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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Cyber Monday, Hong Kong protests escalate, Sony movies leaked, Aerosmith’s asteroid revival

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

What to watch for today

A thriftier Cyber Monday? US shoppers spent $50.9 billion over the Thanksgiving weekend, 11% less than last year. Consumers could be saving their holiday shopping funds for Cyber Monday, a day of online sales—or just tightening their purse strings.

The US Supreme Court considers Facebook threats. Justices will consider whether a man who posted violent rap lyrics about killing his estranged wife on Facebook is entitled to free speech protections under the US constitution.

Key climate talks kick off in Peru. Negotiators from more than 190 countries are meeting in Lima for COP20, the last ministerial meeting ahead of a major conference in Paris next year. There’s some cautious optimism following a recent US-China emissions deal last month.

Over the weekend 

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests escalated. Police and demonstrators clashed in front of Hong Kong’s main government office on Sunday night and into Monday, marking a newly violent stage of the pro-democracy protests that have entered their third month. The city’s chief executive CY Leung called on protestors to go home, saying: “Please do not take tolerance as incapability in handling the issue … do not think the police are weak (registration required).”

Factory output slowed in China and the euro zone. China’s official purchasing managers’ index for November fell to a lower-than-expected 50.3, barely above the 50.0 mark that separates contraction from expansion. The euro zone PMI fell to 50.1 in November (paywall), from 50.4 in October, as factory activity in Germany, France, and Italy contracted.

Samsung didn’t fire its mobile phone boss after all. Mobile business head J.K. Shin retained his top spot despite speculation he could be replaced due to a precipitous decline in profits at Samsung’s smartphone division. A source told ZDNet that Samsung heir apparent Jay Y. Lee’s decision showed “deference toward his father and the current restructuring drive.”

Hackers leaked unreleased movies from Sony. Attacks on the company’s computer networks resulted in at least five pre-release movies being pirated online. The hackers’ identities and motives are unknown, but the government of North Korea—which was angered by a forthcoming North Korean-themed comedy from Sony—is among the suspects.

Uber was banned in Thailand. The on-demand car service’s vehicles and drivers are improperly registered, do not comply with regulated rates, and discriminate against customers without credit cards, according to a Thai transportation regulator. Drivers for Uber, which has been operating in Bangkok and Phuket for about a year, will face heavy fines if they continue to operate.

Moody’s downgraded Japan’s debt. The ratings agency knocked the country’s sovereign debt down one peg (paywall) to A1 from Aa3, citing prime minister Shinzo Abe’s delay of a planned sales tax hike. The downgrade is Japan’s first by a major agency in two years.
A merit badge for online cookie sales? Girl Scouts of the USA announced it will let troops sell its famous cookies online for the first time this year via personalized websites and mobile apps, in order to teach e-commerce and entrepreneurial skills. The group hopes that online sales will add to an estimated $800 million annual business.

Quartz obsession interlude

Julia Bolton Holloway on why she’d rather teach illiterate Roma than Ivy Leaguers. “I have taught university students at Berkeley, Princeton, and Boulder. I prefer teaching illiterate Roma, all ages, and learning from them the richness of their culture, the excellence of their skills, and the strength of their families.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Qatar should give the World Cup to Gaza. It would boost tourism, create jobs, and undermine Hamas.

If poor people knew how rich rich people were, there would be riots in the streets. So says Chris Rock.

The Hunger Games reflects our society’s ills. The problem is it reflects different ills depending on who you ask.

Learning to code? Choose just one language: JavaScript, Ruby, or Python.

Twins are bad for the economy. Low birth weight reduces earning potential, and families bear higher health and education costs.

Surprising discoveries

The Philae landing was a boost for Aerosmith. The asteroid probe spurred people to revisit the Armageddon soundtrack.

Coffee tastes different depending on mug color. A blue mug may accentuate perceived bitterness.

Future space missions may be powered by poop. Researchers have found a way to turn astronaut waste into biogas.

Bones from a giant penguin species were rediscovered. They were stashed in a New Zealand storage facility.

ISIL released a new pancake recipe. It is designed to help the “energy and power of the Mujahideen.”

Click here for more surprising discoveries on Quartz.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, color-coded coffee mugs, and giant penguin bones to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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