What to watch for today
December 20 will be UPS’s busiest day of the year. The shipping giant expects to handle 28 million packages on its busiest day, or 324 packages per second. That dwarfs the more than 220 packages per second FedEx projected it would handle on its busiest day ever, December 10, 2012. Preliminary data suggest that FedEx actually handled more packages than that on its busiest day.
Unusual tectonic activity. If the Mayans were right—and the Earth will be covered in lava on December 21, 2012—then you might want to keep an eye on this monitor of seismic activity from the US Geological Service. It stands to reason that we’d be seeing earthquakes 24 hours in advance.
While you were sleeping
Conservative Park Geun-hye won an election to become South Korea’s first female president. Park, the daughter of Cold War-era dictator Park Chung-hee, narrowly defeated former human rights lawyer Moon Jae-in. She also became northeast Asia’s first female head of state. In her acceptance speech, Park promised to “start an era of happiness” in Asia’s fourth-largest economic powerhouse. South Korea has been plagued by income inequality, more costly exports, and ongoing tensions with North Korea.
Regulators in the US, UK, and Switzerland announced that they will press criminal charges against two former UBS traders accused of manipulating the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), an important financial benchmark. They will also assess a $1.5 billion charge against the Swiss bank. The fact that regulators will seek individual, felony charges against traders accused of manipulating LIBOR is significant. Further, documents made public Tuesday indicated that the manipulation extended far beyond mere attempts to preserve the bank’s reputation during the financial crisis.
Time Magazine named US President Barack Obama as its “Person of the Year.” It also declared him the “Architect of a New America,” crediting the president and his campaign teams for bringing a younger, more diverse American populace to the polls both in 2008 and 2012. At Quartz, we think that the American corporation would have been a better choice for the Time title.
Obama tapped Vice President John Biden to head a task force on gun control. The task force is a direct reaction to the mass shooting that took place at a Connecticut elementary school last week that left 28 people dead, 20 of them children. The president announced that he would propose new policies in his State of the Union address in January.
US auto manufacturer General Motors announced it would repurchase 200 million shares of its stock from the Treasury. The US government bailed out GM in 2009 after it filed for bankruptcy. However, taxpayers stand to lose about $10 billion if the government continues to sell off its shares at a loss.
An Argentinian vessel held up by a hedge fund in Ghana has finally set sail for home. NML Capital had convinced the Ghanian courts to detain the Navy tall ship—called the Libertad—on grounds that the government of Argentina still owed it $370 million after defaulting on those debts in 2002. The UN Tribunal for the Law of the Sea ordered Ghana to release the ship on Saturday.
Quartz obsession interlude
Tim Fernholz explains why we chose the American corporation as our “person” of the year: “As global economies struggle for growth, the only institutions showing much adaptability to the world-spanning economy are multinational companies that operate in many jurisdictions, seizing opportunities and extracting value at will. People are limited by their physicality, their mortality and, in some cases, an unwillingness to make quarterly earnings their guiding principle. The corporate person as a globe-spanning abstraction, potentially immortal and amorally efficient, is by far the better symbol of our times.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
The end of the line for Germany? The economic superpower long relied on emerging market growth to fuel domestic growth, but the euro zone crisis could reverse that tide.
Why there are more and more professors of entrepreneurship but fewer startups. The ties between “animal spirits” and startups.
Chinese innovators are increasingly hanging out in “hackerspaces.” Even the Chinese government is getting behind these DIY playgrounds.
The first recorded sounds of holiday cheer. Curators at the National Museum of London believe they’ve found 110 year-old recordings of a family Christmas celebration.
Scientists have discovered a new primate species in Borneo. Click for cute pictures of the nocturnal creature.