Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Garner chokehold protests, NASA test flight, ECB meeting, Italy’s WhatsApp divorces

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What to watch for today

The European Central Bank revs up. “Super” Mario Draghi is expected to drop hints about the ECB buying government bonds to kickstart the moribund euro zone economy. The euro is trading at a two-year low against the dollar ahead of the ECB’s policy meeting.

The ultimate test drive. NASA will trial its new Orion spacecraft, which is meant to eventually carry humans to Mars. Today’s test will send the ship up 3,600 miles; on reentry it will reach speeds of 20,000 miles an hour.

50,000 bitcoins go up for auction. They were once owned by the operators of the illicit Silk Road marketplace. The current trading value of the coins is roughly $19 million, and the US Marshals still have another 94,000 seized bitcoins left to dispose of.

While you were sleeping

Protests over Eric Garner’s death. Demonstrators took to the streets, including at Rockefeller Center’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony, after a grand jury decided not to charge a policeman who caused Garner’s death by putting him in a chokehold. As in Ferguson, Missouri, the US justice department is conducting a civil-rights investigation that could result in federal charges.

Vladimir Putin struck a defiant tone. In the Russian president’s annual address to parliament, justified the annexation of Crimea, condemned Western sanctions, and attacked “speculators” for pushing down the value of the ruble. “We know who these people are, and we have the means to rein them in,” Putin said.

Europe’s budget airlines soared on higher passenger numbers. Ireland’s Ryanair raised its profit outlook for the second time in a month after passenger volume rose 22% in November. Rival carrier Easyjet reported a more modest increase in passengers (paywall); both stocks were up sharply in morning trading.

Softbank invested in southeast Asia’s version of Uber. The Japanese tech company’s $250 million investment in GrabTaxi, which operates in six countries including Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, will give it more resources as it tries to fend off the fast-expanding Uber. GrabTaxi said it will grow in a “an ethical and moral way.”

Best Buy admits defeat in China. The big-box electronics retailer said it is selling its struggling 184-store Chinese business, Five Star, to Chinese real estate firm Zhejiang Jiayuan Group, in order to “focus even more on our US business.” Terms were not disclosed.

Cheap oil hit a Canadian gas project. Petronas, Malaysia’s state-owned oil and gas group, postponed its decision on a final $36 billion investment (paywall) in a project to transport liquefied natural gas project from Canada to Asia, citing low oil prices.

Quartz obsession interlude

Gwynn Guilford on China’s newfound banking insurance. ”The catch is that letting rates float freely will almost inevitably result in rash of defaults and bank failures, especially among smaller financial institutions. Since the fear of bank failures could itself cause banks to fail, Beijing needs government-backed deposit insurance in place first, before it can tackle the really big stuff.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Saudi Arabia is using the price of oil as a weapon. Its target is Iran.

Bombs and tanks aren’t going to destroy ISIL. The extremist group’s paranoia and hardline politics will.

Europe’s inflation “problem” isn’t actually a problem. The ECB needs to recalibrate its expectations (paywall).

“Humanely raised” chickens are anything but. This video from a Perdue facility is proof.

Asteroids are threatening humanity. So says a group of astrophysicists led by the former guitarist of Queen (paywall).

Surprising discoveries

There was one indictment in the Eric Garner case. The man who shot the cameraphone footage claims police subsequently set him up on a gun charge.

WhatsApp is cited in half of Italy’s divorce cases. The Facebook app doesn’t cause infidelity—it just provides proof.

There’s a simple trick to controlling weight gain. You just have to fast for 12 hours a day.

Giraffes are going extinct. Their numbers have fallen by almost half in 15 years.

Traveling this Christmas? Pack light. There’s talk of a ban on carry-on bags due to terrorism threats.

Click here for more surprising discoveries on Quartz.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, spare giraffes, and asteroid avoidance tips to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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