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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—GE’s Alstom purchase, Japan’s economy contracts, robot-birthing robots

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What to watch for today

GE is expected to get the all-clear for its Alstom purchase. The US conglomerate wants to buy its French peer’s power business for $13.8 billion and is awaiting a decision from the European Commission. If given the green light, it would be General Electric’s largest-ever deal.

Urban Outfitters reports its second-quarter earnings. The retailer, aimed at kids 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

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

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.

IndiGo finalized a deal for 250 Airbus planes. The Indian carrier signed for 250 A320s, the European airplane maker’s largest deal by plane numbers and one worth $26.6 billion at list prices. That brings the number of planes IndiGo has ordered from Airbus to 530; the airline says it plans to build a fleet of 1,000 planes.

H&M’s sales figures beat expectations. The world’s second-largest fashion retailer reported a 16% rise in July local-currency sales from a year earlier, above an expected 12% increase. That’s the 10th consecutive month of double-digit sales increases.

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 nationwide protest this year.

The death toll from China’s chemical warehouse explosion rose again. At least 112 people have died and more than 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.

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 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.

Dr Dre’s new album got 25 million listens in its first week on Apple Music. That’s half the figure for a recent Drake album, which was not restricted to Apple-only platforms.

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 instances of pro-cat bias in scientists to on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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