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Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—Santander reshuffles, Nigeria devalues, America surprises, slime mold succeeds

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By Quartz

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What to watch for today

Europe ponders breaking up Google. The European parliament will start a discussion on ”unbundling search engines from other commercial services.” Google wasn’t mentioned by name, but a FT report last week (paywall) said the search giant is being targeted. The US just asks that the process ”not be politicized”.

Britain takes its fight against terrorism up a notch. The government will introduce a bill requiring internet service providers to record more information on users and let authorities see it. Airlines will also have to be more forthcoming with passenger data.

Iran and Saudi Arabia talk oil. Iranian oil minister Namdar Zanganeh meets with Saudi Arabia—OPEC’s largest producer of liquid gold—one day before OPEC’s members formally sit down to discuss how the cartel should tackle falling prices. Iran says it won’t cut its output, but Russia and Venezuela, which met on Tuesday, are both eager to tighten the taps a little.

The Umbrella Revolution continues. Police are going to give their ”fullest support” to court bailiffs ordered to clear out Nathan Road, where, according to The New York Times (paywall), “most of the protesters in Mong Kok have been camping.”

While you were sleeping

Banco Santander got a new boss. Javier Marín is out after less than two years as CEO of Europe’s largest lender. Jose Antonio Álvarez, the bank’s finance chief for the last decade, will take his place (paywall) on Jan. 1. It’s the first big move by Ana Botín, who took over from her father as executive chairman in September.

The OECD had some bad news for Europe and Japan. In its latest forecast, the organization said euro-zone inflation in the next two years will be lower than what the European Commission recently predicted, and way below the European Central Bank’s 2% target. For Japan, the OECD halved its forecast for 2014 GDP growth and cut the 2015 outlook too.

America’s economy surprised everyone. And given the Europe and Japan forecasts, this looked especially good: Investors were expecting the Commerce Department to revise third-quarter GDP growth downwards, but instead the new figure came in higher, at 3.9%. Consumer spending was also revised, to a 2.2% bump instead of 1.8%.

Nigeria caved to the power of oil prices. After spending billions of dollars in the past year to defend its currency, the naira, the country devalued it and raised interest rates. Falling oil prices have battered Africa’s largest economy, which analysts say needs oil at $126 to balance its budget; Brent crude today fell to $78.33.

France said firmly non to Russia. After previously equivocal statements about whether and when France would deliver two advanced “Mistral” warships, for which Russia signed a €1.1 billion ($1.4 billion) deal in 2011, president François Hollande finally decided (link in French) to postpone delivery “until further notice.”

Apple briefly hit $700 billion. It’s the first US company ever to reach that valuation, and has doubled its market cap since Tim Cook formally became CEO three years ago. However, Apple is worth less than 4% of the S&P 500, compared to 5% for IBM and 6% for Microsoft at their peaks. It closed the day back down at $685 billion.

Quartz obsession interlude

Kabir Chibber gets his hands dirty in the name of science. “The slime mold is single-minded in its goal to survive. To do that, it searches for food. This is the instinct by which the slime mold is able to replicate some of our much more complicated socioeconomic networks. People, companies, and countries all have the same goal—to survive and thrive. The slime mold just gets itself to the same place much more efficiently.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Don’t force your kids to specialize in one sport. Repetitive sports injuries aren’t just an adult problem (paywall).

Barack Obama is turning into George W. Bush. Defense secretary Chuck Hagel resigned because he wasn’t hawkish enough for the president.

Raising minimum wages doesn’t fix poverty. State subsidies shouldn’t disappear the second you get your head above water.

Governments have the wrong approach to cybersecurity. They’re trying to defend cyberspace the way they defend geographical borders.

Surprising discoveries

Bigger is not always better. American turkeys now weigh more than twice as much as they did in the 1930s—and their health suffers greatly for it.

Kids will eat healthier without being asked. If you make the cafeteria quieter, cut the fruits and vegetables into smaller pieces, and have their teachers eat with them.

Someone really, really likes The Wizard of Oz. An unnamed buyer snapped up the Cowardly Lion costume from the 1939 film for $3 million.

The elderly’s biggest problem is loneliness. A British helpline was inundated in its first year, and more than half the callers said they had nobody else to talk to.

Young people stick to the essentials. Half of American 21-to-27-year-olds call themselves “foodies” (paywall).

Click here for more surprising discoveries on Quartz.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, oversized birds, and directions to the yellow brick road to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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