Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Senate post-filibuster, China pipeline blast, German GDP, moose-eating sharks

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What to watch for today

The Senate’s post-filibuster era begins. Democrats will begin clearing the backlog of judicial and executive branch nominees after eliminating the 60-vote threshold for congressional confirmations. Republicans are vowing to exact revenge if they retake control of the chamber.

A coming Chinese bitcoin crackdown? State-owned Xinhua wrote that “industry insiders, economists, sociologists and investors … all agree government supervision is what the market needs.”

Peru and Venezuela slow down. Peru’s GDP growth is expected to fall to an annual 4.4%, from 5.6% last year, on the back of sluggish exports. Venezuela’s economic decline is expected to ease slightly, from 2.6% to 2.4%.

The 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination. It’s been half a century since President John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas. There here will be solemn events in Washington, DC and elsewhere.

The Xbox One hits the shelves. Microsoft’s latest gaming console goes on sale today and all eyes will be on whether it gets snapped up as quickly as Sony’s PlayStation 4, which sold more than 1 million units on its first day last week.

Michael Jordan’s mansion goes up for auction. The basketball star’s 7.4-acre (3-hectare) estate was the most expensive home in the Chicago area when it was listed at $29 million last year, but it didn’t sell. Prospective buyers will have to put down $250,000 to take part in the bidding.

While you were sleeping

Novartis’ $2 billion stock buyback. The Swiss drugmaker will “strengthen shareholder value” over two years by investing in its own shares and in fast-growing treatment areas like skin and heart disease.

A pipeline explosion in China killed at least 22. A ruptured oil pipeline operated by state oil refiner Sinopec in the eastern city of Qingdao tore up streets and sent a plume of black smoke into the sky.

South Korea is buying 40 fighter jets. The country will buy 40 F-35 stealth jets from Lockheed Martin, setting in motion Seoul’s biggest-ever defense procurement in the conclusion of a long-running process during which Boeing seemed set to get the order.

Germany’s economy grew. Third-quarter GDP rose 0.3% following a 0.7% increase in the previous quarter, with domestic demand offsetting a slowdown in exports. Meanwhile, a business climate index increased to 109.3 this month from October’s 107.4.

Foxconn looks west. The Taiwanese manufacturing company that builds many of Apple’s products is considering an investment in Pennsylvania, where it would run a manufacturing plant and a robotics research and development unit.

Spotify tuned in $250 million. Technology Crossover Ventures is investing in the streaming music service, which would value Spotify at more than $4 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported (paywall).

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on blocking tsunamis with mangrove trees. “Some of Haiyan’s destruction could have been prevented. But not with seawalls or dykes—with mangrove trees. Areas near Tacloban where mangrove forests hadn’t been illegally cut fared better, a Philippines development consultant told Bloomberg. That’s because mangroves provide a natural buffer that slows down inland tidal surges, absorbing 70-90% of a normal wave’s impact.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Myanmar’s peace talks could transform Asia. If the country can reconcile with its many ethnic-backed armed groups (paywall), the reward will be a truly multi-ethnic democracy at the heart of Asia.

Juicing is for jerks. Cleanses are expensive, annoying to others, and probably not even healthy.

Americans can’t solve Egypt’s crisis. It needs to be fixed, not just managed, and only Egypt can do that.

Tacloban should not be rebuilt. The Philippine city that suffered the worst damage from Typhoon Haiyan is extremely vulnerable to more flooding and landslides.

Surprising discoveries

Can you tell me how to get to Neutrino Street? An Antarctica observatory discovered a host of interstellar neutrino particles—and named them after Sesame Street characters.

The spy who loved the environment. The EPA’s highest-paid employee falsely “claimed he was a CIA operative to justify prolonged absences.”

Seaweed innovation. A company called New Frontier Food has attracted $1.7 million in funding for its “sustainably harvested” seaweed snack chips.

A shark bit off more than it could chew. Two men in Newfoundland, Canada rescued a beached shark that was choking on a moose.

Big cubicle data. Companies are using “Moneyball”-style predictive techniques to squeeze the best out of their employees.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, innovative snackchips and moose-eating sharks to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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