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Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Obama’s secret letter, Amazon’s talking computer, Detroit’s reckoning, vacation envy

What to watch for today

America’s jobs report card. The Labor Department’s monthly payrolls report of public and private sector jobs is expected to show a steady unemployment rate of 5.9%, with 231,000 jobs added in October versus 248,000 in September.

The White House makes nice with Congress. Four Congressional leaders—Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, and John Boehner—meet US president Barack Obama at the White House to discuss what the government can and should push through before the new Republican-controlled Congress convenes in January. Topping the agenda is Obama’s request for $6.2 billion to fight Ebola.

Apple’s sapphire secrets, unveiled. Previously sealed documents about the relationship between Apple and GT Advanced, the rumored maker of synthetic sapphire screens for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus that never came to fruition, will be released to the public, a US bankruptcy judge ordered. The documents were shrouded in secrecy following GT Advanced’s bankruptcy filings last month.

Detroit meets its fate. A US bankruptcy judge will rule on whether the deal reached over the city’s contentions bankruptcy trial, which includes forgiving $7 billion of its $18 billion in debt, is fair to creditors and doable for the city.

A tour of global debt. Rating firms including Moody’s, Fitch, and Standard & Poor’s will update their sovereign debt ratings for Belgium, Botswana, Ethiopia, the EU, Finland, France, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mozambique, Portugal, Senegal, and Switzerland.

While you were sleeping

The ECB left interest rates alone. The central bank kept interest rates on hold at its meeting in Frankfurt, as predicted by 55 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. ECB president Mario Draghi stressed the bank’s willingness to inject another one trillion euros into the euro zone to boost the continent’s economy.

Microsoft made Office for iPad free. As a way to lure more mobile users, the world’s largest software company no longer requires an Office 365 subscription to create and edit documents on the iPad. On the iPhone, Microsoft now has dedicated Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps to fend off touch-friendly work apps like Haiku Deck, Quip, Smartsheet, and Evernote.

Obama reportedly wrote a secret letter to Iran’s leader. The US president secretly wrote supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei both to stress the benefit of jointly fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and to move the needle on a nuclear deal, the Wall Street Journal reported. Obama is said to have written that partnering against ISIL hinged on one condition: Iran’s compliance with Western nuclear demands by Nov. 24.

The US hit Khorasan for the second time. The American military said it struck the Khorasan group—which has been linked to al-Qaeda—in northwestern Syria near the Turkish border. Its five targets included several vehicles and buildings in the Syrian city of Sarmada, which US officials said were being used for training and to produce explosives. The US’s first strike on the group was in late September.

Amazon unveiled a talking a computer. A 10-inch tall tube called “Echo” is Amazon’s take on Apple’s Siri and Google Now. By saying “Alexa,” and then asking a question, the Echo—which costs $199 (or $99 for Prime members) and ships in a few weeks on an invite-only basis—responds with requested information, music, news, weather, and other personal assistant-type tasks.

Authorities put the kibosh on Silk Road, again. Following in its predecessor’s footsteps, online hidden marketplace Silk Road 2.0 was taken down by international law enforcement agencies including the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and Europol. The FBI arrested its alleged operator, 26-year-old Blake Benthall, in San Francisco and charged him with multiple offenses including conspiring to commit narcotics trafficking. He’s facing life in prison.

The next Star Wars movie got a name. Episode VII is called The Force Awakens.

Quartz obsession interlude

Matthew Phillips on Switzerland’s movement to return to a gold standard. “The Save Our Swiss Gold initiative doesn’t make sense economically. But referenda like this and the one Swiss voters recently passed to clamp down on immigration really aren’t about economics. They’re about the increasingly influential rightward drift of European politics, which threatens to result—especially in the case of the Save our Swiss Gold initiative—in some really terrible policies.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Real live salespeople still matter in retail. Online shopping makes up just 6% of sales.

IBM needs to reinvent itself—again. Which means not spending its money on share buybacks.

Amazon’s competition will eat the company alive. Smaller players are focusing on better logistics.

People know what they want, not who they want. Ballot measures trumped politicians’ views (paywall) in America’s Congressional midterm elections.

Americans should worry less about ISIL. And more about Mexican drug cartels.

Surprising discoveries

Genitals have strange origins. Lizard limbs evolved into sex organs.

Eating real food will blow your mind. And your body will feel amazing.

Sugar beets could be a blood substitute. It has a protein with a similar structure to haemoglobin.

No, you can’t confide in your lawyer. Not if you’re being targeted by British spies.

No one wants to hear about your awesome vacation. Recounting cool experiences tends to drive away friends.

Click here for more surprising discoveries on Quartz.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, unwanted salespeople, and blood equivalents to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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