Quartz Daily Brief—Europe and Africa edition—AIG beats expectations, South China Sea disputes, lunar travel expenses

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What to watch for today

ASEAN discusses the South China Sea. Ministers from Southeast Asian nations plus China and the US are gathered in Kuala Lumpur; China has hinted that it will not talk about its controversial territorial ambitions in the region, which other countries are eager to discuss. Last week, China and ASEAN nations agreed to establish a hotline for emergencies in the region.

India and Pakistan find common ground at sea. More than 150 Indian fishermen who were held in Pakistan’s custody after crossing a controversial border are due to return home. Their release comes after Indian prime minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif met in Russia.

Disney reports its earnings. The entertainment giant is expected to post strong fiscal third-quarter results, following the blockbuster release of The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Disney’s stock is up 29% this year, and hopes are high for the upcoming Star Wars sequels.

More earnings: Toyota, CVS, Liberty Global, Aetna, Kellogg, Charter Communications, Sprint, Scripps, Hyatt, and a number of energy companies report their results.

While you were sleeping

AIG beat expectations. The US insurer reported a second-quarter operating profit of $1.9 billion, ahead of expectations due largely to investments in Chinese insurance companies and the aircraft lessor AerCap. But income from underwriting fell in all the company’s units except retirement, worrying some investors.

Malaysia cleared its prime minister of corruption. The nation’s anti-corruption office referred to the hundreds of millions of dollars that ended up in Najib Razak’s bank accounts as “donations,” effectively clearing him of suspicion of graft. But no information was offered concerning where the money came from or what it was for; opposition parties are unsatisfied.

New Zealand released mixed economic data. An ANZ price index stated that the country’s commodity values fell 11.2% in July (paywall), led by a 23.1% drop in the value of dairy exports, a crucial commodity for New Zealand. The fastest drop on record is at odds with a 10.1% rise in house prices in the three months to July, compared to a year earlier, marking the fastest growth since 2007 (paywall).

Gulf Arab nations cautiously endorsed the Iran deal. The Gulf Cooperation Council backed a deal to lift sanctions against Iran (paywall) in exchange for limits to its nuclear program. That could represent an important diplomatic victory for the Obama administration as it tries to win approval of the deal in Congress.

The lion controversy raged on. Delta Airlines, the largest carrier between the US and Africa, introduced a ban on shipping hunting trophies, including elephants, rhinoceroses, leopards, buffalo, and lions. Meanwhile, another Zimbabwean lion was reportedly hunted down by an American doctor. 

Quartz obsession interlude

Jean-Louis Gassée on how ad-blocking software will change the web content industry. ”Losing trust is bad for the bottom line—no economy can function well without it. When you lose the consumer’s trust, you’re condemned to a chase for the next wave of suckers. Even sites that get us to pay for access to their content play questionable advertising and tracking games.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Men are literally freezing women out of the workplace. Standard office temperatures are designed for men.

We should be hacking our own cities. The only way to beat cyber attacks is to pre-empt them.

Facebook’s video business is built on lies. The social network’s most popular videos are “freebooted” from rival services like YouTube.

Elon Musk’s lesser-known business could be the most important. SolarCity’s innovations could enable mass adoption of solar power.

Surprising discoveries

Harvard prefers college essays that reference “mother” and “father.” Stanford, on the other hand, likes “mom” and “dad.”

There is now a smart watch for the blind. It has a Braille display that can show four characters at a time.

There is an Indonesian chicken that is black inside and out. The “Ayam Cemani” even has black internal organs. 

Medical devices aren’t safe from hackers. US regulators warned hospitals to remove vulnerable intravenous drug pumps.

Buzz Aldrin had to file an expense report after flying to the moon. He received a $33 per diem payment.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, lunar expense reports, and goth fried chicken recipes to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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