Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—JPMorgan’s Madoff settlement, ISS distress, China’s “bad bank” IPO, the holographic universe

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

What to watch for today

New rules on in-flight calls. US regulators decide whether passengers should be allowed to make in-flight mobile phone calls, and are said to be in favor of lifting the ban despite appeals from members of Congress and petitions from the public.

Chile and Peru could cut rates. Among a spate of central-bank policy decisions today, Chile and Peru are the most likely to lower interest rates. Both countries knocked off 0.25 points in November and are grappling with slowing economies.

Promising US retail figures. Sales for November are expected to have climbed 0.6%, the biggest increase in six months. The November data includes half of Thanksgiving weekend, but not Cyber Monday.

The International Space Station may be in trouble. The ISS cooling system has failed, forcing the powering-down of some systems; repairs could take one to two weeks.

Alan Mulally picks a side. The Ford board plans to press its CEO for a decision on his future as he is considered for the top job at Microsoft, Reuters reports.

Mexico’s energy bill moves forward. Lower House lawmakers late last night assented to sweeping oil industry reforms that would set the stage for more foreign investment in the sector. The country’s Congress should pass the bill today.

While you were sleeping

JP Morgan neared a Madoff settlement. The bank could pay $2 billion in fines and face criminal action over its ties to Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff, with much of the money earmarked for his victims.

Putin brandished a fistful of rubles. Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an annual address that he would follow through on his pledge to increase pay for doctors and teachers despite the country’s economic slowdown.

China’s “bad bank” made good. Asset manager China Cinda, created to offload delinquent debt from state-owned lenders, soared 27% after its shares listed in Hong Kong.

Australia overturned a gay marriage law. The High Court struck down a bill passed in October permitting same-sex unions in the Australian Capital Territory, ruling that it’s inconsistent with the federal Marriage Act.

Boeing got a $6.5 billion order. Air Canada ordered 61 Boeing 737 MAX airplanes, a big endorsement for the firm as airlines revamp their fleets with more fuel-efficient craft.

Apple sent medical experts to China… The company is looking into recent deaths at a plant operated by its supplier  Pegatron. China Labor Watch says several workers including an overworked 15-year-old have died in recent months.

…And scored a legal win over Samsung. A South Korea court dismissed a Samsung suit seeking to ban some iPhone and iPad sales as part of the companies’ long-running patent battle.

Unemployment edged up in Australia. The jobless rate increased to 5.8% in November from 5.7% the previous month, with mining companies shedding jobs as lower demand from China drags down commodity prices.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on the distant origins of India’s newly upheld ban on gay sex. “[T]he law that India’s supreme court just upheld is one of the most resilient relics of the British Empire. Known as Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, it imposed Victorian values on what colonial rulers viewed as unpardonable tolerance toward homosexuality throughout their empire… Section 377 originated from a 1536 English law instituted by Henry VIII.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

China sets the terms. No one is immune from Beijing’s “gravity machine” (pay wall), with foreign CEOs and heads of state increasingly being pulled into its orbit.

2013 was the best year ever. People are living longer, healthier, and more prosperous lives than at any point in human history.

The Fun at Work movement must die. Workplace “fungineering” and “gamification” undermine productivity—and may not even make work enjoyableanyway.

Elections would cure China’s smog. Holding officials accountable is the only way to keep polluting industries in check, claims a former political aide under house arrest.

Surprising discoveries

India is close to becoming the world’s biggest beef exporter. Despite having a majority of Hindus who consider cows to be holy, India is about to overtake Brazil in overseas beef sales. 

Doge-speak trumps LOLcat grammar. The linguistic complexity of the Internet’s favorite quizzical pooch.

You can add bitcoins to your IRA. Fidelity now permits clients save for the future with a virtual currency investment trust.

The universe may be a hologram. Physicists have found compelling evidence that the universe is a 10-dimension projection that originates from a flatter cosmos where there is no gravity.

Music lessons don’t make kids smarter. Learning to play instruments helps creativity and discipline, but it doesn’t improve children’s cognitive abilities.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, virtual 401k contributions, and cosmological musings to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

Sign up for the Quartz Daily Brief here, tailored for morning delivery in Asia, Europe & Africa, and the Americas.