Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Obama in New Orleans, global stocks rebound, singing during brain surgery

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What to watch for today

Barack Obama visits New Orleans for the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The US president will face up to (paywall) the promises he made for the city’s recovery after the deadly storm when he was running for office. Many have been fulfilled, but the city continues to grapple with inequality and an inadequate education system.

US central bankers meet in Jackson Hole. Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen will skip the annual Wyoming gathering, but other top brass will be in attendance. This year’s topic is “Inflation Dynamics and Monetary Policy”—a timely discussion in the run-up to the Fed’s imminent decision on whether to finally raise interest rates.

Toyota starts manufacturing again in Tianjin. Workers will prepare for a resumption of production in the Chinese city following a deadly blast at a chemical storage site, which injured 67 Toyota workers and damaged thousands of vehicles.

ISIL may have chemical weapons. Experts have added their testimony to reports that mustard gas may have been used by the Islamic State in Syria, after patients in the town of Marea displayed skin lesions and breathing problems. If they do have such weapons, it is likely they got them from Syrian government stockpiles thought to have been destroyed.

Quarterly results keep coming. Toronto Dominion Bank, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Dollar General, J.M. Smucker, Autodesk, Tiffany & Co., and others report their earnings.

While you were sleeping

Stocks everywhere rebounded. China’s main Shanghai index closed 5% higher, getting a boost from a rally on Wall Street yesterday. Hong Kong’s index closed 2.5% up, and the main indexes of Japan and Australia ended the day more than 1% higher. European stocks opened modestly higher, with the FTSE 100 and other indexes all showing gains.

Joe Biden confirmed he might run for president. The vice president confirmed rumors that he was considering a campaign, CNN reported. Biden told the Democratic National Committee he was still deciding whether he could give his “whole soul” to contesting his party’s nomination.

Ukraine got much-needed debt relief. After months of talks with bondholders, Kyiv agreed a deal to slash 20% from the face value of some $18 billion in debt, as well as reduce interest rates on existing bonds and extend payment schedules. These terms will also be offered to Russia, which holds Ukrainian bonds, but has not taken part in the negotiations.

More people are moving to the UK than ever before. Net migration hit an all-time high of 330,000 in the year to March, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. The government minister responsible for slowing immigration said it was “deeply disappointing.”

Twelve employees in the Tianjin explosion case were arrested. Chinese authorities took into custody Yu Xuewei, the chairman of the company that owned the warehouse that exploded in the city, as well as 11 others. The state prosecutor said some involved had been “irresponsible, negligent and lax,” Reuters reported.

Australian business spending fell. Second-quarter capital expenditure was down by 4% (paywall) compared with a year earlier, worse than an expected 2.5% fall. Investment by the mining industry was down 11.3% as falling demand for commodities globally put pressure on the Australian economy.

Hong Kong activists were charged over the Umbrella Movement. Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, and Alex Chow are accused of breaking into a government compound during demonstrations in Hong Kong in 2014. Tens of thousands of people had taken to the streets, demanding free elections.

Quartz obsession interlude

Mike Murphy on Facebook’s new Siri equivalent. “Facebook is running a small trial of a new service built into Messenger, a virtual assistant called M. The system will be a mix of artificial intelligence and human supervisors who will check to make sure every query is answered… If M proves to be a useful addition, it could further boost the time users spend on the app.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

To save New Orleans, abandon the Mississippi delta. Levees meant to protect people living at the mouth of river are making things worse.

People of color are still nothing more than cannon fodder in Hollywood. The new film, No Escape, depicts Asian people as evil “others.”

It’s OK to dress casual when you’re being rewarded for heroism at the Élysée Palace. Polo shirts and khakis worn by the Americans involved in the French train attack emphasized their understated valor.

Prostitution should remain a crime. Decriminalization would legitimize an inherently exploitative business (paywall).

No-one is safe from “Reply All.” Media company Thomson Reuters was floored yesterday by a particularly bad case.

Surprising discoveries

There’s a video game for virtual gardening. It’s a meditative experience that rewards patience over action.

Surgeons used reflected light to identify tumour cells in a human brain. The patient was asked to sing during the operation (video).

A Harvard sociology lecturer has built some pretty weird sandcastles. They appear to defy gravity.

Technology has caught up with Willy Wonka. London viewers can now watch the classic film while chewing gum that tastes like a three-course meal.

There is a fake Goldman Sachs in China. The real Goldman is looking into Goldman Sachs (Shenzhen) Financial Leasing.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, gravity-defying sandcastles, and gum that’s also a tasting menu to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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