Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—The Pope and Putin, Iran’s nuclear deal, China’s sea claim, NFL commercials

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What to watch for today

The tsar meets the pope. Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, visits Pope Francis in the Vatican for their first meeting since the pontiff’s election. There are hopes that the Argentinian Francis, lacking his predecessors’ European political baggage, could mend the rift between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches that appeared after the Soviet Union fell apart.

Reading Japanese tea leaves. Economy wonks will scour the minutes of the Bank of Japan’s Oct. 31 policy meeting, due out today, as well as governor Haruhiko Kuroda’s remarks at a conference in Tokyo. Kuroda has been sounding bullish of late (paywall), but the previous month’s minutes showed some of the bank’s board worried about slow wage growth (paywall).

The lords of the sea convene. Delegates from 170 countries converge on London for a nine-day confab, the International Maritime Organization’s biennial assembly. At the top of the agenda is a plan to make countries submit to audits of their compliance with international treaties, particularly on safety and environmental pollution.

Over the weekend

China claimed air rights over disputed islands. Beijing established an “air-defense identification zone” over disputed islands in the East China Sea, saying it could identify and take military action against aircraft in the area. Japan, which also claims the islands, refused to recognize the zone, while the US said China’s move was an  “escalatory development” that raises regional  tensions.

Beijing is probing the Sinopec blast. 52 people were killed following Friday’s explosion in the eastern city of Qingdao, and the country says it will investigate safety at oil and gas pipelines.

Honduras voted for a president. The ruling party candidate claimed victory, but so did his leftist opponent, meaning a showdown could loom ahead.

Iran agreed to trim its nuclear program. In return for restricting uranium enrichment, Iran got a slight easing of sanctions. After months of failed talks, the deal has been hailed as the biggest foreign-policy success of Barack Obama’s presidency, but Israel and Saudi Arabia (as well as US Republicans) think Iran is getting off too lightly.

Swiss CEOs fought off a pay cut. Voters rejected a referendum measure to limit executives’ pay to a maximum of 12 times that of junior employees, after a vigorous campaign by employers arguing that it would make Switzerland less competitive. (In the US, CEOs earned an estimated 273 to 354 times more than rank-and-file workers in 2012.)

Ukrainians marched en masse. After president Viktor Yanukovych abandoned talks on a free-trade pact with the EU, Kiev saw the biggest protests since the 2004 Orange Revolution as some 110,000 people took to the streets. Yanukovych is under pressure from Moscow to join a Russian-led trade bloc instead, but many Ukrainians want to be closer to Europe.

A new hepatitis C pill got the green light. The US Food and Drug Administration approved simeprevir, a drug from Johnson & Johnson and Medivir, which is claimed to halve the treatment time for the disease. Drug firms are racing to roll out new treatments for hepatitis C, the market for which is projected to be worth $100 billion over the next decade.

More woes for the 787 Dreamliner. Boeing warned airlines that the GE engines fitted on some 787s could lose thrust if the planes fly too close to high-altitude thunderstorms. Japan Airlines said it would stop using the 787 on some routes. Airlines had to ground their 787s earlier in the year after batteries caught fire.

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz draws up an approximate map of the world’s tax havens.“The map reflects both the changing pattern of illicit finance and the loose approach to global reform. You may be surprised to see that the Cayman Islands is largely compliant, given its reputation as a tax haven, but that reflects increasing pressure from the UK for the Caymans to clean up its act and start learning the real identities of the people using its banks.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Don’t go to law school. Job prospects are horrible and hyper-capitalist educational institutions continue to exploit students’ ambitions.

The flawed Iran deal is the least worst option. Being tougher on Iran would strengthen its hardliners.

The financial sector needs cutting down to size. Society would be better off if the banks were smaller, and the left shouldn’t be afraid to campaign for it.

Poverty creates bad decision-making. Being poor distorts incentives and discourages long-term planning.

Surprising discoveries

Serious Christmas lights. An Australian family set a new Guinness World Record by stringing up 502,165 blinking bulbs along 31 miles of wire.

Eric Schmidt’s personal guide to Android. Google’s executive chairman wrote his very own instructions to help his “iPhone friends” convert to Android.

What it’s like to be an executioner. A man who put 62 people to death for the state of Virginia answers questions.

The average three-hour NFL game contains 100 commercials. And just 11 minutes of actual football.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, spare Christmas bulbs and memorable NFL commercials to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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