Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—China’s GDP magic, Uber leaves Portland, Charney fights back, green Brits

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What to watch for today

Obama wraps up his year. The US president will host an end-of-year press conference before heading off to Hawaii for a 17-day vacation.

BlackBerry details its decline. Expect disappointing third-quarter earnings, despite this week’s launch of the Classic, which appeals to BlackBerry traditionalists.

Carnival reports on its competition. Investors in the world’s largest cruise operator want to know how it is handling European competitors which offer cheaper trips around the Caribbean, and what expansion plans Carnival has in Asia.

Germany’s foreign minister pays Ukraine a visit. Frank-Walter Steinmeier will meet his Ukrainian counterpart, Pavlo Klimkin. Exactly what’s on the agenda isn’t clear, but Ukraine’s urgent need for a $15 billion loan to prevent its economy from faltering could come up.

The return of Dov Charney. His American Apparel got a buyout offer from Irving Place Capital in recent weeks, which may be linked to Charney. Charney, who was officially fired on Dec. 16, is “what makes this thing tick” a group of American Apparel executives wrote the company’s board. 

While you were sleeping

China added $305 billion to last year’s GDP. Beijing increased the estimated size of the national economy in 2013 by 3.4% to 58.8 trillion yuan ($9.5 trillion). The gain came mostly from an adjustment in the value of the services sector, but the GDP figure may be significantly lower if measured by non-Chinese standards.

Kurdish forces reported a major win against ISIL. Security forces in northern Iraq said they have broken the siege of Mount Sinjar, in which Islamic State fighters had trapped thousands of Yazidis since August. Eight thousand peshmerga were supported by air strikes in the two day assault.

Uber agreed to temporarily leave Portland. The on-demand car service will withdraw from the Oregon city for three months while Portland alters its private car regulations. Uber said it would work with the government after launching two weeks ago despite objections from city officials.

Thai Union snapped up Bumble Bee Foods. The world’s largest producer of tinned tuna agreed to buy the US’s biggest tuna and sardine company for $1.51 billion. Thai Union has plans to expand its North American portfolio, and anticipates raising Bumblebee’s revenue by 25%.

Japan maintained its stimulus. The central bank will add 80 trillion yen ($672 billion) to the monetary base annually, in line with expectations. Falling oil prices are a real headache for the bank, as they risk lowering inflation just as the BOJ is trying to stoke it.

Unilever dropped a lawsuit over eggless mayo. One of the world’s largest food companies previously sued Hampton Creek over its “Just Mayo,” an alternative to mayonnaise made from plants instead of eggs (paywall). Also on Thursday, three-year-old Hampton Creek received a further $90 million in backing, bringing its valuation to $500 million.

Quartz obsession interlude

Nikhil Sonnad peeks behind The Great Firewall. “Employees and freelancers are paid to post pro-government messages on the internet, part of a broader effort to ‘guide public opinion,’ as the Chinese Communist Party frequently puts it. The details of these directives are usually hidden from public view. But thousands of emails obtained from the Zhanggong propaganda department by a Chinese blogger—and released on his website—offer a rare view into the mechanics of manipulating web conversation in China at its most local level.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Today’s law students are afraid of rape law. Studying the law on sexual violence may be too traumatic.

Nobody knows whether the Sony hack was cyber warfare. We don’t have an exact definition of that term—although a NATO convention permits bombing in response if it was.

The US, not Cuba, is rejoining the modern world. America’s view of Cuba was controlling and predatory before it agreed to resume bilateral relations.

We need to create the erasable internet. Automatically saving every communication clearly has its flaws.

Women need their own version of Viagra. Men have 26 drugs for sexual dysfunction, but women have none.

Surprising discoveries

Nobody has blue eyes. Their eyes are made up of particles which only reflect blue light.

Sony launched a promo for The Interview by mistake. It looks like the studio forgot to unschedule it from its YouTube channel.

Now you can print cookies. You’ll need to buy the ingredients and prep the machine, but it will cut down on food packaging (video).

Do you fall asleep in front of the TV? Two teenagers invented a bracelet that will pause your program and record it for you.

Brits are getting greener. The average person in the UK uses 10% less electricity than they did five years ago.

Scientists discovered the world’s oldest water. They think there’s more of it under the Earth’s crust than on top of it.

Click here for more surprising discoveries on Quartz.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, alternative mayo recipes, and antique water to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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