Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Cyber Monday, Haiyan hits Vietnam, multilingual personalities, giant subway plugs

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What to watch for today

It’s Cyber Monday in China. What started as “Singles’ Day,” a celebration of bachelorhood, has now evolved into a mammoth online shopping spree (paywall) throughout China. On this day last year, nearly $3.3 billion was spent on e-commerce giant Alibaba alone, compared to $1.5 billion spent on Cyber Monday in the US. Sales today in China surpassed Cyber Monday’s total by 8:42am.

The Philippines’ largest public offering. Robinsons Retail Holdings, which operates drug stores, supermarkets, and department stores, starts trading publicly after raising at least $621 million by selling shares at 58 pesos ($1.34) each. Although Typhoon Haiyan could weigh on the peso and the nation’s stock market, strategists say consumer companies could get a boost from purchases tied to relief efforts.

Budget talks in Europe. Finance ministers from the EU’s 28 member states are scheduled to meet in the European Parliament to negotiate the terms of the 2014 EU budget, including public investment and innovative financing. UN-brokered climate change talks also kick off today in Warsaw, Poland.

Nuclear probe in Iran. Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, travels to Tehran to continue investigating whether Iran has secretly developed nuclear weapons. Last week’s talks between Iran and six world powers ended without a solution but key players said there’s been progress.

The Congo finds peace. A deal between the Democratic Republic of Congo and the M23 rebel movement is set to be signed today in Kampala, Uganda’s capital, after rebels last week declared an end to their 18-month-long insurgency.

Over the weekend

Big banks might ban chat rooms. J.P. Morgan Chase and Credit Suisse are among the lenders considering blocking their traders from electronic chat rooms amid regulators’ investigations of possible currency market manipulation (paywall), the Wall Street Journal reports.  

Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the Philippines… Landslides, 150 mph winds, and 20-foot waves hit the Philippines this weekend, killing as many as 10,000 people in one city alone, making it the deadliest natural disaster on record in the Philippines.

…and made landfall in northern Vietnam. Though it’s now weakened to a severe tropical storm, winds have still hit 98 mph. At least six people have died and some 600,000 have been evacuated; China has also issued a typhoon alert.

Syria’s opposition will join peace talks. The Western-backed Syrian National Coalition committed to attending a proposed conference in Geneva provided certain conditions are met.

Feds tell Bank of America to pay up. The US government wants Bank of America to pay almost $854 million in damages after a federal jury found the lender liable for fraud over defective mortgages sold by its Countrywide unit in 2007 and 2008. The amount is based on the gross loss incurred by the government-controlled mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Colombian drug baron arrested. One of Colombia’s most notorious drug lords, Palencia Gonzalez, was arrested in Madrid while planning new drug routes to Spain. Gonzalez, the head of Los Urabenos gang, is accused of drug smuggling, extortion, and ordering the murder of police officers.

Venezuelan crackdown on overpriced electronics. President Nicolas Maduro seized the Daka chain of electronics stores after accusing them of overcharging by as much a 1,000%. Bargain hunters flocked to buy goods that had been marked down by as much as 75% after the seizure.

Quartz obsession interlude

Eric Holthaus and Ritchie King on how to fix global warming before it’s too late. “On its face, the idea of a global carbon budget is the ideal negotiating tool. There are hard numbers. There are clear consequences for exceeding defined limits. And it’s possible to incorporate the notion that climate negotiations have endorsed since 1992, that all nations share a ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ to avoid further damage to the planet. But, as with all budget fights, this one has a long list of potential winners and losers, which has slowed progress so far.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Brits don’t mind state surveillance. The muted reaction to the Edward Snowden affair shows UK citizens aren’t bothered by concentrated government power and are complacent about civil liberties.

Multilinguals have multiple personalities. Different languages bring out different personality traits in the speaker.

The Tea Party has learned nothing. Three election cycles in and the US’s Tea Party is as dysfunctional as ever—because that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Developed nations should foot the bill for natural disasters. Richer nations contribute the bulk of climate change-causing gases, but low-income countries disproportionately feel the effects.

Surprising discoveries

Farms could be the key to defeating allergies. The 20th century allergy epidemic may be due to humans moving away from farms, which are full of protective microbes that stimulate our immune systems.

A huge plug to keep New York City’s subways dry. The “Resilient Tunnel Plug,” which is taller than a double-decker bus, is designed to protect the city’s subways from Superstorm Sandy-like flooding.

The internet’s top words. “404”—web-speak for a page that doesn’t load—and “fail” are the English-speaking world’s most popular words in 2013.

The pie felled Wendy Deng. Rupert Murdoch realized when a pie-wielding protestor targeted him in Parliament that he didn’t want wife Deng protecting him, biographer Michael Wolff writes.

Open wide. Scientists are figuring out what makes people afraid of the dentist by playing the noise of drills and other dental instruments.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, 404 fails and farm microbes to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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