Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Pope and Xi US visits, Volkswagen’s troubles grow, moon shrinkage

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What to watch for today

Pope Francis lands in DC… The head of the Catholic church will meet personally with US president Barack Obama and congressional leaders before heading to New York for two days, where he will lead a service at the Sept. 11 memorial. During his visit, the pope is expected to address topics including criminal justice, climate change, and abortion.

…as Xi Jinping touches down in Seattle. The Chinese president’s visit starts with meetings in Washington state, where he’ll be welcomed by tech and aerospace honchos. Xi then proceeds to the other Washington (DC) for a state dinner at the White House, and eventually to New York to give a speech at the UN.

EU interior ministers discuss Europe’s migrant problem. Justice ministers will also be present in Brussels to discuss how and where to place migrants currently in Greece, Italy, and Hungary. Yesterday, Hungary’s parliament authorized its army to use rubber bullets and net guns at its border, which it sees as being overrun by new arrivals.

A crucial Bank of America shareholder vote. Brian Moynihan is vying to keep his dual role as CEO and chairman. Investors voted against him holding both titles last year, but were overruled by the board.

Carnival, ConAgra, and General Mills report earnings. The cruise giant is expected to fall short of expectations because of higher expenses and China’s economic slowdown. General Mills will likely miss revenue estimates as it discards struggling food brands, as is the case with ConAgra (paywall).

While you were sleeping

ISIL threatened a cyberattack on the UK. A video apparently from the Islamic State terror group promised a cyberattack tomorrow (Wednesday, Sept. 23), according to Site Intel, an organization that tracks terrorist activity online. The threat comes just weeks after prime minister David Cameron ordered a drone attack against British ISIL fighters in Syria, who were thought to be planning a UK attack.

More countries took Volkswagen to task. South Korea’s environment ministry told Reuters it will test up to 5,000 VW- and Audi-branded models, following news that Volkswagen had used software to reduce the apparent emissions of certain diesel engines; potentially all German cars in the country could be tested if misconduct is discovered. French finance minister Michael Sapin called for an EU-level investigation.

China and the UK revealed a plan to link their stock markets. British chancellor George Osborne announced a “landmark feasibility study” into a scheme that would allow both Chinese and UK stocks to be traded on markets in both countries. Osborne detailed the move at a speech at Shanghai’s stock exchange, adding that the UK “shouldn’t be running away from China,” despite recent volatility.

Burkina Faso’s coup leader is “ready to hand over power.” General Gilbert Diendere, who led last Thursday’s coup, apologized for the loss of life and promised to hand back power to a civilian government. Gen. Diendere was a top aide to the former president Blaise Compaore, who was ousted last year following street protests; discussions between Diendere and African mediators had led to some progress over the weekend.

Australia reported strong economic data. The consumer confidence index published by ANZ, a bank, rose by the most ever recorded to 114.5, potentially due to the ousting of former prime minister Tony Abbott. Separately, house price growth reached its highest rate since 2009, rising 4.7% in the second quarter.

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on how US conservatives are using abortion to threaten a government shutdown. “If it’s September and Barack Obama is the US president, it means the spending bills necessary to keep the country’s government operating are being held up by symbolic ideological demands made by conservative lawmakers.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

David Cameron’s “pig-gate” shows how the elite control each other. The cost of entry is participation in humiliating acts.

There is no such thing as having it all. Even flexible workplaces can be hard on working parents.

Donald Trump is saving democracy. Pointing out the US government’s shortcomings is the strongest bipartisan message of the 2016 campaign.

Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” is supposed to be fat. But modern ideas about heroism have given him a crash diet.

Surprising discoveries

Many people can’t tell their toes apart by touch. Nearly half in a recent study couldn’t identify which of their toes was being prodded.

Streaming music is now a bigger business than physical sales. The format could overtake digital downloads by next year.

A man once bought Stonehenge for his wife. She was reportedly not pleased; Cecil Chubb gave it back to the public three years later.

The moon is shrinking. The Earth’s tidal forces are causing the moon’s crust to buckle and contract.

US political mega-donors sound a lot like Eighties rock bands. Can you tell a Super PAC from a one-hit wonder?

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Super PAC supergroups, and grandiose marital gifts to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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