Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—China IPOs, US home sales, Zappos holacracy, stoned dolphins

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What to watch for today

Marijuana users camp out in Denver. Stores that can legally sell pot will open on Jan. 1, and some eager buyers are spending a frigid night outside to be among the first in line.

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 opened the IPO spigot. After a year-long blockage, regulators approved the mainland public offerings of five firms.

Israel released Palestinian prisoners. 26 prisoners were 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.

Merkel set her to-do list. The German chancellor said she will prioritize eliminating the budget deficit and transferring her country’s energy supply from coal and nuclear to renewables.

Abe was blacklisted in China. Beijing categorically refused to meet with the Japanese prime minister after his visit to a controversial war shrine.

Latvians aren’t thrilled about the euro. The common currency will gain its 18th member on Jan. 1 the Baltic country pivots away from Russia, but residents are leery of price increases.

Berkshire Hathaway’s pipeline play. The conglomerate will buy a Philipps 66 unit that makes chemicals to improve pipeline flow in a $1.4 billion stock swap—and attempt to salvage one of Warren Buffett’s biggest mistakes.

Singapore’s economy is “doing well,” according to prime minister Lee Hsien Loong, growing by a slightly better-than-expected 3.7% in 2013 due to recoveries in the US and Europe.

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 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.

Surprising discoveries

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 can 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 You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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