Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Apple snags Burberry CEO, Senate debt deal, Iran nuke talks, NSA buddy lists

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What to watch for today

A partial Congressional compromise. Senators from both parties are close to a deal to re-open the US government until January 15 and raise the debt limit until February, creating time to conclude negotiations on budget policy. But the proposal could still flounder in the House, and the debt ceiling deadline is only two days away.

Iran starts nuclear negotiations in Geneva with six major powers. President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, wants to get rid of international sanctions on his country, but back home, conservatives are protesting against talks with the West.

A suspected al Qaeda operative appears in New York federal court. Abu Anas al Libi, who is accused of playing a role in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Africa, was apprehended in Libya ten days ago.

Switzerland tackles tax evasion. The world’s biggest offshore financial center says it will sign an international convention (paywall) that requires its signatories to cooperate with requests for information and help with auditing taxes.

An EU banking union gathers steam. The 28 nations are set to discuss the final adoption of a law that gives the European Central Bank new supervisory powers.

While you were sleeping

Burberry’s CEO is joining Apple. Angela Ahrendts is leaving the British luxury-goods firm to direct Apple’s retail business, reporting to chief executive Tim Cook.

An earthquake killed at least 20 in the Philippines.  The 7.2 magnitude quake struck the central part of the country, collapsing buildings and damaging roads.

AstraZeneca is buying a biotech company. The British drug maker is paying up to $440 million for privately held Spirogento boost its oncology-related research and development.

The UK wooed Chinese banks. In a bid to make London a major offshore banking destination, Chancellor George Osborne is offering special terms to Chinese state-owned banks.

Alitalia is saying aloft, for now. In an all-night meeting, shareholders approved a 300 million euro ($407 million) share issue for the near-bankrupt Italian airline.

The NSA harvests millions of email contact lists. The previously undisclosed program gathers users’ address books and instant messaging “buddy lists,” allowing the agency to collect a massive number of accounts, the Washington Post reports.

Blackberry tried to reassure customers. The troubled smartphone company is publishing an open letter to customers in international publications saying that despite its recent challenges, “you can continue to count on BlackBerry.”

Quartz obsession interlude

Leo Mirani on how the future is “small data”—and Facebook just bought it. ”This morning, Onavo, an Israeli start-up, announced it was being acquired by Facebook. Onavo’s flagship product is a data compressor. When you browse a web page or use an app on your phone, Onavo routes the traffic through its servers, where it compresses and optimizes the data before sending it on to the phone…. As more big Silicon Valley firms look to the developing world, expect to see many more efforts to make data smaller and access easier.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Musical training is key to success. High achievers say it teaches discipline and encourages creativity.

The “Yellen Effect” can lure women. The Fed chair nominee’s rise demonstrates that economics isn’t just for men.

The Nobel Peace Prize is overrated. Nobel winners for economics have contributed more to our understanding of a wide range of issues.

The budget fight doesn’t matter. Fed chair also-ran Larry Summers argues that we should be talking about growth instead.

Surprising discoveries

Erecting a new People’s Daily headquarters. The Communist Party mouthpiece’s curved golden tower in Beijing looks like a phallus.

Moose populations are declining in North America. Climate change seems to be a factor.

Brain waves can be used to test prices, and Starbucks’ are too low.

Dinnertime is mobile primetime. Videos, games, and social media app use peaks in the evening; news apps see their biggest spike around 7 am.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, retail-related brain waves, and unfortunate architectural designs to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.


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