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Pick up service staffs wait for passengers at an arrival hall at Narita international airport on the first day of closed borders to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus Omicron variant amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Narita, east of Tokyo, Japan.
Image copyright: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Japan was among the first countries to restrict travel in response to the new coronavirus variant, omicron. Oil markets plunged on fears of a global lockdown.

Here’s what you need to know

Omicron was in Europe at least 11 days ago. The Netherlands confirmed cases from almost a week before South Africa identified the variant. Separately, Japan announced its first omicron case. Meanwhile, Greece is making vaccines mandatory for those aged 60 and over, and the UK will start offering booster shots to all adults within two months.

The EU is rolling out a €300 billion ($341 billion) global infrastructure plan. Though not officially a competitor to China’s Belt and Road initiative, Global Gateway is intended to help the bloc flex its influence around the world.

The UK blocked Meta’s acquisition of Giphy. Facebook’s parent was ordered to sell the gif-sharing site.

Euro zone inflation keeps breaking records. The annual rate hit 4.9% in November, the highest since records began in 1997. Meanwhile, Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell said the Fed could start tapering earlier than planned in 2022 if inflation stays high.

India’s economy is recovering. GDP grew 8.4% in the second quarter as the country shakes off the effects of its devastating second wave of covid-19.

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What to watch for

The latest beige book, a US report published eight times a year that summarizes anecdotes on current economic conditions, is coming out Wednesday. It’ll show how businesses have been faring in 12 different US regions split up by 12 different Federal Reserve banks.

As the US Federal Reserve enters into a period of monetary tightening that started with reducing how many bonds it buys each month (called tapering), the beige book will help members of the Federal Open Markets Committee (FOMC) assess how quickly the central bank should taper and when it should raise interest rates in response to higher prices.

The last beige book (pdf) took a look at labor shortages, supply chain disruptions, and covid-19 uncertainty. The next book will likely touch on some of the same themes.

Three challenges for Twitter’s new CEO

While it’s tough to predict what Parag Agrawal will be like as Twitter’s new top executive, it’s easy to see the challenges he’ll face as he assumes responsibility for one of the world’s largest social media platforms, with more than 5,500 employees and a market cap of $36.6 billion.

  • Challenge 1: Following in a founder’s wake. While a break from founders is what former CEO Jack Dorsey wanted, it won’t be easy for Agrawal.
  • Challenge 2: Hitting Twitter’s growth targets. Goals include growing users by 20% annually through 2023, doubling yearly revenue to $7.5 billion, and ramping up products.
  • Challenge 3: Taking on misinformation. Agrawal favors a nuanced approach, and has acknowledged that relying on automation to detect fake news is flawed.

Two truths and a lie about Japanese whisky

Image copyright: Photography by Eric Helgas; styling by Alex Citrin-Safadi

After spending decades in relative obscurity, Japanese whisky is finally getting global appreciation for its masterful flavors. Which of these facts is actually a falsehood?

  • A buyer paid $435,273 for a bottle of whisky at a Sotheby’s auction last year
  • The cost of Japanese whisky keeps rising
  • All Japanese whisky comes from Japan

Find out in the latest episode of the Quartz Obsession podcast.

🥃 Drink up all this season’s episodes on Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google | Stitcher

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Surprising discoveries

Mall Santas are in short supply. There’s been a 121% increase in demand in the US on, but 10% fewer impersonators are donning the red suit this year.

Climate change is wrecking albatross relationships. The birds, which usually mate for life, are more likely to ditch their partner when the oceans are warmer.

Solar wind likely created Earth’s water. New research suggests hydrogen ions from the Sun formed water on tiny dust particles, which later crashed into our planet.

A decentralized autonomous organization is trying to buy an NBA team. So far the group has raised around $2 million worth of crypto of the more than $1.5 billion it will need.

“Living robots” made from frog stem cells found a way to reproduce. Paging Jeff Goldblum.

Let’s not part ways. Stick around and check out our latest stories.

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