Quartz Daily Brief—Yellen’s grilling, Japan’s growth, Russia’s Olympic destruction, Lego mathematics

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What to watch for today

Yellen in the hot seat. Janet Yellen, who has been nominated to replace Ben Bernanke as Federal Reserve chair, will appear before the US Senate banking committee. You can already read what she’s going to tell them. (Executive summary: The economy has “made good progress, but we have farther to go.”)

Walmart’s sluggish growth. Walmart’s results, expected to improve slightly, act as a barometer for the retail sector overall, since many consumer-goods companies lean heavily on the retail giant for their sales. Investors will also watch for how Walmart is coping with competition from online retailers.

Europe slows down. We told you this was happening yesterday, but we got it wrong. Sorry. German gross domestic product growth should fall to 0.4% in the third quarter from 0.7% in the second, dragged down by weak industry. France could slow to 0.1% from 0.5%, and the euro zone as a whole to 0.1% from 0.3%.

A US aircraft carrier arrives in the Philippines. The USS George Washington will arrive to assist in the recovery from the devastating Typhoon Haiyan. Meanwhile, China increased its aid to the country to 10 million yuan ($1.64 million) after it was criticized for initially offering just $100,000.

While you were sleeping

Japan’s growth slowed. Third quarter gross domestic product rose at an annualized 1.9% pace, with companies trimming capital spending and exports flagging. “Warning lights are flashing for Abenomics,” one economist said.

JPMorgan Chase secretly hired Wen Jiabao’s daughter. To promote its standing in China, the bank gave Wen Ruchun—aka “Lily Chang”—a $75,000-a-month consulting contract, the New York Times reports.

The US cancelled a big Russian helicopter order.  The Pentagon called off a $345 million order to buy helicopters for the Afghan Air Force from state-owned Rosoboronexport. Senator John Cornyn said that “doing business with the supplier of these helicopters has been a morally bankrupt policy.”

The number of people with diabetes reached a new record. 382 million people around the world have the disease, about 8.4% of adults. By 2035, the number of diabetics could rise 55% to 592 million.

Obamacare’s low enrollment numbers. Some 106,000 people signed up for insurance in October under the president’s new healthcare law, just a fraction of estimates.

Short sellers are interested in Twitter. The cost to borrow shares in the company have risen from an annualized 5% to approximately 13%, indicating some think the price could slide.

Quartz obsession interlude

Heather Timmons on why China has mustered only $100,000 in aid to the Philippines. ”The tight-fisted gift to the Philippines, as islands lie in ruin and bodies rot on the streets, is a reminder of China’s less-than-gracious treatment of its neighbors: China issues passports with maps that assert its claims to the Spratly islands in the South China Sea, forcing other Southeast Asian countries to tacitly acknowledge the claim when they allow Chinese citizens to visit.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Dear marathoners, please shut up already. Sure, exercise is good for you, but long-distance runners could do with a little less self-congratulatory posturing.

The Sochi Olympics are destroying Russia. The $51 billion of construction projects are ruining the environment.

Bahais are systematically repressed in Iran. And it doesn’t seem to be getting better.

The heroism of unremarkable economies. Countries like Austria and Canada can’t compete with the growth champions, but they keep the global economy in check.

Surprising discoveries

Vladimir Putin is now a taekwondo grandmaster. The Russian president was awarded a ninth-degree black belt, the highest rank there is, on a visit to South Korea. The 61-year-old doesn’t practice taekwondo, though his judo isn’t bad.

Muggles find magic at Starbucks. If you know the right ingredients, you can order a Butterbeer—the Harry Potter delicacy—at Starbucks.

Ultra-high security. As a promotional stunt, Microsoft is having the first Xbox One, which it releases next week, guarded by 20 sharks.

The mathematics of Legos in a washing machine. ”Complexes arise”—i.e. bricks stick together—in a way that sheds light on complex algorithms known as Monte Carlo procedures.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Butterbeer recipes and Lego algorithms to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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