What to watch for today
Two economic reports from Japan. The Bank of Japan and the government release separate reports on the state of the economy. Japan-watchers will scrutinize them for subtle differences on how well the recovery is progressing.
A last-minute test for online retailers. With Christmas only a day away, the last-minute scramble to secure presents for friends and family reaches fever pitch. Amazon allows same-day delivery in the US, for an extra price. UPS already delivered 132 million packages last week.
A last day for Obamacare sign-ups. The deadline for Americans to sign up for health-care plans beginning on Jan. 1, the first under the new health-care law, has been extended until 11:59pm today. On Monday, the original deadline, the glitch-prone healthcare.gov site was experiencing five times its usual traffic.
While you were sleeping
Disney got a new board member. Twitter co-founder and chairman Jack Dorsey was elected as an independent director of the entertainment conglomerate. (A previous board member was Apple’s Steve Jobs.) Dorsey wasted no time in taking to Twitter to remind everyone that Disney “was started by a mouse.”
Pussy Riot went free. The two imprisoned members of the Russian punk band were released from jail, after being amnestied last week along with former oil magnate Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The women were thrown in prison last year after participating in an anti-Kremlin protest.
Venezuela gave tourists a big discount. The country devalued the bolivar for foreign tourists by 44%, in hopes of wooing more US dollars. The currency has lost more than 70% of its value on the black market this year, dissuading tourists from exchanging at the official rate.
Italy passed a “Google tax.” The new law says Italian companies may buy web ads only from Italian-registered firms. It means Google, which sells most of its ads through Ireland, would have to register in Italy and pay local taxes to sell ads. The move probably breaks EU law but will accelerate a debate about tax havens.
Farewell to the father of the rifle. Mikhail Kalashnikov, the man who created the AK-47, died at the age of 94. Some 100 million AK-47s and copies of them are thought to be in existence; the gun’s reliability and longevity has made it central to modern warfare, and it even has its own subreddit.
Quartz obsession interlude
Roberto A. Ferdman on why legal pot in Uruguay is great news for Paraguay’s drug lords. “Drug lords in neighboring Paraguay, one of the region’s largest producers of marijuana (pdf). and heavy contributors to South America’s budding underground drug trade, may be capable of producing and selling it for a lot less. A kilo of marijuana grown in Paraguay currently sells for $60 in the country and $300 across the border in Uruguay, according to the head of Paraguay’s National Anti-drugs Secretariat Luis Rojas (link in Spanish). That’s $0.06 a gram and $0.30 a gram, respectively.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Blackberry (the fruit, not the phone) will be the flavor of 2014. Its abundance of antioxidants and unpredictability make it ripe for marketing.
No one should cheer this season’s strong holiday spending. It was smart to consume after the recession, but people should already be shifting to save their money by now.
Our obsession with so-called “disrupters” is unhealthy. For all the talk, 2013 produced little if any creative or constructive disruption (paywall).
The next Silicon Valley is Austin, Texas. Or maybe it’s Bangalore…
Your next phone won’t have to run software from Apple or Google. New challengers are on their way—well-funded ones, too.
What does fox taste like? Ask the Chinese Walmart customer who is accusing the company of trying to pass off fox meat as donkey meat.
How to get out of airports faster. Don’t follow the signs to baggage claim.
Poor vision could save your life. A teenage girl escaped disaster when her glasses deflected a bullet from a drive-by shooting.
This could be the worst ad of the year. It paints a dystopian future in which only Samsung Galaxy Gear owners have sex.
Being a tech geek in prison ain’t easy. But it isn’t all bad, either.
The US has 33,000 virgin births a year. And other astonishing facts from the Christmas issue of the British Medical Journal.