Quartz Daily Brief—Asia Edition—Yellen’s testimony, Google Books’ legality, SpongeBob’s politics, laughletics

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What to watch for today

The PlayStation 4 goes on sale. Sony’s PlayStation 3 lagged behind the Nintendo Wii and Microsoft’s XBox 360 in the popularity stakes, but the PS4 has impressed critics and been dubbed the “comeback console.” It’s also $100 cheaper than the Xbox One console, which hits shelves next week.

Obamacare revisions go to a vote. The US House of Representatives will vote on revisions to the Affordable Care Act after many existing plans—which the president had promised people would be able to keep—were cancelled. Yesterday, Obama proposed that insurers could renew those plans for a year.

The Commonwealth discusses trade. The Commonwealth heads of government—from 54 countries—meet in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The meeting, usually a bit of a yawn, sparked interest when the leaders of India, Canada and Mauritius decided to boycott it over the massacres that took place during Sri Lanka’s civil war.

Japan disappoints on global warming. The country is expected to announce that it plans to cut carbon emissions just 3.8% from 2005 levels by 2020. The EU’s target is 20%. Closing nuclear reactors after the Fukushima disaster meant Japan now relies heavily on fossil fuels, but critics say it will set a bad example.

San Francisco turns into Gotham City. If you’re in the area, don’t be surprised to see the Penguin lurking in Union Square. In the biggest ever response to a campaign by the Make-A-Wish Foundation, some 11,000 volunteers have signed up to grant a five-year-old with leukemia the chance to be Batman for a day.

While you were sleeping

Janet Yellen wowed Congress. The nominee for US Federal Reserve chair got an easy ride from the Senate banking committee. As expected, Republicans needled her about the Fed’s ongoing stimulus measures; she said that the economy can’t yet stand alone without them.

Google Books is now legal. A US federal judge ruled that Google’s online archive of some 20 million scanned books, and its practice of letting users search in and show extracts of the books, is legal, after an eight-year-long copyright case. The judge said the archive provides “significant public benefits.”

Europe’s economy slumped. Germany’s economic growth fell to 0.3% from 0.7% last quarter, while Italy’s gross domestic product fell by 0.1%, marking the country’s ninth consecutive quarterly decline. France’s economy also shrank by 0.1%, dragged down by weak exports.

VW recalled its faulty cars. Volkswagen recalled about 2.6 million cars due to problems with faulty lights, fuel leaks and engine oil problems, in one of the German carmaker’s biggest recalls in its history. 640,000 of these cars are in China, the world’s biggest car market,

Quartz obsession interlude

Lily Kuo on how reforms to China’s one-child policy might mean it can’t feed its citizens. ”Even if one-child rules were overturned today, leading to an estimated 9.5 million more babies a year, those babies wouldn’t grow up fast enough to replenish China’s shrinking labor force or take care of the growing ranks of the elderly. But that does mean China would have 9.5 million more people every year who need food, water, and housing.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Why is Iran back at the nuclear negotiating table? Either it can no longer stomach sanctions, or it’s now ready to build a bomb.

NSA spying could hurt American tech firms. Edward Snowden’s revelations could prompt US consumers to choose Chinese competitors like Huawei and ZTE.

The future won’t have traffic jams. Thanks to unemployment, teleworking, online shopping, the aging population and the rise of social media, everyone will commute less.

Journalists get a high out of war. ”There’s nothing like cheating death to make you feel gloriously, wonderfully alive.”

SpongeBob Squarepants is a Marxist. The cartoon show’s depiction of labor, the free market and social issues are decidedly progressive.

Surprising discoveries

Laughologist is a profession. You can also be a “laughlete“ and compete in laughing championships.

Europeans were the first dog-lovers. DNA research suggests wolves were first domesticated on the continent, not in Asia or the Middle East as previously thought.

That dairy smell. American consumers said they would buy greek-yoghurt-flavored toothpaste, diaper rash cream and deodorant.

Don’t panic, but there’s a turkey shortage. Butterball’s turkeys aren’t as fat as usual, so it may not have enough fresh turkeys over 16 pounds to meet Thanksgiving demand.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, laugh tracks and yoghurt-based toiletries to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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