Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—South Korean election, Time’s Person of the Year, and Plan B for the fiscal cliff

December 18, 2012
December 18, 2012

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

South Korea’s national elections pit the ruling, conservative Saenuri party candidate Park Geun-hye against Moon Jae-in of the progressive opposition Democratic Unity Party (DUP). Park, the daughter of former South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee, would be the first woman to lead South Korea if she wins the election. Moon, a former human rights lawyer who spent time in jail for challenging Park’s father, appears to have the support of the younger set. The latest polls ahead of the election showed the candidates roughly neck-and-neck.

Time Magazine will announce its person of the year. Last year, the US news magazine made a controversial decision to award this distinction to “The Protester.” This year’s shortlist includes Pakistani girls’ education activist Mala Yousafzai, US President Barack Obama, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Apple CEO Tim Cook , and the Higgs Boson particle–along with the three scientists who discovered it.

While you were sleeping

China is concerned about the election of Japan’s new prime minister, Shinzo Abe. State-run newspaper China Daily responded to Japan’s election with a scathing editorial cautioning that Abe and his Liberal Democratic Party could “destabilize East Asia” with “hawkish” defense policies. Most economists have cheered a leader who appears to favor pushing activist monetary policy to stem Japan’s deflation spiral.

Standard & Poor’s upgraded Greece by six notches. S&P lifted Greece’s rating from “selective default” to B- with a stable outlook, nine months after Greece became the first developed economy to default in 60 years. “The upgrade reflects our view of the strong determination of euro zone member states to preserve Greek membership,” the ratings agency said in a statement. Economists and investors have become increasingly convinced that Greece will stay with the struggling currency, even though the country is projected to enter its sixth year of recession in 2013.

The US Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) charged TheStreet.com, a popular online financial news outlet, with fraud. The SEC alleges that three executives at TheStreet filed false financial reports throughout 2008 in conjunction with a subsidiary it had recently acquired. The regulator charged Gregg Alwine and David Barnett–executives of the subsidiary–with entering into “sham transactions with friendly counterparties that had little or no economic substance,” and alleged TheStreet’s former chief financial officer caused the company to report revenue before it had been earned.

US Republicans proposed a “Plan B” for the fiscal cliff. With less than two weeks left until the new year and the onset of the fiscal cliff, Republicans led by Speaker John Boehner informed the White House that they intended to vote on a bill that would hike taxes for those earning incomes above $1 million and cut spending by $1 trillion. President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats have marked the bill “dead on arrival,” saying it still places an unfair burden on the poor.

US exchanges NYSE Euronext and NASDAQ testified against dark pools. The exchanges told US legislators today that electronic communication networks (ECNs), which divert some trades away from traditional markets, are damaging to investors. These so-called “dark pools” give traders new tools to mask their behavior–and they also happen to be a threat to traditional exchanges’ business.

Quartz obsession interlude

Christopher Mims on how guns became gadgets: “Guns, unlike almost every other technology, are unique in that the more they improve, the less safe they become…The AR-15 shows how guns have become gadgets, thanks to technological change and an army of fanboys connected over the Internet. It’s a military weapon in the hands of civilians, so exquisitely designed that it might as well have been invented in Cupertino by Apple. It’s the iPhone 5 of guns, only instead of an app ecosystem, it has an ecosystem of parts and ammunition designed to make it as effective as possible.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The key to victory in South Korea. A deeper look at the strategic and demographic implications of the South Korean election.

A future of crisis for Europe. Economist Nouriel Roubini argues that the big test for the euro area is still ahead.

Keynes is dead. Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs argues that Keynesian economists–who argue that governments and central banks should temper booms and busts through spending and monetary policy–are in uncharted territory (paywall).

Surprising discoveries

Two German researchers think that Germany could soon become a truffle exporter. They discovered that Germany is a prime location for growing the fungal delicacies.

Police have made three arrests in a massive maple syrup robbery in Quebec. They’ve also recovered two-thirds of the maple syrup that was stolen.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, feedback, and promising truffle-farming locations to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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