Quartz Daily Brief – Americas Edition – Cliff-diving, City of London shrinks, Geneva snubs rich, Marx

November 16, 2012
November 16, 2012

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Barack and John discuss Cliff. US President Barack Obama is set to meet with John Boehner, a leader of the Republican opposition, in order to start the horse-trading that will with any luck 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. Here is a Quartz backgrounder on what Obama needs to fix in the economy.

David Petraeus testifies. 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.

City of London shrinks. A Reuters analysis shows the bulk of banks’ planned layoffs will be in Europe, while the US and Asia look relatively safe. One senior London banker told Reuters that businesses such as cash equities—probably because of the lackluster FTSE— are “pretty dead”. Trading synthetic instruments may not be a completely transferable skill. But some of the City’s pin-striped brigade are already attempting new careers, from setting up dance schools to micro-brewing.

Asian tycoons battle it out for Singaporean soda firm. Two of Asia’s richest men, Singapore’s Stephen Riady and Thailand’s Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, have started a multibillion dollar bidding war for Singaporea’s Fraser & Neave. The sprawling conglomerate produces soft drinks such as the popular carbonated sports drink “100 Plus”, and also has food and real estate arms. The value probably lies in breaking up the business. Japanese food and drinks maker Kirin has already offered to buy F&N’s food and drinks divisions.

While you were sleeping

Japan’s government commits hara-kiri. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has formally dissolved parliament and called 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.

Apple claimed it invented the Galaxy Note. Samsung alleged it invented the iPhone 5. In its ongoing round of claims against its Korean rival, Apple was permitted by a US federal judge to add patent-infringement claims against the Samsung Galaxy Note, the US version of the Galaxy S III and the Jelly Bean version of Google’s Android mobile software. Samsung, meanwhile, was given permission by the same court to add the iPhone 5 to its infringement claims against Apple.

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 rockets 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 have left 16 dead in Gaza and three dead in Israel.

BBC settled false child abuse claims. The publicly-funded UK broadcaster paid £185,000 plus costs to Lord McAlpine, a Conservative party peer, after airing a documentary that led to him being wrongly accused of child abuse. The disastrous affair led to the BBC’s new director general, George Entwistle, resigning after only 54 days on the job. Some BBC staffers have blamed the journalistic blunder on budget cuts. McAlpine’s lawyers also warned they have a “long list” of other parties to sue after Twitter users and even a popular British chat show stoked the rumors.

France said ‘pffft’ to the Economist. The magazine’s cover story calling France the “timebomb at the heart of Europe” has caused an explosion in public displays of hauteur among senior French politicians. Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg said on Europe 1 radio that the Economist is the “Charlie Hebdo of the City,” referring to the small-circulation satirical weekly. The whole of France, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said in an interview, “is not at all impressed.”

Quartz obsession interlude

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

US banks are still not lending enough, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says.

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 the US presidential election, 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“.

Goldman Sachs still has too many partners. The bank just promoted fewer mortals to the overlord class than in past years, but needs to tighten its Gucci belt.

Geneva might tell rich foreigners to go away. Private bankers in Geneva are livid at proposals to scrap tax breaks for rich foreigners, which some say has turned the Swiss city into a place of soul-less luxury boutiques and, of course, private banks.

Obama needs to push the US 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.

China’s youth find domestic politics a big yawn.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, queries, facilitated payments, and lame excuses to hi@qz.com.

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