LinkedIn, MasterCard, New York Times, Starbucks, and Volkswagen.

While you were sleeping

Russian aerial maneuvers tested NATO. Some two dozen Russian planes have skirted NATO airspace over the past 24 hours, including two bombers that flew along the coasts of Norway, the United Kingdom, and Portugal early on Thursday morning. NATO said its jets scrambled to intercept and monitor the “unusual” flights, which also took place off the coasts of Lithuania and Turkey.

Bad loans spiked at China’s biggest lender. ICBC, the world’s largest lender by assets, reported the biggest rise in bad loans since 2006 as China’s property market and its wider economy cooled. Third-quarter nonperforming loans rose 9% from the three months previous to 115.5 billion yuan ($18.9 billion), accounting for 1.06% of all credit advances.

Samsung surprised no one with a terrible quarter. The electronics giant fulfilled its own dire predictions as its smartphone profits cratered, falling to 1.75 trillion won ($1.66 billion) from 6.70 trillion won a year ago due to fierce competition from Apple’s iPhone and cheaper Chinese competitors. Samsung said it “cautiously expects” an increase in the current quarter’s profits, but its TV and microchip units will have to do the heavy lifting.

Zambia got a white head of state. Vice president Guy Scott was named acting president after Michael Sata died in London on Tuesday, becoming the first white leader of a sub-Saharan African country since the fall of apartheid. But Scott cannot run for president as his parents were not born in Zambia.

QE ended; the world did not. As expected, the US central bank concluded its quantitative easing bond-purchasing program (The jury is still out on whether QE helped the recovery). The Fed also made Wall Street queasy by signaling that it might hike rates sooner than expected, but the damage was minor.

The US insulted Netanyahu. US-Israel relations hit a low point when an unnamed US official was quoted calling the Israeli prime minister “chickenshit” for failing to compromise with Palestinians or the Sunni Arab states. The White House attempted damage control; Netanyahu went into nobly-wounded mode.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on a major but often forgotten source of pollution in China. “Just four decades ago, China had no large container ports; international trade flowed through Hong Kong, then under British rule. Now China handles around 30% of global container volume, boasting seven out of 10 of the world’s busiest ports. Yet regulation of air emissions from ships is virtually nonexistent today in China.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Stop celebrating the pope’s acceptance of science. He is still pushing divine intervention in evolution and the Big Bang.

CEOs should take dance classes. They make you situationally aware.

The US could use yet another Bush presidency. Jeb Bush is one of the sanest politicians in the Republican Party.

Tunisia needs a different kind of revolution. Politically, it’s doing fine, but it needs to fix the economy.

The West shouldn’t fear the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. It should join it.

Surprising discoveries

France’s minister of culture is a busy woman. She hasn’t read a book in at least two years.

Drinking milk to get strong bones? New research shows it may actually have the reverse effect.

A cellist is performing duets with her own brain. Katinka Kleijn translates her brain waves into sound.

Chinese real-estate agents have a lot of sex. Also, 93% of Chinese women own a sex toy (paywall).

A giant rat balloon is protected speech. A US judge defended the use of the long-time labor demonstration prop.

Click here for more surprising discoveries on Quartz.

In yesterday’s Daily Brief we incorrectly reported that one of Marvel’s upcoming superhero movies would be “Marvel Girl”; it is in fact “Captain Marvel.”

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, brain wave symphonies, and dance class recommendations to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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