Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Christmas Eve rush, bloody M&A, Dorsey at Disney, 30,000 virgin births

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What to watch for today

Treacherous UK  holiday travel. High winds and heavy rains have killed two and left thousands without electricity, and holiday travel plans today may be disrupted by debris on roads and railways.

A blockbuster blood deal. Private equity firm Carlyle is reportedly in talks to buy Johnson & Johnson’s blood testing unit for about $4 billion, according to Reuters.

Pervez Musharraf goes on trial. The former Pakistan military leader goes before a special court on treason charges for his 2007 suspension of the constitution and imposition of emergency rule.

A last-minute test for online retailers. The last-minute scramble to secure Christmas presents reaches a fever pitch. Amazon allows same-day delivery in the US, for a price, and UPS delivered 132 million packages last week—but up to a third of online purchases eventually get returned.

The last day for Obamacare sign-ups. The deadline for Americans to sign up for health-care plans under the new law has been extended until 11:59pm on December 24. On Monday, the original deadline, the glitch-prone site was experiencing five times its usual traffic.

While you were sleeping

Dorsey joined Disney’s board. Twitter co-founder and chairman Jack Dorsey was elected as an independent director of the entertainment conglomerate. Dorsey wasted no time in taking to Twitter to remind everyone that Disney “was started by a mouse.

China injected more funds. To stave off a year-end cash crunch, the central bank is selling 29 billion yuan ($4.8 billion) of seven-day reverse repurchase agreements, the first such injection in three weeks.

Abe said Japan is beating deflation. The Japanese prime minister secured approval for a draft budget that cuts back on borrowing while also spending a record amount on stimulus—and for the first time in four years, the government’s monthly economic report did not use the word deflation.

The UK pardoned Alan Turing. Queen Elizabeth II granted the computer pioneer a posthumous pardon half a century after he was convicted of “gross indecency” for his relationship with another man.

Ban Ki-moon wants more troops in South Sudan. The UN head is pressing the Security Council to add 5,500 troops to the 7,000 already in South Sudan, where fighting has killed as many as 1,000 people.

A blast in Egypt killed at least 14. An explosion thought to be caused by a car bomb hit a police headquarters in a city north of Cairo; the interim government says the Muslim Brotherhood was responsible.

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

Kim Jong-il’s sister runs North Korea. Kim Kyong-hui may be calling the shots now, and her eventual death could usher in the regime’s downfall.

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.

Your next phone won’t have to run software from Apple or Google. New challengers are on their way—well-funded ones, too.

Surprising discoveries

How to get out of airports faster. Don’t follow the signs to baggage claim.

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.

Being a tech geek in prison ain’t easy. But it ain’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.

How to steal bitcoins, live on TV. A Bloomberg anchor bought the digital currency on-air and was promptly robbed by a viewer.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, blackberry recipes, and tales of virgin births to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.


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