Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Singapore elections, Nespresso demand, mermaid bars

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What to watch for today and over the weekend

Singapore votes in its most competitive election ever. Prime minister Lee Hsien Loong’s People’s Action Party is expected to win, as it has done for the past 50 years. But rivals are making a stronger-than-ever showing, with bloggers and other citizens increasingly voicing concerns about Singapore’s opaque finances.

A decision on Russia’s interest rates. Most analysts expect the central bank to keep the cost of borrowing unchanged at its meeting today, after making five cuts earlier this year. That could stabilize the ruble, which has been sliding against the dollar for many months.

China holds tit-for-tat military drills near Taiwan. Beijing announced live-fire exercises in the Taiwan Strait, a day after the Taiwanese military rehearsed repelling a Chinese invasion. Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou wore a helmet and flak jacket in the staging area.

NATO talks about Syria, Russia, and Afghanistan. The alliance’s military committee convenes in Istanbul to discuss security in Europe, the Middle East, and Afghanistan. Turkey’s controversial dual offensive against ISIL and Kurdish separatists is sure to be a touchy subject.

Barack Obama commemorates 9/11 at Fort Meade. The US president will deliver a speech at the Maryland army institution, before taking questions from service members at the event and via social media (using the hashtag #AskPOTUS).

While you were sleeping

Asian markets recorded their first weekly gain since July. The MSCI Asia Pacific index, a regional benchmark, rose by 1.9% in the week, paced by Japanese stocks. China’s benchmark Shanghai stock index gained a bit more than 1% on the week, and some analysts see a major surge coming for Hong Kong-traded China stocks.

Nestlé added a new Nespresso factory. The European food and beverage giant is opening a new factory in Switzerland to meet rising American demand for Nespresso capsules. Nespresso is seeing “high double-digit” growth in the US, it said, compared with high single-digit growth in Europe.

Venezuela jailed an opposition leader. A judge sentenced Leopoldo Lopez, leader of the Voluntad Popular party, to 13 years and nine months in prison, after he turned himself in last year to face charges of inciting violence during protests. Lopez’s defense team said there were many irregularities in the government’s case.

The US claimed ISIL is using chemical weapons. The terror group has used mustard agents on at least four occasions on both sides of the Turkey-Syria border, a US official told the BBC. The group is believed to be producing the weapons itself.

South Korea left interest rates unchanged. The central bank kept its base rate at 1.5%, after cutting the cost of borrowing four times in the past year. Lower interest rates ought to help an economy that faces weakening demand for exports and was hit by an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome over the summer.

Quartz obsession interlude

Annalisa Merelli on how Apple almost went feminist, only to horribly fail. “Apple’s event may have indeed been the Silicon Valley equivalent of a feminist rally… But then in Apple’s live demonstration, a young woman’s serious-looking expression was remade into a welcoming one. Spectators in the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium cheered as they watched it happen.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Workers should embrace the 9-to-5 job. It once symbolized drudgery, but now it’s a necessary boundary.

Rupert Murdoch will be great for National Geographic. Fox News is more likely to change than the venerable science magazine.

How low can oil go? The global surplus is bigger than previously imagined, and Goldman Sachs thinks $20 a barrel is possible.

The world has seen this kind of refugee crisis before. After the Vietnam war, millions were saved by resettlement.

Black celebrities should embrace “the rant.” Artists like Kanye West deserve to be heard, no matter how the media distorts things.

Surprising discoveries

China has a robot that can write business news. It was developed by WeChat owner Tencent.

Alzheimer’s could be transmitted through a medical procedure. But it’s not contagious like the flu, and the procedure has been stopped.

Cavemen ate oatmeal. So Paleo dieters can eat it, too.

The US has around 1,000 professional mermaids. Some perform at bars dedicated to mermaid shows.

Emails are more romantic than voicemails. When expressing feelings from afar, typing may be better.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, mermaid credentials, and love letters to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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