Quartz Daily Brief—Europe and Africa edition—GE’s Alstom purchase, Japan’s economy contracts, mother robots

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

What to watch for today

GE is expected to get a green light for its Alstom purchase. The US conglomerate wants to buy the power business of its French peer for $13.8 billion.

Urban Outfitters reports its second-quarter earnings. The retailer, aimed at teens and younger twenty-somethings with a taste for ironic T-shirts, has struggled as of late, while its Anthropologie subsidiary has thrived. Analysts expect a slight increase in sales and profits.

South Korea and the US begin joint military exercises. The annual event draws threats of retaliation from North Korea each year, but this time the country is cranking up the hostile rhetoric and threatening nuclear war against the US.

A key US housing index is expected to show good news. Economists expect the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo housing market index to increase to 61, up from 60 in July, which was its highest since November 2005.

Over the weekend

Japan’s economy contracted. GDP fell by an annualized 1.6% in the second quarter, from 4.5% growth in the first quarter, on both lower consumer and business spending. Low export demand from China means few expect a turnaround in the third quarter; further stimulus from the central bank may be on the cards instead.

China’s GDP forecast dropped. A private survey by Bloomberg suggested the economy grew at 6.3% in the first half of the year, compared with a year earlier. The survey forecasts full-year GDP growth of 6.6%. Both figures are lower than the government’s 7% target, despite Beijing’s efforts to prop up the economy.

AT&T helped the US government spy on citizens. AT&T gave the National Security Administration access to billions of emails (paywall) that passed through its domestic networks, an investigation by the New York Times revealed. The telco also helped the NSA wiretap all internet communications flowing through the United Nations headquarters.

Anti-government protests took place across Brazil. Tens of thousands of demonstrators turned out to protest against president Dilma Rousseff, whose ouster many are demanding in the wake of a corruption scandal that has ensnared numerous officials in the ruling Workers’ party. It was the third instance of nationwide protests this year.

The death toll from China’s chemical warehouse explosion rose again. At least 112 people have died and over 700 were injured after a warehouse exploded in the city of Tianjin. Chinese media reported that the warehouse may have been storing 70 times the permitted quantity of sodium cyanide.

An Indonesian passenger plane carrying 54 people crashed. Officials say wreckage from the plane has been located in the remote region of Papua, where villagers reported seeing a plane crash into a mountain. The airline, Trigana Air Service, was on a list of carriers deemed unsafe by the European Union.

Syrian government airstrikes killed dozens at a market. Local groups estimate that as many as 100 people died and 300 were injured in an air raid on the rebel-controlled town of Douma, where rebels have been firing rockets into Damascus. The strike marked one of the deadliest single attacks of Syria’s four-year conflict, in which the death toll has topped 220,000 people.

Quartz obsession interlude

Lily Kuo on African cities’ growing resemblance to Chinese ones. “China isn’t just providing the manpower to fuel quickly urbanizing African cities. It is exporting its own version of urbanization, creating cities and economic zones that look remarkably similar to Chinese ones. Journalist Michiel Hulsof, based in Amsterdam, and architect Daan Roggeven in Shanghai, began visiting the continent in 2013 to document and investigate whether China’s model of urbanism can work in Africa.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Europe should worry about fascism, not immigration. The idea that some lives are worth more is increasingly common.

Puerto Rico doesn’t owe the US anything. The US just wants to benefit from an offshore tax haven without being responsible for its territory’s well-being.

Canada’s prime minister is running the nation behind closed doors. And he is ushering in a new dark age as a result (paywall).

Protecting your car from hackers is simple. Don’t buy a car with a computer in it.

The US embassy in Cuba never really closed. The Swiss took it over.

Surprising discoveries

The Prime Meridian is actually 334 feet to the east of its long-designated location. Astronomers who calculated the original line did not take into account distortions caused by gravity.

A team of researchers has created a “mother robot.” It’s capable of building its own baby cube-bots.

People tend to prefer politicians with deep voices. Peoples’ association between a deep voice and strength helps.

Cats are evolutionarily superior to dogs. According to a new study, cats have historically been better at surviving than canines.

There’s a book designed to make kids fall asleep. It uses psychological techniques to help children relax, and eventually doze off.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, sleep-inducing books, and deep-voiced salutations to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

Sign up for the Quartz Daily Brief here, tailored for morning delivery in Asia, Europe & Africa, and the Americas.