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Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Syria’s Russia-backed push, Yum’s yucky results, anti-asteroid probes

By Svati Kirsten Narula
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

What to watch for today

Volkswagen’s top US executive testifies before Congress. Michael Horn, CEO of VW America, will answer “initial questions” about the automaker’s emissions cheating scandal. The Senate finance committee is also investigating whether the company’s clean energy tax credits were granted under false pretenses.

The Bank of England weighs an interest rate hike. UK central bankers are expected to keep the rate at 0.5%, as inflation remains weak. Separately, the US Federal Reserve is publishing the minutes from its September meeting, when it decided to keep US interest rates steady for now.

The US House of Representatives chooses its next speaker. Republicans vote to pick the successor to John Boehner, who announced his resignation last month. Hard-line conservative lawmakers who pushed for Boehner’s ouster are dubious that frontrunner Kevin McCarthy will be any more effective.

NATO talks about Russia. Defense ministers meet in Brussels to talk about Russia’s aggressive military moves, including its engagement in Syria (see below) and incursions into Turkish airspace. Baltic NATO members are also asking for more support to fend off a resurgent Russian military.

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund meet in Peru. The groups’ joint annual meetings are taking place in Lima, as the IMF warns of a triple threat to the world’s economy and the World Bank issues a dire warning about mass migration. (Spoiler alert: Europe’s migrant crisis was just the beginning.)

While you were sleeping

Syria launched Russia-backed ground attacks. Government forces attacked the insurgent coalition Army of Conquest—which includes groups backed by the United States—with support from Russian air strikes and cruise missiles fired from the Caspian Sea. The US ruled out any cooperation with Russia in Syria, saying it is pursuing a “tragically flawed” strategy.

Yum! Brands tanked. The owner of KFC and Pizza Hut reported woeful third-quarter numbers in China, sending its shares down by nearly 20% and increasing pressure from activist investors to split up the company. One analyst called Yum’s lowered forecast and anemic same-store sales “embarrassing.”

SABMiller rejected AB InBev’s takeover, but not all shareholders agreed. The  $104 billion offer to merge the world’s two biggest brewers was rejected by the SABMiller board. But tobacco giant Altria, SABMiller’s biggest shareholder, urged the company to accept the deal.

The EU will start intercepting human smugglers. Operation Sophia allows European warships in the Mediterranean to board, seize, search and divert ships used to smuggle migrants for the first time. But critics say the six warships taking part in the operation are not enough to stop the flow of refugees.

Three scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry. Tomas Lindahl, Aziz Sancar, and Paul Modrich separately conducted research to reveal how every cell in our bodies contains its own proofreading mechanism, which repairs DNA damage done by UV light and copying errors.

Quartz obsession interlude

Keith Collins on the slowly-revealed magnitude of a typical data breach. “When a company or government agency suffers a data breach, the number of records they say were lost are often preliminary estimates, whether they say so or not. Typically, the investigation has only just begun.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Forget cage-free eggs—we should demand prison labor-free products. Many common household goods are made by low-paid inmates.

Women bear the brunt of Alzheimer’s disease. They make up two-thirds of patients, and pay an even heavier financial cost.

Putin is repeating Cold War blunders in Syria. Similar meddling failed spectacularly in the past.

Hillary Clinton’s “likeability problem” is really America’s. Too many people still find female ambition to be distasteful.

Poverty is decreasing, but the poor are still getting screwed. People in sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, are falling even further behind.

Surprising discoveries

A German forestry minister accidentally started a forest fire. He should have known better than to dump ashes in a thicket.

The placebo effect is getting stronger. Researchers think prescription drug advertisements may be to blame.

A group of maximum-security prison inmates defeated the Harvard debate team. And they did it without Internet access.

NASA and ESA are forming a super team to prevent armageddon. They’re launching probes to study potentially calamitous near-Earth asteroids.

A Swiss TV station replaced its cameras with iPhones and selfie-sticks. They’re not just for tourists anymore.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, selfie newscasts, and asteroid-busting strategies to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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