What to watch for today
Russia tightens security. Authorities ordered heightened safeguards at railway stations and other facilities after two suicide bomb attacks. But the Russian Olympic Committee said there was no need for extra precautions in Sochi because “everything necessary already has been done.”
Israel releases Palestinian prisoners. About two dozen prisoners will be let out ahead of New Year’s day peace talks between US secretary of state John Kerry, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.
US home prices rise. The October Case-Shiller housing-price index is expected to show that the two-year trend in rising real-estate prices isn’t done yet.
Obamacare ends the year in surprisingly good shape. As the official responsible for day-to-day implementation steps down, the new US healthcare law has a decent shot of hitting its target of 7 million enrollments next year.
While you were sleeping
China opens the IPO spigot. After a year-long freeze, regulators approved the mainland public offerings of five firms, in an attempt to reboot the country’s financial markets.
Abe is blacklisted in China. Beijing categorically refused to meet with the Japanese prime minister after his visit to a controversial war shrine.
Berkshire Hathaway’s pipeline play. Warren Buffett’s conglomerate will buy a Philipps 66 unit that makes chemicals to improve pipeline flow in a stock swap valued at about $1.4 billion.
Drones will be tested from Alaska to New York. US federal aviation regulators will begin testing unmanned aerial vehicles at six sites ahead of establishing rules for their general use.
The rubber met the road, and a tire deal failed. Cross-border legal woes put an end to the $2.5 billion takeover of US Cooper Tire by India’s Apollo Tyre, leaving behind a skidmark of bitter recriminations.
Michael Schumacher is still in critical condition. The Formula One racing star is in an induced coma in a French hospital after a skiing accident.
Quartz obsession interlude
Leo Mirani on the prematurely reported death of Facebook. ”People young and old are indeed signing up to networks that are not called Facebook. But they are not leaving Facebook. … Social networking is not a zero-sum game. Just as it is possible to have several groups of friends, or several sets of interests, or even different email accounts, it is conceivable that-free thinking individuals will spread out their interests across sites that offer them different things.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
In no one we trust. The bonds between fellow citizens are a casualty of growing income inequality.
How to stop a war between China and Japan: sell the disputed islands to environmentalists.
2013 was a good year for US financial reform, thanks in part to massive scandals such as the “London Whale.”
The free market will be bitcoin’s undoing. Here’s one scenario that could make the price of bitcoins plunge.
A company without managers or job titles. Meet the radical holacrats at Zappos.
The TSA bot will screen you now. Some airports are using machines instead of people (paywall) to verify fliers’ identities.
Germs communicate with fermented mammal sweat, customizing their hosts’ secretions to send messages to each other.
Sharks can tweet… It’s a way to save their lives, not yours.
…And dolphins get high. Chewing on puffer fish releases a nerve toxin that has a narcotic effect in low doses.
A cereal mogul convinced everyone that coffee is bad for kids. It’s not, but we’re still scared of “Mr. Coffee Nerves.”
Our best wishes for a productive day and a happy new year. Please send any news, comments, shark @-replies and coffee myths to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.