Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Tunisia’s Nobel Peace Prize, Canada’s asylum meddling, digital rat brains

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What to watch for today and over the weekend

The EU begins relocating refugees. A plan to redistribute 40,000 refugees begins with a group of Eritreans in Italy who will travel by plane to Sweden. Migration authorities have not said how many refugees are traveling today, but Sweden has agreed to accept 821 refugees from Italy.

Nepal reaches the deadline to appoint a prime minister. The country’s constitution dictates that a new head of government be appointed today, a week after parliament’s session began. With at least one major party refusing to participate, it’s unlikely that the politicians will reach a consensus—meaning that Nepal’s president will resort to calling for a majority vote.

The Draconid meteor shower returns to Earth. Tendrils of debris from a comet will hit Earth’s atmosphere, resulting in an estimated 600 meteors per hour. Some satellites could be damaged during the storm, but the International Space Station should be just fine.

While you were sleeping

The Nobel Peace Prize went to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet. The quartet—made of legal, human rights, labor, and trade and industry groups—were chosen for their work in the “building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia” following the 2011 revolution that kicked off the Arab Spring. They formed a “peaceful political process” that averted the threat of civil war in the country, the Nobel committee said.

France confirmed it hit Syria with more airstrikes. Fighter planes destroyed an ISIL training camp in Raqqa, in the country’s north, and more attacks will follow, defense minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Europe 1 radio. The purpose was to attack camps that France believes are training fighters to bring violence to mainland Europe, Le Drian said.

There’s a second US investigation into Volkswagen. Federal and California regulators have begun an investigation into a second computer program in VW’s diesel cars (paywall), which are at the heart of an emissions scandal that has rocked the car company. VW has withdrawn its 2016 models of its diesel cars from environmental certification.

Glencore announced cuts to zinc production and jobs. The Swiss-based mining giant—which has been pummelled by financial markets recently—will slash production by 500,000 tonnes (551,200 tons), or 4% of global supply, to counteract prices falling to multiyear lows. The announcement, along with 500 job cuts that will mainly affect Australian workers, sent the price of zinc up by 6%.

Canada’s government admitted to meddling with Syrian asylum applications. Prime minister Stephen Harper intervened in one Syrian refugee’s application for asylum and ordered an audit of every UN-referred Syrian refugee (paywall), causing a delay to the application process. The admission has put asylum back in to the national conversation, ahead of a federal election later this month.

Libya responded skeptically to a UN-proposed unity government. Ministers from both the Islamist-backed government in Tripoli and the internationally recognized government in the nation’s east rejected a UN power-sharing deal that includes representatives from all regions. Both parliaments must agree to the arrangement for it to go ahead.

A study found a new demographic time bomb in China. A third of all men currently under 20 years old will die prematurely due to high rates of smoking, according to a major study published in the Lancet. Two-thirds of young Chinese men smoke; by 2030, up to two million smokers could die every year from smoking-related illnesses.

Quartz obsession interlude

Thu-Huong Ha on how turning authors into celebrities is bad for reading. “Literary prizes reward artistic brilliance. They help writers earn a semblance of a viable living. But is the public’s attendant fascination with prize-winning authors healthy? Our laurel-heaping impulse seems increasingly to contribute to a culture of turning authors into celebrities, where readers follow the author instead of the book.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Microsoft can’t decide if it wants to kill the laptop or revive it. Hedging bets might be the right thing to do.

Creative thinking is an acquired skill. It requires practice and a willingness to be embarrassed.

There is only one word to characterize the world’s reaction to the refugee crisis: indifference (paywall).

To overcome procrastination, be more selfish. How much will you personally benefit by completing a task?

Name-dropping never hurts. Even gratuitous mentions of famous people help break the ice with new contacts.

Surprising discoveries

Researchers have reconstructed part of a rat brain in a computer. It’s part of a project that eventually wants to recreate a digital human brain (paywall).

A lake in India is so polluted that it sometimes catches fire. The toxic froth in Bangalore is covered in a flammable foam.

“Phone pinching” is going viral. Take a picture of your expensive gadget in peril, held just barely between thumb and forefinger.

Geese are the best weed-killers. Savvy farmers are deploying feathered flocks instead of goats or pesticides.

Twitter is helping geologists detect earthquakes. Social media can sound the alarm where seismic sensors are lacking.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, weed-killing geese, and pictures of your phone in peril to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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