Quartz Daily Brief—Asia Edition—Vatican finances, assorted protests, drone economics, the cost of “12 Days”

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What to watch for today

Detroit’s bankruptcy status. A federal judge will determine whether the city of Detroit is eligible to proceed with its bankruptcy filing, after its application was challenged last month by public-employee unions and pension funds.

Brazil’s shrinking economy. Analysts predict that Brazil’s GDP contracted by 0.2% in its third quarter, after growing by 1.5% last quarter, dragged down by a fluctuating currency, weak consumer spending and fears of a future credit-rating downgrade.

South Africa’s yawning trade gap. The central bank is expected to report a current-account deficit of 6.5% as imports far outstrip exports, in part because strikes have slowed production at auto plants. The deficit may add to fears about the value of the rand, which could hurt foreign investment in South Africa and put pressure on reserves.

Light on the Vatican’s finances. Nunzio Scarano, a former Vatican accountant, goes on trial today following his arrest in June on allegations that he tried to smuggle €20 million ($27.1 million) into Italy from Switzerland—a case that is expected to expose financial corruption at the top of the Catholic Church.

While you were sleeping

Syria was accused of war crimes. A UN inquiry produced “massive evidence” that President Bashar al-Assad authorized war crimes in the conflict that is thought to have killed more than 125,000 people. In theory this could lead to his prosecution by the International Criminal Court, though Russia and China would probably veto it.

Mexicans demonstrated against energy reform. Tens of thousands of people gathered in Mexico City to rally against the government’s proposed reforms, which would encourage foreign investment in the energy sector, historically a source of national pride.

Thais and Ukrainians protested too. Thailand’s prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra rejected calls for her to step down as rallies against her government continued in Bangkok. Meanwhile, demonstrators in Kiev went on strike and besieged the main government building in protest at the president’s rejection of a trade pact with the EU.

The US got some miserable shopping figures. Thanksgiving weekend suffered its first spending decline since 2009, pointing to a disappointing holiday period ahead for the retail sector. Purchases in-store and online fell 2.9% to $57.4 billion, and although more people went shopping, they each spent 3.9% less.

The EU got some promising manufacturing figures. The manufacturing PMI, a key indicator of output, hit its strongest level in more than two years, in a sign Europe’s recovery is gathering pace. But within the data were some surprises, with the Netherlands leading the way while France lagged behind debt-racked Italy, Greece and Spain.

Quartz obsession interlude

Christopher Mims on the real reason Amazon is experimenting with delivery-by-drone. “Technical hurdles aside, it’s likely that in the US, drones won’t even be approved to fly in the way that Amazon needs them to until 2020. But Amazon is nothing if not opportunistic. And Bezos has shown a willingness to push his company into services that are only vaguely related to Amazon’s core mission of eating the world of retail.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Dubai is redefining the Middle East. It’s the future of cities, trumping ancient capitals such as Baghdad and Cairo.

The US minimum wage is far too low. The case for raising it above the poverty line is both civic and moral.

Millennials are suffering from too much parenting. Over-involved “helicopter parents” hinder them from learning how to cope with obstacles and disappointment.

Microsoft and Sony should know their customers better. Almost half of gamers are women, and yet sexism abounds in games marketing.

Surprising discoveries

What the 12 days of Christmas would actually cost. Here’s how much all those lords-a-leaping will set you back today. (Hint: It’s a lot.)

Kick-ups trump coffee. Thirty seconds of high-intensity exercise can be a better stimulant than an espresso shot.

The winning tactic to Connect Four. This video shows you how never to lose again.

No monkey business. Activists want chimpanzees to be legally recognized as persons with rights (paywall).

Guess who wants Miley Cyrus to be Time’s person of the year. She’s in the lead, and most of the voting traffic is coming from Egypt.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, 30-second workout routines and partridge-in- a-pear-tree prices to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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