Quartz Daily Brief—Europe and Africa edition—Obama in Kenya, Amazon beats Walmart, Starbucks earnings, treehouse masterpiece

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What to watch for today

Barack Obama travels to Kenya. The US president’s trip to his father’s home country includes a private meeting with his extended family and a global entrepreneurship summit in Nairobi. Obama will address the Kenyan public over the weekend.

Discussions over the trans-Pacific trade pact start up again. Chief negotiators from 12 countries are scheduled for four days of talks in Hawaii, ahead of a meeting of senior trade ministers. US officials hope they are nearing the end of negotiations on the controversial deal, which would be the most ambitious trade pact in a generation.

The UN refines its climate change agreement. An international deal to combat climate change is supposed to be sealed in December, but a preliminary document is still being whittled down from 85 pages of options. Today’s new draft may be shorter and more concise.

While you were sleeping

Amazon posted a surprise profit. The online retailer posted a second-quarter profit of $92 million, past expectations and up from a $126 million loss a year earlier. Revenue from its closely watched web services company almost doubled to $1.8 billion; the shares rose enough to make the company bigger than rival Walmart.

Starbucks reported piping hot earnings. Net income for the Seattle-based coffee chain’s second quarter reached $626.7 million, a 22% increase on a year earlier. Same-store sales growth grew 7% while US sales grew at 8% on mobile ordering, limited-edition drinks, and new food items.

China’s manufacturing sector tumbled… The Caixin/Markit preliminary purchasing managers’ index fell to 48.2 in July, from 49.4 in June and below the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction. The 15-month low suggests a bad start to the third quarter, and could put pressure on the government’s target of achieving 7% GDP growth this year.

…As Japan’s sped ahead. The Nikkei/Markit preliminary PMI rose to 51.4 in July from 50.1 in June, showing accelerating expansion in the manufacturing sector. The highest reading since February and the third consecutive monthly rise is good news for Japan’s central bank, charged with raising inflation to 2%.

Turkey agreed to let the US launch airstrikes against ISIL. US planes will be able to use an air base in Turkey, a shift in policy after a brutal suicide bombing near the country’s border with Syria. The Turkish military is increasingly engaged in direct conflict with Islamic State militants on the Syrian side of the border.

NASA found Earth’s closest cousin yet. The US space agency said it has discovered an Earth-like planet, Kepler-452b, that is similar to our planet in size, temperature, and orbit. It is a mere 1,400 light years away.

Quartz obsession interlude

Zach Seward on why the Financial Times is published on pink paper. “The FT has certainly become pinker over the years as its brand became more closely associated with the coloring. Some, including the newspaper itself, prefer to call the current version ‘salmon pink.’ Asked to weigh in on the matter a few years ago, the Pantone Color Institute suggested ‘bisque’ was a more appropriate descriptor.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Blame climate change for Syria’s civil war. The region’s severe drought sparked the bloody conflict.

Robots will fight our future wars. The decision to use deadly force will be monitored but not directly authorized by humans.

The next technology boom will be in space. Putting devices into orbit is enabling businesses that would have once been impossible.

Scientists are on the cusp of cutting and pasting human genes. Drug companies are excited, but the rest of us should be wary.

The Philippines can’t win against China. A South China Sea arbitration case will cause Manila more harm than good.

Surprising discoveries

The largest sauna on Earth has opened in Norway. The massive structure is built on an Arctic beach.

Rebellious children grow up to earn more money. The business world seems to reward rule-breakers.

There’s a push against London’s “anti-homeless” architecture. The city has made surfaces uncomfortable to rest on, so activists put out mattresses instead.

The world’s best treehouse architect has built his masterpiece. Takashi Kobayashi used a 3D scanner and a 300-year-old camphor tree.

Finland’s president knows his parsnips. Sauli Niinistö called in to a radio show to discuss invasive wild vegetables.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, treehouse blueprints, and parsnip recipes to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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