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Quartz Daily Brief—Asia edition—America’s spending showdown, Microsoft’s bitcoin play, California’s waterworks, inventive spiders

By Stefan Constantinescu
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

What to watch for today

The US cracks open its wallet. Congress is scrambling for bipartisan support to pass a $1.1 trillion spending bill ahead of a midnight deadline to keep the government open. Barring an agreement, Congressional leaders have promised short-term measures to avoid a government shutdown.

California spars with Mother Nature. Central and northern California are bracing for the tail end of an epic storm stoked by the ”pineapple express,” a wave of moisture flowing from the sub-tropics. The water surge comes amid crippling droughts.

Argentina’s last-ditch attempt to become creditworthy. The country is hoping “holdout” creditors will accept an expiring offer to swap or cash in (paywall) $6.7 billion in debt maturing next year. That would give it leeway to issue debt on the international market, which Argentina hasn’t done since its 2001 default.

A barrage of terrible holiday fashion. Several countries host their own rendition of ”Ugly Christmas Sweater Day“—a day to don what are quite possibly the most visually displeasing pieces of garb ever to come off a loom.

While you were sleeping

Microsoft began accepting bitcoin. The software company has announced that if you want to top-up your Microsoft account using the new digital currency, you can, and then spend it on video games, apps, music, and movies on Xbox consoles and Windows devices. The company joins the likes of Paypal, Dell, Expedia, and Newegg in accepting the digital currency.

eBay is reportedly considering firing 10% of its employees. That’s 3,000 people. An unnamed source told the The Wall Street Journal (paywall) that the bulk of cuts would be in the online retailer’s marketplace division, which includes and StubHub. As the company prepares to split from its PayPal payments unit, lowering its operating costs might attract more buyout firms.

Scandinavia suddenly started looking shaky. Norway’s central bank unexpectedly cut interest rates to “prevent a severe downturn” thanks to plunging oil prices. In Denmark, the government slashed its growth outlook for this year and next, in response to weakness in its main export markets elsewhere in Europe. Finally, Sweden recorded yet another month of deflation.

China reportedly pumped 400 billion yuan into its banks. The roughly $65 billion cash injection to spur economic growth comes amid a three-day closed-door conference among top Chinese officials to set the country’s yearly economic priorities. Economists expect the debt-ridden country to lower its 2015 GDP target to 7% at an annual meeting in March.

Wall Street dove headfirst into peer-to-peer lending. Shares of LendingClub, the world’s largest online loan marketplace, shot up 67% just a few hours after they began trading. The firm, which says it has facilitated $6 billion in peer-to-peer loans, reported a slight loss for the first nine months of this year. Investors have hope that it can vacuum up risky loans banks have shunned.

Quartz obsession interlude

Matt Phillips on the American tradition of oil booms and busts. “In recent years, America’s oil and gas sector has flared brightly against an otherwise gloomy economic backdrop. Since the end of the Great Recession, the number of jobs in oil and gas extraction—not counting related industries such as transportation—has jumped 35%, while total US jobs have risen only 7%. Unemployment in energy-producing states, especially those involved in the shale oil boom, has collapsed to some of the lowest levels in the country.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Progress stopped in 1971. Everything we have now is just a slightly better version of what was developed during “The Golden Quarter.”

ISIL is doomed. The Islamic State is neither Islamic, nor is it a state, and it will end up destroying itself before the West does.

London should split off from England. It’s a city with an economy the size of Sweden and an unemployment rate of less than 3%. Let it govern itself (paywall).

The US needs to prolong its stay in Afghanistan. Even though situation there is quickly getting worse, president Obama is too concerned with his legacy.

Ukraine shouldn’t get money until it fixes itself. Setting aside the situation in the east, hardly anyone in the country pays taxes and a financial collapse is imminent.

Surprising discoveries

China’s growth is riding on big tobacco. The country made 43 out of every 100 cigarettes produced last year—2.3 trillion to be exact.

Enormous tourists are invading New York City. Humpback whale sightings off the coast of Queens are trebling.

Spiders invented a cutting-edge vibration sensor. Korean scientists copied a spider organ to construct a sensor that can detect extraordinarily faint vibrations.

America Online’s logo has an interesting past. It was inspired by 1940s and 1950s post-war American logos featuring the silhouettes of men.

Lazers make everything better. The Netherlands is slapping them on the front of trains to clear track debris.

Click here for more surprising discoveries on Quartz.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Chinese cigarettes, and spider inspirations to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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