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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Apple’s China iPhone deal, Khodorkovsky’s exile, Rodman leaves Pyongyang, Japanese slang

What to watch for today

Facebook joins the S&P 500. Shares of the social networking company were added to the Standard & Poor’s index after the close of US markets Friday. Facebook shares are already up about 12% since their inclusion was announced earlier in December. Some research suggests (PDF) the “index effect” is a myth and joining the S&P doesn’t, on its own, boost a company’s price over the long term.

Obamacare sign-up deadline. Most Americans who lack health insurance must sign up by today, though there are a few exceptions.

Storms ravaged Canada and the US. Rain, ice and snow crippled North America this weekend, leaving nearly one million without power, ruining holiday travel plans and killing nine in the US and at least three in Canada. Parts of the East coast could see heavy rains today.

Over the weekend

China’s cash squeeze worsened. Money market rates rose Monday despite the central bank’s emergency injections of funds in recent days, with the seven-day repurchase rate soaring as much as 10%.

Thailand protests continued. Hoping to derail a snap election prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra scheduled for February 2, anti-government demonstrators surrounded a sports stadium to try to block parties from registering for the vote. Meanwhile, the baht sank to a three-year-low amid the protracted unrest.

Dennis Rodman left North Korea. While the ex-NBA star didn’t meet his friend Kim Jong-un during the trip, photos show that in addition to training North Korean basketball players, he rode a horse and visited a water park.

A Pussy Riot member was freed. Maria Alyokhina, a band member who was locked up in August 2012 for performing a song in Moscow’s main cathedral, was released—but called the amnesty a “PR stunt,” with the Sochi Olympics approaching next month.

Apple inked its big China Mobile iPhone deal. The long-awaited agreement, which could translate to billions of dollars in new revenue for the tech titan, means it can sell its smartphones through a carrier with some 760 million customers beginning January 17, though hopes for sales might be overblown.

Bangladesh factory owners were charged. Police charged thirteen people, including two owners, with “death due to negligence” over the November 2012 fire in Dhaka that killed more than 100.

Khodorkovsky won’t return to Russia. The former oil tycoon, now in Berlin after his unexpected pardon by Russian president Vladimir Putin that ended a decade in jail, said he will devote himself to campaigning for the release of political prisoners in Russia and elsewhere.

Tiffany & Co. must pay Swatch Group $450 million in damages. The ruling by a Dutch court stems from a dispute over a 2008 agreement to develop watches together under the Tiffany brand.

Quartz obsession interlude

Jason Karaian on how professional soccer clubs are great entertainment, but horrible investments: “Roma, this year’s best performing soccer stock, is unbeaten in the Italian league so far this season. The rapid rise in in its share price, however, comes down mostly to rumors of a takeover by a Chinese billionaire. The second and third-ranked stocks, belonging to Portuguese sides Benfica and Porto, have performed well in 2013 but are still down by more than 50% over the past three years. Supporting a soccer club can be stressful enough; without good timing and even better luck, it’s probably best not to get your brokerage account involved.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Tourists are threatening Southwest ruins. Formerly hard-to-find 13th century ruins on an Arizona Navajo reservation are being disturbed by GPS-equipped curiosity seekers—who should know better.

Bring back the WASPs. Sure, the traditional US ruling class had its quirks, but today’s meritocratic leaders lack honor, trust, and character (paywall).

China will eventually abandon North Korea. Beijing cares about its own standing in the international system, and it’s becoming embarrassed by Pyongyang’s dysfunction.

Go ahead and wish people a Merry Christmas. Forget “Happy Holidays”—it’s better to simply call each holiday what it is.

Surprising discoveries

Cinnamon-gate in Denmark. New EU guidelines suggest limited intake of the spice to prevent liver damage, and bakers of traditional pastries are not having it.

Insects are killing Christmas trees. Canaan and Fraser firs are being eaten to death by the tiny, notorious balsam woolly adelgid.

‘Tis the season to split. The cost of commitment can lead many couples to break up before Christmas.

Scorpion venom could make a great painkiller. Researchers who caught and “milked” 1,500 Australian scorpions say the venom can better help them target human pain receptors.

The Japanese have a term for “love that is motivated by job-hunting activities.” Rikurabu (リクラブ), combining words for “recruit” and “love,” is among the fascinating slang to emerge in 2013.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, holiday-specific greetings, and economic excuses for failed relationships to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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