Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Apple’s sapphire secrets, US jobs, Mexico-China rail split, legalization gender gap

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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 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 sapphire 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.

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

Mexico cancelled a massive Chinese rail deal. President Enrique Peña Nieto unexpectedly pulled a $3.7 billion high-speed rail contract that was awarded to a China Railway Construction led-consortium. Mexico’s transportation secretary said the reversal was remove any “doubts about the bidding process.” Opposition leaders had questioned the consortium’s ties to family members of Nieto’s ruling party.

Canary Wharf rejected a Qatari takeover bid. Songbird Estates, the majority owner of the London financial district, turned down a £2.2 billion ($3.5 billion) offer from the Qatar Investment Authority and US-based Brookfield Property Partners. Two weeks ago, QIA agreed to buy HSBC’s Canary Wharf headquarters for about £1.1 billion (paywall).

Putin defended a Nazi-era pact. Russia’s president said there was nothing wrong with the Soviet Union’s treaty with Nazi Germany, which secretly apportioned control of Poland and other eastern Europe countries between Hitler and Stalin. ”Serious research has shown that such methods were part of foreign policy at that time,” he said, stoking more fears of Russian aggression in Europe.

Takata knew it had air bag problems in 2004. The airbag maker at the center of Honda’s US recall found defects a decade ago (paywall) after conducting secret tests, but Takata executives buried the results, according to the New York Times. Takata defects have forced more than 17 million recalls by 10 carmakers, including a new batch by Honda on Thursday.

China and Japan agreed to disagree on disputed islands… Diplomats from the two countries acknowledged that “different positions exist” on ownership of several disputed islands in the East China Sea, which has inflamed Sino-Japanese relations. The countries also said they will work to re-establish diplomatic ties and set up mechanisms to manage any future crises.

…And Beijing may be bending ever-so-slightly on Hong Kong. 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.

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.

You probably won’t understand the web of the future. English-language dominance is a thing of the past.

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.

Detour on the highway to hell? Charges against AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd, accused yesterday of attempting to arrange a murder in New Zealand, have been dropped.

Click here for more surprising discoveries on Quartz.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, stealth corporate memes, and veggie blood substitutes to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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