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Quartz Daily Brief—”The Interview” canceled, China’s property slump, Uber’s driver screening, Cuba’s Gitmo rent

What to watch for today

Putin’s state-of-the-nation. The Russian president gives his annual press conference to 1,200 journalists at an event—which has its own cinematic trailer—that is expected to feature Putin blaming Western powers for the collapse of his country’s economy. In related news, EU foreign ministers are expected to ban firms from investing in Crimea or exporting oil- and gas-related technology to the new Russian province.

Cuba presses for an end to the US trade embargo. President Raul Castro is calling for an end to the 54-year-old ban as his country and the US moved toward restoring diplomatic ties. But Republicans in Congress have vowed to maintain the embargo, and to also block the nomination of any US ambassador to Havana.

Some good economic news from Germany. Ifo’s gauge of business confidence is expected to come in slightly higher, though it probably won’t stop the European Central Bank launching stimulus measures in 2015 (paywall).

Nike’s numbers. Analysts expect double-digit percentage growth (paywall) for second-quarter revenue and earnings, as the athletic goods giant tries to expand in Adidas’ home turf of Western Europe, and fend off basketball shoe competitors.

While you were sleeping

Sony Pictures canceled The Interview. The studio pulled the North Korea-themed comedy’s planned release following terrorist threats against theaters and a devastating hacker attack that leaked reams of sensitive company data. Anonymous US officials told US news outlets that North Korea directly ordered the hacks, but some say the evidence is thin.

China’s property slump deepened. New home prices fell by 3.7% in November (paywall) from a year earlier, compared with a a 2.6% fall in October. Chinese real estate companies have been cutting prices and ramping up promotional efforts in an attempt to maintain sales volume.

Uber promised better driver screening. The on-demand car service said that it would build a custom driver screening tool to help protect its customers, as an Uber driver in Boston was charged with rape and kidnapping after he allegedly assaulted a female passenger earlier this month.

Colombia’s FARC announced a unilateral ceasefire. The left-wing rebels conceded to the Colombian government, and will lay down their arms on Dec. 30. If the deal sticks, it could lead to the conclusion of a five-decade war that has killed more than 220,000 people.

New Zealand’s cows boosted GDP. Expanding dairy production and manufacturing pushed third-quarter economic growth to 3.2% (paywall). Quarter-on-quarter growth was 1%, above an expected 0.7%.

Quartz obsession interlude

Zainab Mudallal does some digging on Cuba’s tourism industry. “The latest data from the World Bank shows that Cuba saw roughly 2.8 million international tourist arrivals in 2012, up from 2.5 million in 2010. That’s more arrivals than Iceland, Cyprus, Ecuador, New Zealand, Qatar, and Costa Rica, to name a few.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Don’t bemoan the end of the “authentic” Cuba. It’s code for fetishized poverty.

Sony should just release The Interview online. If dumb comedies can be banned, documentaries will be next.

China-US relations have never been healthier. Two superpowers going to war just doesn’t seem plausible.

The definition of “job” changed this year. We no longer see it as a dependable relationship.

The West shouldn’t wreck Russia’s economy. If sanctions dislodge Vladimir Putin, someone worse could take his place.

Surprising discoveries

Cuba is due back rent for Guantanamo Bay. It has refused to accept US payments, but normalized relations may change that.

Thinking reduces confidence. We become less sure of our choices the longer we consider our options.

Breathing burns fat. Your body breaks it down into water and carbon dioxide during exercise.

A Texas plumber’s truck ended up in a Syrian war zone. He’s been getting angry calls from confused customers.

Good luck getting into these jeans. Hacker-proof trousers can block electromagnetic waves.

Click here for more surprising discoveries on Quartz.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, shielded denim, and Cuban cigars to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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