Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Obama’s new cabinet, ditching Dimon, Abe and Putin talks

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What to watch for today

New Obama appointments. Billionaire Obama fundraiser Penny Pritzker is the president’s likely pick for commerce secretary, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx will reportedly be his new transportation secretary, and White House staffer Michael Froman is expected to be nominated as the new US trade representative. Now they just have to survive the Senate confirmation process.

France unveils its five-year military strategy… The world’s sixth-biggest defense spender is looking to trim costs amid budget pressures. International bases and manpower look vulnerable to cuts, and French arms makers fear the new five-year blueprint will signal leaner times.

…And announces capital gains tax cuts. Seeking to forestall entrepreneur flight, President Francois Hollande will announce capital gains exemptions up to 85% for startup investors and owners.

Abe and Putin talk rocks. When he landed in Moscow on Sunday, Shinzo Abe became the first Japanese prime minister to visit Russia in a decade. His visit, which lasts until tomorrow, focuses in part on a territorial despite between the two countries. Unsurprisingly, it’s another bunch of islands.

Watchfest 2013. The largest annual watch show is underway in Basel, Switzerland. Swiss watchmakers had exports worth $23.5 billion last year, up nearly 11% from the year before. Here are some of the coolest watches at Baselworld, including one that’s liquid filled and has no watch hands.

Big day for the automobile industry. Fiat, Chrysler and Volkswagen all report earnings today.

The Shanghai stock exchange is closed through Wednesday for the Labor Day holiday.

Over the weekend

Another big Dimon defection. JP Morgan co-chief operating officer Frank Bisignano is leaving the bank to join First Data Corporation, the latest in a string of high-level departures from CEO Jamie Dimon’s inner circle. Matt Zames will become sole COO.

An explosion in Prague. A blast in the center of the Czech capital has damaged a building and injured at least 13 people. Several more may still be trapped in the rubble; a police spokesman told Reuters the explosion was probably caused by gas.

 Greece passed a law allowing it to fire civil servants. As many as 15,000 civil servants who have been disciplined for corrupt or incompetence, or work for defunct agencies, will lose their jobs by the end of next year.

Bangladeshi authorities arrested the owner of Rana Plaza. Sohel Rana, whose building collapsed last week and killed nearly 400 people, was trying to escape to India.

Bayer bets on birth control. The German pharmaceutical firm agreed to buy US contraceptive device maker Conceptus for $1.1 billion, a premium of about 20% on Friday’s share price.

Boeing’s 787 hit the skies again. Ethiopian Airlines made the first commercial flight of the plane (paywall) since its grounding in January because of battery fires. The flight, along with a Sunday test flight by All Nippon Airways, went well, but Boeing still needs to convince passengers the Dreamliner is safe.

Iceland’s days of austerity are numbered.  Voters ousted the Social Democrats on Saturday, paving the way for a center-right coalition looking to bring an end to austerity measures and to push debt relief measures for consumers.

More bloodshed in the run-up to Pakistan’s election. The Taliban continued to wreak havoc, setting off fatal explosions outside the offices of two candidates. Polls open May 11th, but if the militant violence is successful, it may keep many Pakistanis from voting at all.

Quartz obsession interlude

Christopher Mims on how could do to enterprise cloud companies what it did to book stores: “In a world in which consumers are grabbing more data from the internet than ever, the cloud services that many companies rely on are an ever larger part of their budgets. In that context, Amazon’s low price guarantee may be too compelling for even large enterprises to pass up.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

MBAs are far from obsolete. In fact, they’re now more important than ever.

…unlike iTunes. On its 10th birthday, Apple’s once-innovative buy-and-own model is now an anachronism.

There are no Gandhis or Lincolns anymore. Salman Rushdie on why political courage is more ambiguous these days.

Economics is nothing without psychology.

Europe’s expected interest rate cut this week isn’t going to make a difference.

Surprising discoveries

Italy’s pizzaioili shortage. Despite high unemployment, the birthplace of pizza has to import pizza makers from Egypt.

An algorithm can tell you if a film will make money. But not whether it’s actually any good.

Hockey night in India. Why a Canadian hockey anthem is sung in Punjabi.

The US, China, Ecuador and Madagascar all have the same relative income disparity between rich and poor.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, pizzaioilo job applications and cool watch wishlists to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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