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Quartz Daily Brief—Sydney hostage crisis, Abe’s election win, Sony scolds reporters, China bans anthem

By Richard Macauley
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

What to watch for today

David Cameron’s plan to slash spending. The UK prime minister has promised a budget surplus by fiscal 2018, and will argue that his plan to achieve it without raising taxes (paywall) is both “sensible and reasonable.”

Apple’s $450 million ebook appeal. The company will seek to overturn (paywall) last year’s US federal court ruling that it conspired with publishers to fix ebook prices. Private plaintiffs joined with states and the federal government to sue Apple in 2012.

The economic data download. The US home builder confidence index is due, and US industrial production data is released by the Federal Reserve. Elsewhere, the markets will digest Israeli inflation, Turkish unemployment, and more data on UK house prices.

Powerful people powwow. EU foreign ministers convene to discuss the ongoing conflict with ISIL and the disintegrating Libyan state, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini meets with Ukraine prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and UK chancellor George Osborne speaks at the Economic Club of New York.

Over the weekend

A ongoing hostage crisis in Sydney. A gunman with a black Islamic flag has taken about 15 people hostage at a cafe in the city’s business district, prompting a heavy police response that closed the Sydney Opera House and other nearby offices. Five hostages have fled the scene, but police say the siege could continue through the night. Few details are known about the hostage-taker’s demands, identity, or motivation.

Hong Kong police dismantled the Umbrella Movement’s last outpost. Authorities evicted pro-democracy activists from their last protest site in Causeway Bay, removing tents and barricades and arresting over a dozen demonstrators. Protest groups are proposing a new round of civil disobedience now that their encampments are gone.

Shinzo Abe was reelected as Japan’s prime minister. Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party won 325 of 475 seats after an election that the LDP described as a mandate over Abe’s economic reforms. The outcome was assured from the start; the opposition fielded only 198 candidates.

Turkey arrested at least 24 media staffers. Personnel from a newspaper and a TV station with close links to an opposition leader were detained for trying to “seize control of the state.” EU representatives warned the detentions “went against European values.”

Sony Pictures tried to stop the presses. The studio sent letters to Bloomberg and the New York Times requesting they stop reporting on the contents of the company’s hacked computers. The script for the next James Bond film was among the leaked documents.

Indian inflation went to zero. The wholesale price index saw no change in November from a year earlier, confounding analysts who expected an increase. The price stagnation raises the likelihood that the Reserve Bank of India will cut rates early next year.

Climate change negotiators reached a deal. Environment ministers in Lima announced that all countries would be required to cut greenhouse gas emissions, including fast-growing, heavy-polluting developing economies. But negotiators said the agreement was not sufficient, and postponed the most contentious issues until next year’s UN conference in Paris.

The year’s largest US private equity deal. A consortium led by London-based private equity firm BC Partners agreed to buy PetSmart in an $8.7 billion deal, including debt. Activists had been pressuring the retailer to sell itself as competition ramped up from and other retailers.

Quartz obsession interlude

Kabir Chibber compares the style guides of The Economist and Bloomberg News. “Somewhere in the 1970s, when two Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, helped make ‘investigative journalism’ a romantic, holy endeavour, the news profession lost a great deal of sense.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

“Lumbersexuals” are a symptom of masculinity in crisis. The same thing happened in the 1890s.

2014 was the most progressive year for the Catholic Church. A revolution of common sense over ideology.

Germany’s corporate gender quotas won’t work. They failed in Norway, and weren’t even needed in Denmark.

Wanna learn how to run a business? Try working in a McDonald’s.

The French are obsessed with their national decline. Le Suicide Français” is the latest societal indictment.

Surprising discoveries

A sun-sized bucket of water wouldn’t extinguish the sun. It would actually make it bigger and hotter.

China banned its own national anthem at weddings. Only ”certain dignified events“ can feature it from now on.

Washington, DC is building a taxi app. Instead of banning Uber, the city will compete with it.

New York police get sued 10 times a day. The highest number of lawsuits per resident was in the Bronx.

Saturday was an auspicious day for weddings. 12/13/14 was the last sequential calendar date for 20 years.

Click here for more surprising discoveries on Quartz.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, municipal taxi apps, and unwanted national anthem tapes to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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