What to watch for today
Turkey decides its rates. The country’s central bank announces whether it will cut borrowing costs (paywall). The Turkish lira hit a record low last week, and the bank needs to balance its drop against the threat of further inflation.
Fresh Ukraine peace talks. The trilateral Ukraine Contact Group (Ukraine, the Russian Federation, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) meets in Belarus today, one day after Ukraine’s parliament voted—to Russia’s anger—to annul its “non-aligned” status and begin taking steps towards joining NATO.
What’s happening with US home sales? The national economy is booming, but home sales slipped in November and mortgage applications fell for three of the past four months. Low mortgage rates may encourage more buyers but few expect today’s mortgage application figures to show stellar growth.
Trading slows for Christmas Eve. The New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ both close at 1pm Eastern Time, and many banks and big businesses shut early.
While you were sleeping
Another fatal police shooting near St. Louis. Antonio Martin, 18, was shot dead at a gas station in Berkeley, Missouri. Police say that Martin pointed a gun at an officer, some bystanders claim he was unarmed.
South Korea indicted Uber’s CEO. The city of Seoul also indicted the company’s local subsidiary after it said the on-demand car service violated a public transport law. Earlier this week the company faced legal issues in Taiwan, and in China police raided one of its offices.
European truck makers “operated a 14-year cartel.” The biggest truck-making companies in Europe collaborated to hold up the progress of emissions-reducing technology, according leaked documents seen by the Financial Times (paywall). The six truck makers named in the report have a near-100% market share in Europe.
Australian police arrested a man on terrorism charges. Police in Sydney said the man was in possession of documents naming potential government targets.
UPS and FedEx reached their delivery limit. The freight companies have held some retailers to volume limits after a last-minute surge in online shopping threatened to overwhelm air express deliveries, according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall). Last year millions of packages missed their Christmas deadline when last-minute online shoppers overloaded shippers.
Quartz obsession interlude
Jake Flanagin on the US’s new Cuba strategy. “The reopening of diplomatic channels between Washington and Havana reflects some of the better aspects of Obama’s foreign policy (which is by no means perfect). Namely, its nuance. The State Department of 2014 does not operate in the realm of outdated geopolitical absolutes as some of its predecessors. ‘Communist = bad, capitalist = good’ no longer applies. And, in any case, Cold War color-coding, strategies of ‘containment’ and ‘rollback,’ just as often bolstered anti-democratic regimes as it undermined them.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
2014 was the year of nervousness and instability. Between the Ukrainian revolution, the crash of MH17, the Islamic State, and Ebola, these past 12 months have been unsettling.
Europe’s problem isn’t deflation. The continent needs to fix its tight labor policies.
Narendra Modi is a Grinch. He’s declared Dec. 25 “Good Governance Day,” potentially ruining (paywall) the Christmas holiday for millions of school kids.
Putin doesn’t need to send tanks to destabilize Ukraine. The West’s failure to agree on a bailout package will do that for him.
PowerPoint is ruining the US justice system. In what world do animated slideshows and pictures of defendants labeled “GUILTY” make any sense?
Last-minute shopping is the true spirit of Christmas. What could be more like Santa Claus than to leave everything until Christmas Eve?
Using gadgets ruins the quality, not just quantity, of your sleep. Reading on a tablet before bed disrupts REM sleep.
3D-printed pasta is coming to a dish near you. And made-to-order custom pasta isn’t far behind.
British Airways created a flight plan for Santa. Here it is, along with other ways to track tonight’s present deliveries in real time.
Electricity can cure arthritis. Scientists made a pacemaker-like implant that works better than traditional medicine.
Barack Obama is a “science geek.” His science adviser called him the most scientifically aware president since Thomas Jefferson.
Here’s a remarkable picture of the sun. It’s our most detailed view yet of our home star.
Please note there will be no Daily Brief tomorrow (Dec. 25). Happy Holidays!
Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, science geeks, and terrible PowerPoint presentations to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.