Quartz Daily Brief—Unrest in Thailand and Ukraine, tech firms want surveillance limits, North Korea family scandal

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What to watch for today

Gun investors cash out. Cerberus Capital Management will unveil a plan to let investors unload their holdings in Freedom Group, the company that makes the Bushmaster brand of rifle used in last year’s shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The world’s largest airline is born. The $11 billion merger of American Airlines and US Airways is set to be completed, ending a string of legal and regulatory hurdles, including a last-gasp appeal to the US Supreme Court that was rejected on Saturday.

HSBC mulls UK floatation. The bank is reportedly sounding out investors about listing 20% of its UK retail and commercial unit (paywall) to comply with new British banking regulations, according to the Financial Times.

Over the weekend

US tech firms want surveillance curbs. Eight large technology companies, led by Google and Microsoft, launched a public campaign to limit government collection of consumers’ data. Also participating: AOL, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Yahoo.

Thailand protests redouble.  Prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved parliament and called for fresh elections—moves that failed to placate thousands of protesters who are demanding the government be replaced by an unelected council of “good people.” The opposition Democrat Party is not so keen on the whole democracy thing.

China inflation eased. Month-on-month consumer prices fell 0.1% in November, easing fears that authorities might tighten monetary policy. A slower increase in food prices led the decline.

Japan’s growth wasn’t as strong as it seemed. The country’s third-quarter gross domestic product grew an annualized 1.1% compared to the previous quarter, a substantial revision from the initial reading of 1.9%, underlining the challenges facing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he tries to spur an economic rebound.

Continued riots in Ukraine. A statue of Lenin was toppled and battered with hammers as hundreds of thousands of protestors in Kiev called for the government to step down, after it rejected closer ties with the EU in the face of pressure from Russia.

Surprising riots in Singapore. In a rare outbreak of civil unrest, about 400 people in the wealthy city-state’s Indian district clashed with police after a man was hit and killed by a bus.

North Korea’s ruling family scandal.  Jang Song Thaek, the uncle of leader Kim Jong Un, was ousted for misdeeds including drug use and womanizing, according to the state news agency. But his true crime may have been challenging the “monolithic idea and unitary centre of leadership” of his nephew and “dreaming different dreams.”

India’s Congress Party took a beating. The ruling party of India for much of its 66-year independence lost out in Delhi and other key state elections to the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party, in a potential hint of the electoral tides turning in May’s general elections.

Quartz obsession interlude

John McDuling on Qantas’ financial predicament. “Australia’s recent bout of protectionism…makes foreign help seem unlikely. Yet despite suggestions of an equity injection or debt guarantee, the recently elected conservative administration has suggested it won’t come to the rescue. With no obvious way out of this mess, the Australian government will need to decide whether it’s more comfortable with foreign ownership or government ownership, and quickly.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Kerry’s already topped Hillary. He may be aloof and gaffe-prone, but Secretary of State John Kerry has had more diplomatic successes in one year than Clinton had in four.

We should all do less housework. An easy fix for the gender imbalance in domestic chores: Men and women alike should simply stop trying to make their homes so neat.  

Uber could be more valuable than Facebook. The on-demand car service has aspirations to provide lucrative transportation and logistics services to fast-growing cities.

The global economy is even more dystopian than the Hunger GamesUS immigration restrictions contribute to a cruel form of exclusion.

Surprising discoveries

Smog has a silver lining. A nationalist Chinese newspaper argues that airborne pollution could thwart enemy missile attacks.

A defensive vest for claustrophobic commuters. An industrial designer in crowded Singapore created a playful spike-adorned vest to keep fellow subway riders at bay.

Political polarization, visualized. An algorithmic analysis of US Senate voting patterns shows just how uncommon bipartisanship has become over the years.

HIV is one stubborn virus. Researchers said it became detectable again in two patients who had bone marrow transplants.

Stonehenge rocks, literally. Researchers say the site’s stones sound like bells, drums, and gongs when they are hit with hammers.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, anti-housework manifestos, and Stonehenge musical arrangements to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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