What to watch for today
The last of the Hong Kong protestors get cleared out. They’ve been occupying the city center for over two months, but it’s finally time to move them, according to a police spokesperson. Joshua Wong, the teenage leader of the movement, is urging protestors to keep the peace (paywall).
Russia tries to salvage the ruble. The central bank will likely raise its base interest rate from 9.5% to 10.5% in an attempt to combat inflation. Russia’s currency has fallen 40% against the dollar this year and gone increasingly haywire as oil prices slide and sanctions bite. Prime minister Dmitry Medvedev has urged people “not to panic.”
Sony talks about the Chinese PlayStation. Video game consoles have been banned in the People’s Republic since 2000, but that changed earlier this year, with Microsoft the first to offer its system in the country. Sony has said it’ll bring the PlayStation to China—today it’s going to provide details.
While you were sleeping
A Palestinian government minister died after a scuffle with Israeli troops. Images showed an Israeli officer grabbing the 55-year-old Ziad Abu Ain by the neck at a demonstration; he died shortly afterwards. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said he’ll wait for the results of an autopsy by Jordanian and Israeli pathologists.
Brent crude fell below $65 a barrel. It’s the lowest level in over five years, driven by signals from Saudi Arabia that it won’t cut production and OPEC forecasts of falling demand. Two US shale producers scaled back their investment plans (paywall), but the promise of cheap fuel has sent airline stocks ever upwards.
HSBC let go of the head of its European foreign exchange division. Stuart Scott was in charge of the bank’s forex unit during a scandal over attempts to rig exchange rates, which resulted in regulators levying a $618 million fine. HSBC wasn’t alone: Five other banks also were hit with penalties totaling $4.3 billion.
Detroit got back on its feet. The biggest municipal bankruptcy in American history officially ended after 17 months. Kevyn Orr, the emergency manager who negotiated a $7 billion cut in the city’s debts and a $1.4 billion investment plan, now hands control back to the mayor and city council.
Two more US cities sued Uber. Los Angeles and San Francisco are skeptical of the way the car-hailing service screens its drivers, among other issues, so the cities are taking the company to court. Portland, Oregon did the same thing just yesterday. In related bad Uber news, yet another driver is facing a rape allegation, this time in Chicago.
Time magazine honored the Ebola warriors. The deadly virus has been called a “caretakers’ disease” because it has claimed the lives of hundreds of doctors and nurses. And yet they soldier on, which is why they have been recognized as Time’s people of the year.
Quartz obsession interlude
Caitlin Hu on the Dutch tradition that still turns heads. “Every year around this time, people in the Netherlands paint themselves in blackface and go around pretending to be Santa’s African slaves. According to polls, 92% of Dutch people think this is just fine. They call themselves Zwarte Piets (Black Petes). According to Dutch legend, they are the ‘Moorish’ entourage that arrives with Santa Claus by steamship to deliver pre-Christmas presents to good children and carry away bad ones.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Iran is undergoing a profound shift in values. More and more unmarried couples are co-habiting in defiance of stigma and the law.
Tesla needs to watch its back. Competitors are starting to do their own battery research instead of buying off-the-shelf parts.
Offsetting—rather than cutting—carbon emissions is a pipe-dream. It depends on technology that’s too likely to go wrong.
The CIA torture report was absolutely necessary. It exposed just how unprepared intelligence officers were at fighting terrorism and just how much the people in power actually knew what was going on.
Treat kids responsibly when talking to them about sex. If you do, they’ll act responsibly and not get pregnant.
The US is experiencing Weltschmerz. Americans are starting to realize things aren’t as rosy as they thought.
Money to burn. China’s central bank let an electricity plant use old and damaged bank notes as fuel; they burn cleaner than coal.
Dressing up as Santa Claus is a civil right. New York’s SantaCon has hired a lawyer to fight for the right to its drunken annual pub crawl.
The UK is a nation of pill poppers. In Britain, 50% of women and 43% of men are on prescription meds.
Soda is good for you. But only if you’re an athlete engaging in a grueling and exhausting sport (paywall).
Vikings loved their families. New evidence suggests they brought their wives and children with them when they pillaged and colonized.
American vegetarians lack willpower. Eighty-four percent go back to eating meat after just one year—about one-third can’t even last three months.
Click here for more surprising discoveries on Quartz.