Quartz Daily Brief – Europe Edition – Goldman Sachs, iPhone sales, Cairo crisis, sleep-texting

November 28, 2012
November 28, 2012

Good morning Quartz readers in Europe!

What to watch for today: 

Whose side will Goldman Sachs be on? Lloyd Blankfein, the bank’s CEO, is meeting President Barack Obama to talk about the fiscal cliff. The White House is campaigning for support from Blankfein and other business leaders in pressuring the US Congress to extend tax cuts for middle-class Americans while ending them for the wealthier.

SAC tries to explain itself. The $14 billion hedge fund will reportedly hold a conference call with investors to discuss the arrest of one of its portfolio managers last week on an insider-trading charge.

US legislators debate “internet fairness.” The music industry is preparing to face off against music-streaming services such as Pandora over a bill that would lower the royalties streaming sites have to pay to music labels, an issue that could do a lot to determine how musicians make their money in the future.

Tobacco firms may start making costly apologies for “lying.” A US judge has ruled the cigarette industry “deliberately deceived” the public for decades. Major tobacco companies must now spend their own money on advertisements set to run for two years admitting they lied, the ruling said. The decision may lead to more litigation if tobacco firms decide to appeal.

Albanians celebrate independence with bizarre lamb slaughtering ritual. Barring an unlikely last minute change of plan, the Southern European country will be offending vegetarians and scaring lots of sheep today when it marks 100 years of independence from the Ottoman empire with the mass ritual sacrifice. The tradition has stirred debate and protest in the country, with opponents saying it is an embarrassment and suggesting Albania celebrate nicer things about itself, such as being the birthplace of Mother Theresa.

While you were sleeping:

America decided not to call China a currency manipulator after all. The US Treasury said the renminbi is still undervalued, but that China has allowed its currency to appreciate 9.7% since 2010 and is intervening less in its exchange markets. This is non-news. The Obama administration has consistently refused to call China that name. Mitt Romney (the daredevil) had vowed he would say the words “China” and “currency manipulator” in the same sentence on his very first day in office, had he got elected. But Obama fears saying the China policy version of “Macbeth!” would be a bad omen for US companies doing business in the middle kingdom.

Crisis continued in Cairo. Tens of thousands of protestors swarmed the Egyptian capital to continue voicing their opposition to President Morsi’s decision to grant himself sweeping new powers. Morsi has likely misjudged the people’s tolerance for authoritarian rule.

US stocks fell as investors worried about the impact of the US fiscal cliff on the world economy. White House and congressional leaders continue to negotiate this week over the automatic tax increases and spending cuts. Surprisingly businesses seem less scared.

Apple’s iPhone outsold Android phones in the US. The spike in iPhone sales for the latest quarter is related to the release of the iPhone 5; normally, Android-based phones sell more. But Quartz’s Christopher Mims argues that this could be the last time Apple phones outpace those based on Google’s operating system.

Singaporean company launched 45-page defense against short seller. Olam International, a commodities firm part owned by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek, published an extremely lengthy rebuttal of claims made by short seller Muddy Waters questioning its accounting practices. Muddy Waters last year published detailed fraud accusations against the now discredited Canadian-Chinese company Sino-Forest, which filed for bankruptcy protection in March.

Tajikistan de-friends Facebook. The country’s office of telecommunications said it ordered the social media site blocked because of “slanderous” content about President Emomali Rakhmon.

Quartz obsession interlude: 

Tim Fernholz on Obama’s plan to finance at least $6 billion in energy-related exports to Asian countries: “President Obama has insisted since his first term that the US is now a Pacific power, seeking deeper ties with the region’s fast-growing markets while keeping a wary eye on the balance of power with China. But if you examine his trip to the region right after his re-election, what America’s “pivot to Asia” provides is an opportunity for the Obama team to do abroad what it can’t do at home—finance investments that benefit US jobs.” Read more here.

Matters of debate:

“Digitally backward” Australian retailers will lose Christmas sales. Consumers are looking for online deals from overseas.

Greece’s got its aid package, but that doesn’t mean it’s all clear sailing. “European finance ministers now have to return to their home countries to get approval to make the next round of dispersals to Greece,” writes Peter Tchir.

Aung San Suu Kyi is a politician now, not an activist, and that means she has to choose her sides carefully.

It’s time to start a colony on Mars. Elon Musk, CEO of the spaceflight company SpaceX, says it would be the beginning of a “self-sustaining civilization.” He’s offering to help by taking explorers to the planet for a mere $500,000 a trip.

Democrats and Republicans should adopt each others’ tax plans. Or better still, stop talking about income taxes altogether, which are largely irrelevant to the debate about ending the deficit.

Surprising discoveries:

More people are sending text messages in their sleepThat’s one more reason to stop taking the iPhone or Blackberry to bed.

Chinese hackers may have spent three years attacking a small, family owned California company. Allegedly the cyber intimidation by a Chinese group linked to the country’s military began after the little company complained China had appropriated its software.

Silicon Valley is ageist. (Another one for “unsurprising discoveries.”)

Wearing “V for Vendetta” masks, the symbol of international hacker collective Anonymous, is now illegal in Dubai.

The US fiscal cliff ruins even the lottery. The $500 million Powerball lottery prize could be dented by tax increases. On the other hand, now is your best chance of winning it.

Also today:

New home sales are out in the US, a measure of the economy’s recovery. Data from Thailand on manufacturing production for October are due to be released. And after sunset, those in the eastern hemisphere will be able to see a penumbral eclipse, when the moon slides through the earth’s outer shadow.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, queries, feedback, and suggestions for Albanian independence celebrations to hi@qz.com.

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