Quartz Daily Brief—Europe and Africa edition—China’s slowing imports, Toyota’s new Prius, fanny packs

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What to watch for today

Toyota rolls out its new Prius. The photos and specs have already been leaked, but the Japanese automaker is officially unveiling the hybrid car in Las Vegas. The 2016 Prius, the first car built using Toyota’s new factory production system, is supposed to have 10% greater fuel efficiency than the previous model.

Puerto Rico reveals its debt restructuring plan. The US territory, which defaulted on a payment due in August, is expected to announce a full fiscal reform plan following delays related to last week’s tropical storm. In June, governor Alejandro García Padilla called the island’s $72 billion of debt “unpayable.”

American lawmakers go back to work. After its annual summer recess, the US Congress is back in session—but perhaps not for long. If Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on funding for Planned Parenthood and other spending matters before Oct. 1, the federal government may shut down.

While you were sleeping

China’s economy fared worse than expected. In a 10th consecutive decline, imports fell 14.3% year-on-year in August, compared to a drop of 8.6% in July. Exports improved somewhat, falling 6.1% compared 8.9% in July. With imports down, the nation’s trade surplus expanded 40% from July (paywall).

Australian business confidence hit its lowest level in years. The reading of National Australia Bank’s monthly business confidence index fell from 4 in July to 1 in August, the lowest reading since mid-2013. Companies are concerned about market turmoil and China’s slowdown. They approved, however, of efforts by their own policymakers to stimulate the economy.

Shinzo Abe secured his second term as Japan’s prime minister. He’s on course to become Japan’s longest-serving prime minister in more than four decades after standing unopposed in his ruling party’s leadership election.

A comedian won the first round of presidential elections in Guatemala. Nearly 80% of the corruption-weary electorate went to the polls. Actor and television host Jimmy Morales led the field but did not win a majority, and will have to contend with either conservative businessman Manuel Baldizon or former first lady Sandra Torres in a runoff in October.

Open-outcry trading at the LME got quieter. JPMorgan Chase decamped from the floor of the London Metal Exchange and will now facilitate all its trades there electronically. The move leaves just nine firms on the LME floor—and opens the possibility of an Asian firm joining the mix.

Amazon was reported to be readying a $50 tablet. The more the company brings down the price, the less it looks like a direct competitor to the Apple iPad.

Quartz obsession interlude

Steve Mollman on how Indonesia’s palm oil industry is smoking out its neighbors. “It’s dry season in Indonesia, which in some parts means it’s time to clear more land for palm oil plantations—with fire. In recent days, most of Sumatra (about double the size of Great Britain) was covered in a stifling layer of smoke so large it affected neighboring Singapore and parts of Malaysia, too.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

It’s time for fanny packs to come back. They’re not ugly, they’re immensely practical.

Hollywood needs to get friendly with China, but it won’t be easy. Studios keep stumbling and deals keep crumbling in Beijing.

The Arctic’s ice may be melting, but extracting its oil isn’t getting any easier. The rewards of drilling far down while up north aren’t so rich.

First-come, first-served queues are a waste of time. They’re more fair, but they’re inefficient.

Surprising discoveries

New Zealand banned a young adult novel. Ted Dawe’s Into the River, aimed at male teens, was deemed too sexually explicit by a conservative lobby group. It won the New Zealand Post Children’s Book award in 2013.

The annual Burning Man festival generates seismic vibrations. The energy of all those people dancing in the desert could be measured on the Richter scale.

An anonymous photographer is mocking modern notions of authenticity—with a Barbie doll. This satirical Instagram account highlights how fake hashtagged lives can be.

American agricultural fairs have more stuffed animals than usual this year. Thanks to bird flu, young poultry farmers can bring only taxidermied or toy chickens to the fair.

There’s more to Stonehenge than meets the eye. Ground-penetrating radar reveals an even larger stone monument hidden nearby.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, hipster Barbies, and fake chickens to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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