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Quartz Daily Brief—Asia Edition—Cliff dive, hara-kiri, BP’s fine, bakhsheesh

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Barack and John discuss Cliff: President Barack Obama is set to meet Friday with John Boehner, a leader of the Republican opposition, in order to start the horse-trading that will hopefully lead to a budget deal. Such an agreement is crucial if the US economy is to avoid the impact of automatic tax increases and spending cuts—the so-called fiscal cliff—that will occur by Jan. 1, and may send the US back into recession. Don’t expect much progress; there are still some six weeks to go, though only 13 working Congressional days, which makes it a bit tricker.

Japan’s government commits hara-kiri. Prime minister Yoshihiko Noda will formally dissolve parliament, calling elections for Dec. 16, which the opposition Liberal Democratic Party is expected to win. The result, says one analyst, is going to be a “bloodbath” for Noda’s Democratic Party of Japan, which had been the first to defeat the LDP in half a century. The DPJ had struggled to revive the economy, and agreed to an election in return for the LDP’s agreement to issue bonds to finance the budget deficit.

David Petraeus does something almost as painful. The ex-head of the CIA, a week after resigning over an extra-marital affair, will give his closed-door testimony before a Congressional intelligence committee trying to determine why the US failed to prevent the attack that killed its ambassador and three other members of its diplomatic mission to Libya in September.

While you were sleeping

The euro zone is back in recession, or at least very close. The 17-country monetary bloc’s economy looks like it slipped back into contraction during the third quarter for the second time since 2009. And practically no one is surprised.

Mideast violence escalated. Israel pressed forward with its air campaign on Gaza, as Hamas retaliated for Israel’s killing of a Hamas military leader by firing rockets at Israeli towns, two of which fell near Tel Aviv. The Israeli army is preparing to call up as many as 30,000 reservists. The first 24 hours of the conflict has left 16 dead in Gaza and three in Israel.

BP agrees to a record penalty for Gulf oil spill. The British oil giant has settled with US authorities on $4.5 billion in fines and agreed to plead guilty to 11 felony counts over the April 2010 blowout in the Macondo oil well, which killed 11 people and was the worst offshore spill in US history. It got off relatively lightly, though; by settling it has managed to avoid gross negligence charges and a fine that could have been four times as high.

Wal-Mart’s excites in the third quarter and disappoints in the fourth. Reported profits for the third quarter beat analysts’ estimates, but the stock slid after officials projected fourth-quarter results that were less optimistic. The company also disclosed that an internal probe, which it began after allegations that it had bribed officials in Mexico is spreading. The company is now looking at potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in Brazil, India and China as well.

Quartz obsession interlude

Given Wal-Mart’s woes, Tim Fernholz offers advice on how to legally bribe an official of a foreign country. “Gifts that have gotten people in trouble: Sports cars, fur coats, country club memberships, generators, cell phone bills, limousine services, and trips to tourist traps where you don’t have company facilities, like Hawaii, Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, Disney World, Universal Studios, and New York City.” However, “facilitated payments”, what in other countries might be called bakhsheesh, are allowed. Read more here.

Matters of debate

Why aren’t we all using Japanese toilets? They are awesome and by rights should have conquered the world already.

Four reasons why Republicans lost, but could conceivably win again, someday… maybe.

If Karl Marx were alive today, he’d be a banker.

When you hear officials or executives use either the phrase “black swan” or “perfect storm,” think “lame excuse.”

Obama needs to push the country to the brink of the fiscal cliff and scream, “Say I won’t!”

Surprising discoveries

The president of Uruguay lives like a poor farmer.

People prefer to pay with clean crisp bills, rather than rattier pieces of currency that have a higher face value.

The US Senate now has a record number of women members, but it can’t legislate enough toilets for them.

The secret to perpetual youth is buying your own groceries, apparently.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, queries, facilitated payments, and lame excuses to hi@qz.com or hit “Reply” to this email.

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