Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—South Korean election, Plan B for the fiscal cliff, truffles

December 19, 2012
December 19, 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 Malala 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

US gun lobby group broke its silence. The National Rifle Association reemerged after four days of unusual silence following last week’s school killings in Connecticut, announcing a press conference, restarting its Twitter feed, reactivating its Facebook page and declaring that it “is prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again.”

Japanese exports slid further. Shipments from the world’s third-largest economy slipped 4.1% in November from a year ago, adding to expectations that the Bank of Japan will expand monetary stimulus measures when it ends a policy meeting on Wednesday.

Amex chief considered for Treasury. White House officials have been in discussions with Kenneth Chenault, chief executive of American Express, about the possibility of him succeeding Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner or taking up another post in the President Obama’s new cabinet, such as commerce secretary.

Facebook founder made a big gift. Mark Zuckerberg donated 18 million Facebook shares, now worth roughly $500 million, to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which focuses on health and education issues. The Facebook book chief executive earlier gave $100 million to help public schools in Newark, New Jersey.

Instagram backed off on photo sales. Facing an uproar among its users, the Facebook-owned photo sharing service said it would revise its proposed new usage terms to remove language that would allow it to sell users’ photos.

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.

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 missile designs to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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