Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—US jobs, possible Syrian elections, refugee Med island

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What to watch for today and over the weekend

US policymakers eye last month’s payrolls. Reports from the US Labor Department are expected to show that American employers hired about 200,000 workers in August. Analysts will be watching to see if the figure is likely to have any effect on the Federal Reserve’s decision to raise the cost of borrowing, which would likely make the dollar stronger and affect emerging economies

Singaporeans rally ahead of next week’s general election. Eight out of nine political parties have secured permits for rallies starting at 7pm Singapore time (7am ET) ahead of snap general elections called for Sept. 11. For the first time ever, opposition candidates are challenging the ruling People’s Action Party for all 89 parliamentary seats.

G20 finance ministers meet in Turkey. The country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has asked global financial heads meeting in Ankara to present “investment strategies to secure robust, balanced, and sustainable global growth.” No mention so far of China’s market turmoil or Europe’s migrant crisis, which will need to be addressed.

Boeing names its commercial space-taxi. The opening of a processing facility for the company’s first commercial-crew spacecraft—at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida—will include the unveiling of a flashier name; it’s currently known as the CST-100, which stands for Crew Space Transportation-100 and somewhat lacks pizzazz.

While you were sleeping

Asia-Pacific markets got no respite. Japan’s Nikkei led a fall among most Asia-Pacific indexes, dropping 2.2%; the MSCI Asia-Pacific index, a regional gauge, rose by 0.2% but was still down over the week. Mainland China markets were closed for a second day, which no doubt removed some volatility, but nervousness over US employment numbers reduced overall confidence.

The US FDA gave AstraZeneca’s “blockbuster” heart drug the nod. Brilinta, a blood thinner produced by the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker, was given the all-clear for continued use after the first 12 months following a patient’s heart attack. The company had already predicted the drug would earn $3 billion in annual revenue; extending its use is expected to increase that figure.

Putin claims there will be early Syrian parliamentary elections.  The Russian president told reporters that the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad is open to a power-sharing agreement with “healthy opposition.” Assad agreed that fighting rebels and ISIL in Syria must go hand-in-hand with political process, Putin said.

Japan’s inflation-adjusted wages rose for the first time in 27 months. The measure of income rose by 0.3% in July from a year earlier while regular pay, which determines base salaries, rose by 0.6%, its fifth consecutive monthly rise. But with the tightest labor market in two decades, such sluggish wage increases aren’t much to celebrate (paywall).

BASF completed a long-delayed asset swap with Gazprom. The German chemicals giant will hand over a stake in a North Sea oil and gas exploration unit as well as its stake in the two companies’ joint venture; Gazprom will deliver shares in a Siberian gas field to a BASF subsidiary. The deal was first agreed in 2013 but political difficulties had hindered its execution.

British retail sales tanked in August. High street sales dropped by 4.3% in August compared with a year earlier, according to a survey by BDO, an accountancy firm. The worst drop since the 2008 financial crisis came partly due to a strong pound, which tempted Brits to travel abroad during the month.

Quartz obsession interlude

Matt Phillips on the economic lessons behind the superstitious evil eye. “A recent paper published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization argues that belief in the ‘evil eye’ is actually a finely honed defense mechanism for property holders in societies where envy is more likely to result in destruction of assets rather than the economically productive impulse sometimes known as ‘keeping-up-with-the-Joneses’.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Why does every African accent in Hollywood sound the same? Will Smith plays a Nigerian in his new movie, but uses a “generic” African accent.

Don’t mistake China’s army cuts as a sign of peace. It’s plan is to make the army a truly global fighting force.

Edward Snowden helped Russia strangle the internet. The whistleblower’s exposés gave Vladimir Putin an excuse to expand the Kremlin’s surveillance state.  

Marissa Mayer is not an exemplary working mother. But it’s not her job to be a role model.

We should stop buying wedding dresses. They represent the worst of American consumerism.

Surprising discoveries

An Egyptian billionaire wants to develop an island for refugees. Naguib Sawiris offered to buy an outpost from Italy or Greece.

Marine Le Pen may have a secret Twitter account. Le Monde says she writes under the name “Anne Lalanne” (link in French).

A trash-fueled DeLorean will hit the streets of Tokyo. Just like in Back to the Future, but without the banana peels.

An extensive network of 200-year-old tunnels runs under the city of Liverpool. No one knows why.

The internet spawned a teenage anti-ISIS anime character. Her name is ISIS-chan, she’s peaceful, and she loves melons.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, mysterious underground tunnels, and secret politicians’ Twitter accounts to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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