What to watch for today
A two-year budget deal in the US. The bipartisan agreement to avoid a government shutdown in 2014 comes to the floor of the typically partisan lower chamber of Congress Thursday evening US time. If it passes, expect the Senate and president to quickly make it law.
An early signal on US inflation. Analysts expect the producer price index (PPI), a leading indicator for consumer prices, to have crept up in November over the month before. The result will likely fuel more talk about when the Federal Reserve will wind down its economic stimulus.
Nature’s own fireworks. Shooting stars will light up the sky during the biggest meteor event of the year, when Geminid meteors burn through the earth’s atmosphere. Geminids are unusual because they come from an asteroid, not a comet.
While you were sleeping
Iceland jailed four ex-Kaupthing bankers. The men, including the former CEO and former chairman of the collapsed Icelandic bank, were sentenced to three to five years in prison for hiding the sale of a stake in Kaupthing to a Qatari investor using an illegal loan from the bank itself.
Ukraine played hard-to-get with the EU. The country hinted it might yet sign a trade deal with the EU (paywall) but was vague about when. European negotiators have been in Kiev trying to sweeten the deal after Ukraine rejected it in favor of closer ties with Russia, sparking massive protests.
Yet another crisis-related bank fine. In the latest installment of financial misdemeanors, Bank of America agreed to pay $132 million to settle charges that its Merrill Lynch unit had misled investors before BofA bought it in 2008.
Honduras decided on a president. Almost three weeks after a general election, Honduras’s electoral tribunal declared Juan Orlando Hernández, the governing party’s candidate, president with 36.9% of the vote. The runner-up, Xiomara Castro, called the election a fraud.
Blockbuster died—again. After a pretty bad year for the movie rental chain—from entering administration twice to closing most of its stores—Blockbuster said it will close its remaining UK outlets by Monday after failing to attract a buyer.
Quartz obsession interlude
David Yanofsky on China’s sudden interest in American photographic film. “[J]ust as film seems on the brink of obsolescence, US film exports are experiencing an unlikely resurgence. During the first 10 months of 2013 the US exported $273 million-worth of bulk film rolls—the raw material that is cut into the type of film that eventually ends up in cameras and x-ray machines. That’s more than the previous three full years combined, and the best January-to-October period since at least 2002, before digital cameras began decimating the film business. Most of it was headed to China.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
India’s ban on gay sex wasn’t just bad for gay people. It was also a setback for India’s legal system and jurisprudence.
The US budget deal is better for Republicans than it is for Democrats. Let’s hope the Republicans realize that, too.
$20 smartphones are coming in 2014. At that price they’ll be as cheap as many feature phones and on the way to eclipsing them.
Companies should institute six-hour workdays. Employees who put in much more hours merely end up being less productive.
Give your spouse a performance review. Year-end reviews shouldn’t just be for employees; they’re important, and harder, for friends and family.
Most internet users aren’t human. 62% of web traffic is generated by bots.
The most powerful greenhouse gas. Perfluorotributylamine is 7,000 times worse than carbon dioxide.
YouTube is no longer the people’s medium. Its most popular videos are now mostly professionally made.
A new kind of bubble tea. Starbucks is offering carbonated versions of its tea and coffee beverages.
The best charts of 2013. Picks by all our staff members.