Quartz Daily Brief—Americas brief—Merkel’s third term, UK inflation, Facebook video ads, video game visas

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What to watch for today

Muted US inflation. Consumer prices are expected to have barely increased in the US, shedding light on the Federal Reserve’s two-day policy meeting, which starts today.

The UK opens up to shale gas, publishing a list of areas across the country where companies could explore for shale gas drilling, as well as new regulations and an assessment of the likely impact on water supplies.

A close call for the US budget deal. The Senate votes on a deal that would put an end, for a while anyway, to the paralyzing brinkmanship. Some Democratic senators complain that the deal doesn’t extend  long-term unemployment benefits.

Zimbabwean diamonds for sale. The first auction following the lifting of EU sanctions on the Marange diamond fields, where government troops allegedly killed over 200 workers in 2009, takes place in Antwerp.

Ukraine’s president meets Putin. After spurning the EU, Viktor Yanukovych travels to Moscow to ask for a $15 billion bailout as protestors continue to crowd the streets in Kiev.

While you were sleeping

Angela Merkel kicked off her third term, though the true victor may be Ursula von der Leyen, a gynecologist mother of seven who will become Germany’s first female defense minister. Three months of haggling have yielded a coalition government focused on strengthening the EU and bringing energy prices under control.

UK inflation slowed. Consumer prices rose by a less-than-expected 2.1% in November—close to the Bank of England’s target of 2%.

John Kerry arrived in the Philippines. The US Secretary of State continues his Asia trip, where he’s expected to discuss maritime security issues and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Facebook’s auto-play video ads. The company is set to unveil a system in which videos will automatically play in news feeds beginning later this week, in a bid to grab some of the $66.4 billion television advertising market.

Japan is upping its military spending by 2.6% over five years for equipment such as beach assault vehicles and early-warning planes, against a backdrop of ongoing tensions with China.

North Korea pledged fealty to Kim Jong-un. In a ceremony marking his father Kim Jong-il’s death, thousands of officials gathered in Pyongyang after a purge of top leaders including Kim’s powerful uncle.

Singapore’s exports fell. Shipments excluding oil declined by a more than expected 9.3% in November compared to the previous month due in part to a 47% drop in pharmaceutical exports.

Quartz obsession interlude

Christopher Mims on how far the “internet of things” will go. “The next layer of the internet of things will require combining disparate streams of data ‘mined’ from reality—everything from your location to the members of your social network. This is called sensor fusion, a task that is basic to all big data projects. Knowing where you are throughout the day won’t mean much, but add in data about who else is present and a computer algorithm can tell you how likely you are to get the flu.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

East Asian leaders are just saber-rattling. Neither Japan, South Korea, nor China want military conflict over the East China Sea, and are just posturing for their domestic audiences—so long as the US is around to keep the peace.

Google is the new Bell Labs. With its investment in autonomous cars and acquisition of Boston Robotics, the company is investing in groundbreaking research that will benefit humanity. (Counterpoint: No, it isn’t.)

A 7.5% GDP growth target is bad for China. It will only make it harder for the country to reform.

It’s time to ease up on the college essay. Requiring students to write long papers is a waste of everyone’s time.

Why have no high-level executives been prosecuted for the financial crisis? A US judge flags an “egregious failure of the criminal justice system.”

Surprising discoveries

Some people never outgrow their terrible twos, and that lingering impulsivity makes them more likely to become violent criminals.

Water may flow freely on Mars. Seasonal dark streaks have been detected near the red planet’s equator.

Neanderthals buried their dead. New research shows that contrary to earlier assumptions, our evolutionary relatives undertook careful burials some 50,000 years ago.

There’s a strange new way to get a US visa—be really good at a video game.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, long-forgotten college essays, and chocolate chunk preferences to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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