Quartz Daily Brief—Europe Edition—iPhone 5 in China, $25 tablets in India, Damascus, bendy phones

November 30, 2012
November 30, 2012

Good morning, Quartz readers! 

What to watch for today:

A final German stamp of approval for Greece. The Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament, is expected to approve a €44 billion package of bailout money for Greece that has been delayed since June and finally negotiated this week.

Constitutional fallout in Egypt. Expect new demonstrations in Cairo against President Mohammed Morsi after the president’s Islamist party pushed a draft constitution through its constitutional assembly yesterday.

More ominous signs from Damascus. Authorities in the capital of Syria yesterday cut off all internet services, presumably in hopes of quelling ongoing protests. This chart illustrates the sudden blackout. The continuing internet shutdown “may signal escalating war,” the Washington Post commented, and has “sparked fears that President Bashar al-Assad could be preparing to take even harsher action against Syrian opposition forces, which have recently made significant advances in the battle against the government.”

Asia’s biggest rights offering of the year. Thailand’s biggest publicly traded oil and gas exploration company, PTT Exploration & Production PCL, sells shares on the Stock Exchange of Thailand in an attempt to raise $3.1 billion in the region’s biggest equity offering so far in 2012.

A rebound for Brazil. Official GDP figures for Brazil, the slowest-growing economy of the BRIC countries, is likely to show the economy expanded 1.2% in the third quarter from the previous one. That puts the country on track to enter the new year with 4% annualized growth, according to its finance minister.

Aussies and Brits get new games. Nintendo launches the Wii U, a videogame console with a touch-screen controller and high-def graphics, in the UK and Australia at midnight Thursday-to-Friday in each country. It was launched in the US earlier this month and the initial shipment of 400,000 units sold out in a week.

While you were sleeping:

The UN recognised Palestine. To the disappointment of Israel, the US and Canada, the UN upgraded Palestine to what it calls a “non-member observer state”, the same status as the Vatican. Palestine will not be able to vote on UN resolutions. But it can now gain access to the International Criminal Court, where it could now file war crimes charges against the Israeli government and officials. Here is Quartz’s breakdown of how UN members voted on the Palestine upgrade compared with their votes on Israeli statehood in 1947.

China allowed the iPhone 5 into the country… After a really long wait that had seen Apple’s share of the Chinese smartphone market slip, Beijing regulators approved the latest iPhone for domestic consumption. Expect sales to be brisk. Apple products are a big status symbol for China’s emerging middle class. When the company’s Beijing store did not open on time on the day the iPhone 4S was launched, furious would-be shoppers rioted and threw eggs.

…while also defending a handful of its citizens’ human rights. Singapore has arrested some Chinese immigrants for allegedly taking part in a bus drivers’ strike in the city-state. The Beijing government has expressed serious concerns. Maybe China really is moving—very slowly—towards human rights and democracy. But this is the same country which, in 2010, jailed Australian citizen and Rio Tinto employee Stern Hu for ten years and did not allow officials from Canberra (video) to attend Hu’s closed-door trial.

Thai company launched Asia’s biggest rights offering of the year. Thailand’s biggest publicly traded oil and gas exploration company, PTT Exploration & Production PCL, said it would sell shares on the Stock Exchange of Thailand, aiming to raise $3.1 billion in the region’s biggest equity offering so far in 2012.

Mitt and Barack lunched at the White House. President Barack Obama and his former rival Mitt Romney met for the first since the last presidential debate. According to notes from the White House press office, they discussed how to maintain American leadership in the world. What was for lunch? The menu included turkey chili and chicken salad.

Investors were kinda, sorta optimistic that the US would avoid the fiscal cliff. Stocks rose modestly after congressional Republican leader John Boehner said there had been “no substantive progress” on a deal to avoid a slew of tax increases and spending cuts that could push the country into another recession. Meanwhile, US preliminary GDP for the third quarter turned out to be not all that terrible.

Brinkmanship on the high seas. Somali pirates said they would start killing hostages on a ship kidnapped off the coast of Oman in March. The governments of India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Bangladesh have until tomorrow to pay $2 million ransom, the pirates said.

Quartz obsession interlude: 

Christopher Mims on the $25 tablet computer and the Mobile Web: “Six billion cell phone subscriptions are spread across five billion of the earth’s seven billion people, says Suneet Tuli, CEO of Datawind, maker of the world’s cheapest tablet computer. Yet only two billion people are connected to the internet, which means three billion people have everything they need to connect to the internet—except a suitable device.” Read more here.

Matters of debate:

The bipolar nature of the US economy. In a surprising role reversal, American businesses are pessimistic about the future of the economy while consumers are becoming more positive.

Secession is the new black. “For years, secession movements have only interested staunch nationalists, reclusive cranks, and geopolitics dorks such as this author. But for a host of economic and social reasons, secession has been creeping back into the news with interesting regularity,” writes Eric Garland.

The future of job creation lies in startups. In the US, new companies are more likely to create jobs than established firms.

What’s in a map? The recent rows between China, India and Southeast Asian nations over maps used in China’s new passports demonstrate just how political and subjective map-making can be.

Surprising discoveries:

Bendy phones are coming. Companies including Samsung are developing flexible phones that users will be able to roll, drop, squish and step on without damaging them. Arrival could be as early as next year.

There is enough water on Mercury to turn the capital of the United States into an ice cube. A NASA spacecraft has found enough ice on Mercury to encase Washington, DC in a block of frozen water two-and-a-half miles deep.

It costs more to buy a latte from Starbucks in China than it does in New York City. Earlier this year, Starbucks announced it would raise its prices in China on hot chocolate, fresh-brewed coffee and espresso drinks—increasing a tall latte’s cost to around $4.20, Quartz’s Lauren Alix Brown writes.

Too much exercise might be bad for your heart. It is not exactly the news couch potatoes have been waiting for. Researchers say it remains safe to exercise for up to 50 minutes daily. But running marathons regularly is also not good for you, they say.

The sea has risen. Ice sheets near the north and south poles have made ocean levels rise by an average of about 11 millimeters (almost half an inch) between 1992 and 2011.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, queries, White House lunch menus and secession candidates to hi@qz.com,  or hit “Reply” to this email.

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