Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Putin’s wacky Q&A, Nike earnings, Rodman in North Korea, DIY arms traffickers

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What to watch for today

How low can Brazil’s jobless rate go? Latin America’s largest economy releases jobs data for November. The 5.2% unemployment rate for the previous month was the country’s lowest in over 10 years.

Nike’s earnings. Analysts will be watching the athletic retail giant’s performance in emerging markets, after its business soared in North America and Europe last quarter, but was weaker elsewhere—especially in China, where sales dropped by 3%.

Euro zone minister confab. EU leaders gather in Brussels and will consider a long-awaited plan to establish a 55 billion euro ($75 billion) fund over the next decade to assist failing banks. They’ll also discuss defense cooperation at the two-day summit, but probably won’t clash on the hot-button issue migration issue.

While you were sleeping

Tokyo’s governor quit amid a scandal. Naoki Inose, who was crucial in the city’s bid to host the 2020 Olympics, stepped down after admitting he took a 50 million yen ($480,000) loan from hospital chain Tokushukai.

Putin faced the media. At his annual question and answer session with hundreds of reporters in Moscow, the president said an EU deal would have turned Ukraine into an “agricultural appendage,” denied meeting Edward Snowden, and requested a question from a woman holding a stuffed yeti.

Hershey bought Golden Monkey. Adding to its push into China’s fast-growing candy market, the chocolate giant paid an undisclosed sum for Shanghai Golden Monkey Food, which made about $225 million this year selling toffee-like milk candies and other sweets.

AstraZeneca’s diabetes deal. The company is paying up to $4.1 billion for Bristol-Myers Squibb’s stake in a diabetes joint venture in order to bolster its portfolio of drugs.

Samantha Power arrived in the Central African Republic.  The American ambassador to the UN touched down in the country where some 500 people have died in sectarian fighting over the last month. Stabilizing the country is her priority, she said, though it is unclear what the US is willing to do to stop the bloodshed.

Dennis Rodman is back in North Korea. The ex-NBA star touched down in Pyongyang for his third visit, where he’ll help train the reclusive country’s national basketball team and meet with Kim Jong Un less than a week after a purge of top officials.

New Zealand recorded a trade surplus in November, the first since 1991, and China overtook Australia as New Zealand’s top export destination.

Max Baucus was tipped for US ambassador to China. The retiring Democrat senator from Montana will reportedly be President Obama’s pick to be the next China envoy. Fittingly for a man heading to smoggy Beijing, his last name sounds like “coughing to death” in Chinese.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on the Korean-owned company hoping to make millions from the next generation of emoticons. “A language from Asia is rapidly closing in on the West, threatening the longstanding supremacy of the Latin alphabet. This means that one day soon, it won’t be merely alphabet letters that Western mobile users tap onto their screens. It may also be whistling kittens, or a bear dancing the hula.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Washington is dysfunctional because it was designed that way. It’s time to alter the checks and balances the founding fathers created.  

Consumers should spend like it’s Christmas year-round. Purchasing unneeded goods is the lifeblood of economic activity (pay wall).

Bernanke’s savvy taper move. Like a wise mother placating her sugar-hungry children, the Fed Chairman is offering investors fewer M&Ms—but more Snickers bars.

Uber’s pricing model is rigged. The car-service company raises fares when cars are in short supply, so why doesn’t it drop them when customers are in short supply?

Surprising discoveries

China’s army of amateur arms traffickers. Beijing circumvents embargoes by using students, businessmen, and scientists to procure US military gear 

RIP Winamp. AOL is officially retiring the quirky, old-school MP3 software tomorrow, and it will be sorely missed by digital music geeks.

The FBI has more $100 million in bitcoins after seizing a huge cache of digital currency when it shut down the illicit Silk Road online marketplace. But the value of the coins is dropping fast.

The UK is switching to plastic bank notes. They’re harder to counterfeit and longer lasting, but there are implications for banks—and magicians, too.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, queries, insane Uber price quotes, and banknote magic tricks to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.



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