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Quartz Daily Brief—Japan’s surprise recession, Actavis-Allergan deal nears, Facebook for work, reanimated corpses

What to watch for today

Actavis is close to buying Allergan. A reported $65.5 billion buyout deal would end the long pursuit of the Botox maker by Valeant, a Canadian drugmaker backed by hedge fund manager Bill Ackman. An Actavis offer of up to $220 per share would probably put Allergan out of Valeant’s reach, though Ackman could still profit from the huge run-up in the share prices of the companies involved.

More trouble at Petrobas. The Brazilian oil giant delayed filing its third-quarter earnings as federal police arrested 18 people (paywall) in a widening corruption probe. Newly re-elected Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, who chaired Petrobras from 2003 to 2010, promised a wide-ranging investigation that would “change forever the relationship between Brazilian society, the Brazilian state, and private companies.”

Alibaba’s biggest challenger reports earnings. JD.com, China’s second-largest online retailer, has been investing heavily in logistics and warehouses, which could impact its third-quarter results. Investors will also want to know how JD is doing with mobile shoppers.

Europe responds to a Dutch bird flu outbreak. The European Commission is expected to adopt “urgent interim measures” to stop the outbreak of a highly contagious strain of bird flu that could be transmitted from chickens to humans. Around 150,000 chickens have already been destroyed as a precaution.

Over the weekend

Japan tumbled into recession. The economy posted its second consecutive quarterly decline, with GDP unexpectedly shrinking by 1.6% in the third quarter compared with the same period a year ago. Prime minister Shinzo Abe is likely to postpone a planned sales tax increase; his economic adviser said the GDP drop was “shocking” and called for additional economic stimulus measures.

Australia and China signed a free-trade pact. Australian prime minister Tony Abbott and Chinese president Xi Jinping concluded a landmark deal in Canberra, ending more than 10 years of contentious negotiations. New Zealand concluded a similar free trade deal with China in 2008 and has since seen trade double.

The Hong Kong-Shanghai “through-train” left the station. A link between Shanghai and Hong Kong stock exchanges will give Hong Kong investors direct access to mainland shares for the first time, and vice versa, in a big step for China’s efforts to liberalize its economy. Cross-border share deals will however be subject to numerous restrictions (paywall), and may be hindered by a notorious lack of transparency among Shanghai-listed companies.

An oil services merger turned ugly. Negotiations between Halliburton and Baker Hughes broke down, as Halliburton warned its smaller rival that it plans to mount a proxy fight to take control at a shareholder meeting in April. Talks between the second-largest and third-largest oil services providers reportedly stalled due to disagreements over price and securing clearance from US anti-trust regulators.

Facebook went B2B. The company is experimenting with “Facebook at Work,” which would allow colleagues to communicate and collaborate, sources told the Financial Times (paywall). The new service would compete with Linkedin, Google Docs, and newer companies like Slack.

ISIL beheaded another hostage. The group posted a video showing the decapitation of American aid worker Peter Kassig. The man carrying out the killing spoke with a British accent, just days after the UK pledged to take action to combat ISIL jihadists.

Apple scored a major China payments deal. Customers can now connect UnionPay, a state-backed payments giant, to their app store accounts, making in-app purchases easier. The agreement could pave the way for the roll-out of Apple Pay in China.

Quartz obsession interlude

Kabir Chibber on how the new “Assassin’s Creed” game is reviving an ancient debate over the French Revolution. “Ubisoft, the maker of the series of video games, which has been going since 2007 and has sold more than 70 million copies, is in fact French. One of the makers of the game replied that ‘Assassin’s Creed: Unity’ is a ‘consumer video game, not a history lesson’.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The NFL is too socialist for London. The most American of sports relies on secret subsidies (paywall).

Political correctness makes groups more creative. Without rules, people keep their ideas to themselves.

France is a tax haven. The country’s generous tax breaks for research and development are attracting tech companies.

Obama’s email list shouldn’t be for sale. An aligned non-profit rents it for $1.2 million a year.

Schools with immigrants outperform their peers. Aspiration, ambition, and engagement are higher—in London, at least.

Surprising discoveries

“Corpses” wake up in morgues from time to time. But happily for the coroners, the cases are quite rare.

Christmas is under fire in Japan. A nationwide butter shortage is threatening seasonal cakes and cookies.

A kiss isn’t just a kiss. It’s also a way to transfer 80 million bacteria per smooch.

The tilde is under threat from emoji. The 3,000-year-old character (~) should consider becoming “Invisible Man With Twirled Mustache.”

Mikhail Gorbachev was a big “Twin Peaks” fan. He reportedly used diplomatic ties to ask who killed Laura Palmer.

Click here for more surprising discoveries on Quartz.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, tilde rebranding strategies, and Japanese butter substitutes to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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