Quartz Daily Brief—Americas Edition—Congress mulls bitcoin, Chinese housing, online gambling, SETI bonds

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What to watch for today

A high-profile insider trading trial. Michael Steinberg, the most senior employee charged so far at hedge fund SAC Capital, goes on trial in Manhattan. He faces charges of securities fraud and conspiracy for allegedly trading Dell shares on the basis of insider tips.

Politicians try to understand bitcoin. A US Senate committee considers the “potential promises and risks“ of the virtual currency. Officials from the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission have already told the committee in writing that it offers “legitimate financial services.”

Ready, set, think. A World Economic Forum summit kicks off in Abu Dhabi. Social and political issues in the Middle East top the agenda, alongside climate change, youth unemployment, and disruptive technology.

Krispy Kreme’s sugar high. Krispy Kreme releases earnings and is expected to post third-quarter sales growth of 8.5%. The donut company’s stock price hit a nine-year high earlier this month, thanks in part to planned expansion in South America.

Latin American barometer. Chile’s GDP is expected to post 1% growth in the third quarter in a sign of progress amid presidential elections. Left-leaning former president Michelle Bachelet won the most votes last weekend ahead of a December 15 runoff. Venezuelan GDP and Argentinian unemployment are also released today.

Over the weekend

Wal-Mart found trouble at its Bangladesh factories. Some 15% of the facilities the company surveyed in a first round of safety audits needed improvements to continue working with the retailer.

Sheldon Adelson is trying to ban online gambling. With several US states moving to legalize internet betting, the American casino magnate is launching a public campaign to pressure Congress to stop the practice, which most of his competitors support. Adelson last year gave over $100 million to Republican candidates.

Chinese property got even more expensive. New home prices rose in the four biggest cities in October, adding further to fears of a possible bubble. Guangzhou led the way with a 21% gain year-on year, while prices rose 20% in Shenzhen, 18% in Shanghai, and 16% in Beijing.

A second big storm hit central Vietnam. At least 28 people have died and 80,000 are homeless in floods and landslides following heavy rains from a tropical depression. Earlier in the week Typhoon Haiyan hit north Vietnam following its devastating passage over the Philippines.

The PS4 flew off shelves. Sony said it sold more than a million PlayStation 4 consoles in North America in 24 hours, the strongest-ever opening for the games platform. The PS4, which faces competition from Microsoft’s Xbox One, to be released later this week, is expected to be Sony’s last console.

A plane crash killed 50 in Russia. A Boeing 737 on its way from Moscow burst into flames after trying to abort its landing Kazan, Russia. An intelligence officer and the son of the president of the province of Tatarstan are among the dead.

Doris Lessing died. The convention-shattering novelist who won the 2007 Nobel Prize died at her home in London at the age of 94.

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on how increasingly acidic oceans as a result of climate change could cost the world a fortune. “One estimate of the cost to mollusc fisheries alone is $130 billion. Reductions in coral reefs, the heart of complex ocean ecosystems, are also strongly indicated, and while the economic impact is hard to specify, it could cost as much as $1 trillion within the century.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The Google we once loved is gone. The company used to focus on solving problems first and making money second, but CEO Larry Page has turned his attention to maximizing profit.

Don’t rely on kids to point you to the next big thing. If young people gravitate to a new technology like Snapchat, it doesn’t mean the rest of us will (paywall).

The reign of the 1% threatens New York City’s artistic genius. Inequality means creative types are having a harder and harder time getting a foothold.

It’s okay if your kid isn’t fluent in Mandarin. China’s growth can’t possibly last, according to Larry Summers’ latest research.

Surprising discoveries

Poverty is more common in the US than many think. Contrary to popular belief, the condition is widespread, affecting almost 40% of Americans between 25 and 60 at some point in their lives.

A horrific, mysterious environmental crime. Soviet fleets may have illegally killed more than 180,000 whales between 1948 and 1973—but the country had little use for the creatures or their products.

A proposal for a SETI bond. A scientist has proposed a bond that would fund the search for extraterrestrial intelligence—and would pay investors when it’s found.

The US is one of the few countries that refrigerates chicken eggs. The reason: the country’s unique and misguided egg-washing system.

A Mexican drug cartel built its own radio network. The Zetas kidnapped 36 engineers and technicians, including at least one IBM employee, to build antennas and other transmission gear.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, alien-inspired financial instruments, and room-temperature eggs to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.


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