Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Obama’s Iran letter, Disney’s success, Detroit’s reckoning, offputting vacation bores

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What to watch for today

The White House makes nice with a lame-duck Congress. Congressional leaders Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, and John Boehner meet US president Barack Obama at the White House to seek common ground 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 are unveiled. Previously sealed documents about the relationship between Apple and bankrupt iPhone screen supplier GT Advanced will be released to the public.

Detroit meets its fate. A bankruptcy judge will rule on whether the city’s contentious compromise agreement, which includes forgiving $7 billion of its $18 billion debt, is fair to creditors and achievable for the city.

A tour of global debt. 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.

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

While you were sleeping

Beijing may be bending. Chinese officials will pay more heed to the “two systems” formula for Hong Kong, sources told the South China Morning Post. The possibility of “appropriate adjustments” to China’s Hong Kong policy is a vague but potentially significant development for pro-democracy protesters, who are struggling with their own internal divisions.

Original movies buoyed Disney’s bottom line. The entertainment giant’s third-quarter operating profit doubled on the back of movies such as ”Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Maleficent,” while its peers struggled with falling TV ad revenues.

Home Depot said hackers accessed 53 million customer email accounts. The US retail giant’s newly disclosed data breach comes on top of its earlier confirmation that 56 million credit and debit card details were stolen in a cyberattack.

Amazon unveiled a talking computer. A 10-inch tube called “Echo” is Amazon’s take on Apple’s Siri and Google Now. Echo, which costs $199 (or $99 for Prime members) and ships in a few weeks on an invite-only basis, responds to verbal commands with music, news, weather, and other personal assistant-type information.

Obama wrote a secret letter to Iran’s leader. The Wall Street Journal reports that he stressed to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei the benefits of jointly fighting (paywall) the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. But partnering against ISIL hinges on one condition: Iran’s compliance with Western nuclear demands by a Nov. 24 deadline.

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

Rising eagle, slumping dragon. The US economy is on the rise, while China is struggling.

Stop manufacturing viral memes. Stealth marketing like “Alex from Target” makes the internet feel uncomfortable.

Don’t write off the old-school salesman just yet. Online shopping makes up just 6% of sales.

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

Americans should worry less about ISIL, and more about Mexican drug cartels.

Surprising discoveries

Marijuana legalization is largely a guy thing. Fifty-nine percent of US men are pro-legalization, but only 44% of women feel the same.

The strange origins of genitals. Lizard limbs evolved into forked sex organs.

Sugar beets could be a blood substitute. They have a protein with a similar structure to hemoglobin.

No, you can’t confide in your lawyer. At least 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, stealth corporate memes, and blood substitute veggies to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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