Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Obama in Alaska, China sanctions, Wi-Fi allergy

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What to watch for today

Barack Obama visits the Arctic. The US president will address foreign ministers from Arctic countries convening in Alaska, which he says is “on the front lines” (paywall) of climate change.

Serena Williams reaches for history at the US Open. A victory at the tennis tournament, which starts today, would complete a calendar-year Grand Slam. Serena has already set one record: tickets for the women’s final sold out before the men’s for the first time ever.

Heavy rain and winds head for Florida. The Caribbean nation of Dominica declared a disaster status after tropical storm Erika caused at least 20 deaths; 50 people are still missing. Erika has since been downgraded but Florida has been told to stay alert nevertheless, as the bad weather moves north.

Hints on the US economy. The Chicago purchasing managers’ index, often seen as a useful proxy for US economic health, is expected to have increased throughout August to 54.9, from 54.7 in July. That would indicate a rise in the rate of expansion for both the manufacturing and services sectors.

Over the weekend

China markets wrapped up an awful month. The Shanghai benchmark ended August down 12.5%, following a 14.3% loss in July, while the tech-heavy Shenzhen Composite dropped 14.4% this month, its biggest monthly fall in six years (paywall). The government is once again forcing state-owned entities to prop up the market, this time asking brokerages to buy stock worth 100 billion yuan ($15.7 billion).

The US prepared sanctions against China. President Barack Obama’s administration has drafted economic restrictions aimed at companies and individuals in China that benefited from large-scale cyber attacks on the US,  the Washington Post reports. The sanctions could be implemented within two weeks, ahead of a state visit by China’s president.

One of the world’s largest gas fields was discovered in Egypt. Italian energy company Eni said that the Zohr natural gas field off of Egypt’s coast could contain up to 30 trillion cubic feet of gas (equal to 5.5 billion barrels of oil). The gas could provide decades of energy to Egypt, said the company, which has full concession rights to the area.

Euro zone inflation rate stayed put. Consumer prices rose by 0.2% in August from a year earlier, the same as in July and better than an expected 0.1% increase. Cheap oil is dragging prices down, but unprocessed foods and services buoyed the figure.

Thailand arrested a suspect in the deadly Erawan bombing. Police in Bangkok arrested a foreigner from an unspecified country in connection with the blast that killed 20 people two weeks ago, and gave themselves an $84,000 reward. Bomb-making materials were allegedly found at the man’s house, but he may not be the same person who was caught on a security camera, and police are still seeking two more people.

Protestors demanded the Malaysian prime minister’s resignation. Organizers say as many as 300,000 people took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur on Saturday and Sunday, to demand Najib Razak stand down over a corruption scandal and a faltering economy. But police put the number at around 50,000, only a small number of which were from the crucial ethnic Malay demographic.

Neurologist Oliver Sacks died. The scientist and acclaimed author, 82, wrote about his patients with deep empathy and in graceful prose—even after he himself received a terminal cancer diagnosis. Sacks achieved rare fame by writing about the oddities of the human mind in books such as The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.

Quartz obsession interlude

Cassie Werber on the European countries that will only accept migrants if they’re Christian. “Discrimination on the basis of religion is specifically prohibited under European law—which is one of the reasons people fleeing sectarian conflicts in places like Syria seek asylum there in the first place… [Yet] Slovakia’s interior ministry said it would be willing to take in 200 refugees, but would strongly prefer non-Muslims.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Is Joe Biden getting a gender advantage? He and Hillary Clinton have practically identical records, but the media just like Biden more.

Buying organic vegetables is a waste of money. They cost more but are not measurably healthier or better for the environment.

MTV’s attempts to woo millennials are doomed to fail. At least judging from the miserable livestream of the VMAs.

We need to set aside half of the Earth. It’s time for re-wilding, says scientist E.O. Wilson.

Ballpoint pens killed our handwriting. They are less comfortable and require more effort than fountain pens.

Surprising discoveries

Italian entrepreneurs are most likely to have the surnames Hu, Chen, and Singh. “Rossi,” the most common Italian surname, ranks a distant fourth.

“The Incredible Hulk” was inspired by a woman lifting a car. She was freeing her baby trapped underneath.

A French woman receives disability payments for a Wi-Fi allergy. She claims €800 ($850) a month for “electromagnetic hypersensitivity.”

A Chinese man makes a living as an Obama impersonator. The former migrant worker recently got plastic surgery to enhance the likeness.

A beautiful face is greater than the sum of its parts. The more faces are averaged together, the more attractive the result.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, fountain pens, and Wi-Fi allergy remedies to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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