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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Germany’s record surplus, Toyota’s new Prius, fashionable fanny packs

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

What to watch for today

Toyota rolls out its new Prius. The photos and specs have already 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.”

The UK and Germany respond differently to the refugee crisis. The opposition Labour Party says UK prime minister David Cameron’s decision to accept 20,000 people from camps around Syria is inadequate and has secured a debate in Parliament today, amid calls to do more to help refugees already in Europe. By comparison, Germany says it could cope with as many as 500,000 asylum-seekers annually for the next few years.

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

Soaring exports pushed Germany’s trade surplus to a record high. A weaker euro made German goods more attractive around the world, pushing the country’s July trade surplus to €22.8 billion ($25.5 billion), the largest since unification in 1990.

Meanwhile, China’s trade sputtered. In a 10th consecutive decline, imports fell 14.3% year-on-year in August, compared with a drop of 8.6% in July. Exports also fell, by 6.1%. The sharp drop in imports pushed the nation’s trade surplus up 40% from July.

Samsung could cut 10% of its head office staff. The company faces a slumping smartphone market, competition from Apple and Chinese rivals, and a tepid response to its new high-end Galaxy phones. The restructuring also includes a 50% cut to general expenses, according to the Korea Economic Daily.

Uber announced an ambitious expansion in China. CEO Travis Kalanick announced in Beijing that the ride-hailing company will enter more than 100 Chinese cities this year. It’s currently in about 15; local rival Didi Kuaidi is in over 300.

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 compete in a runoff in October.

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

Philosophers can’t even agree on how to respond to Europe’s refugee crisis. Everything from “let none of them in” to “open all national borders.”

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

Poor personal hygiene sank a Canadian candidate’s campaign. A hidden camera caught a parliamentary candidate urinating into a cup and pouring it down the sink.

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, 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, taxidermied chickens, and whether the Earth moved for you during Burning Man to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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