Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
A small group of elite Chinese politicians starts choosing the country’s new leaders. The 18th congress of China’s Communist Party concludes today. Around 2,200 delegates spent this morning choosing who gets to join the Central Committee. That is a panel of a few hundred people who will in turn select the seven members of the nation’s innermost ring of power, the Politburo Standing Committee. That announcement is due Thursday, but state-owned media have started to release clues. Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang—already hotly tipped for these roles—look likely to become party leader and deputy, respectively. Other than the excitement over the selection of new bosses, the congress has been heavy on rhetoric, some of it comical, such as Hu Jintao lambasting the corruption he presided over.
Obama hears from the 1% on how much tax they want to pay. The US president will meet with chief executives from a dozen top American companies including General Electric, Honeywell and Wal-Mart, as part of his negotiations on averting the upcoming “fiscal cliff”. Some have noted the conspicuous absence of financiers from the group, after Wall Street’s big bet on the failed Romney campaign. Expect more clues as to the line the administration will take on taxes and spending when Obama holds a press conference today. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has hinted Obama will not be soft on the rich, saying higher taxes for them are inevitable.
News from the euro zone, probably dismal. The 17 nations sharing the common currency will likely show a decline in September industrial production, as the continent continues to struggle with impact of the debt crisis on the real economy. Recent brinksmanship on striking a deal with heavily indebted countries such as Greece could produce a more severe recession than European officials have been expecting.
While you were sleeping
Sandy claimed Long Island Power Authority CEO’s scalp. Michael Hervey, the embattled chief executive of the Long Island Power Authority, has resigned. He stepped down on the same day that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo launched an investigation by a special commission into the state’s utilities and their response to the super-storm. The New York Times said of the Long Island Power Authority that “deep-rooted problems at the authority have hobbled its response, causing hardship for hundreds of thousands of its customers.”
Singapore casino operators found the house does not always win. Gaming revenues in the South East Asian city, which bet big on gambling by building a huge casino and entertainment resort on Sentosa Island in 2010, are falling. Analysts say the novelty is wearing off for the Singapore public, while the global economic slowdown is forcing high-stakes VIP gamblers to spend less.
BNY Mellon settles New York state lawsuit over Bernie Madoff. The bank’s Ivy Asset Management arm agreed to cough up $210 million to settle charges that it misled clients who put their money with the imprisoned Ponzi schemer.
Quartz obsession interlude
Matt Phillips on how the current fiscal cliff debate is only the latest chapter in a US debt saga going back over 200 years: ”The US was born in debt. The earliest full reckoning of US national debt was compiled by Alexander Hamilton, the first US Treasury Secretary… The analysis dates to 1790 and puts the newborn US at around a 30% debt-to-GDP ratio, with the debt a bit higher than $75 million… All in, the US owed about $11.7 million to foreigners, mostly to Dutch bankers and the French government, and about $42 million to domestic creditors. The states also had a ton of debt (about $25 million, Hamilton reckoned), which the Federal Government assumed—take a hint, euro zone!—in 1790.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
German officials should stop worrying about the US fiscal crisis and start worrying about the fiscal crisis in their own backyard.
Fiscal Cliff spending cuts are “going to kneecap“ the US military and bludgeon defense spending. In yet more cliff-inspired mixed metaphor, a Defense Department official has told the Seattle Times he is preparing for “fiscal castration.”
After the US election, it’s only a matter of time before a schism emerges in the Republican party between extremists and “pragmatic conservative problem solvers.“
China’s next president has a much tougher job than President Obama. Compared with Communist-Party-style collective decision-making, facing down the Republicans in Congress is apparently a cakewalk.
The amazing story of how an aristocratic French family was swindled. Thierry Tilly was sentenced to eight years in prison on Tuesday, after using his Rasputin-like attachment to an aristocratic French family to convince 11 people—age 16 to 89—that their lives were in danger. “The family was in hiding for nearly a decade before two of the adult children realized Tilly wasn’t what he appeared.”
British police want to know how somebody stole the keys to the Tower of London, where the crown jewels are kept.
In Memphis, this Santa Claus is fighting for a refund after officials made him buy a business license.
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