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Quartz Daily Brief – Americas Edition – Barack meets Mitt, new iTunes, Fleet Street reckoning, Palestine

By Naomi Rovnick
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Good morning, Quartz readers in the Americas! 

What to watch for today:

Barack and Mitt meet for lunch. President Barack Obama fulfils a victory speech promise of meeting his one-time rival Mitt Romney, for advice from the former businessman on how to make the federal government more “customer friendly.” What has Romney been doing since he lost the election? Watching the movie Twilight and snapping photos with his wife over Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, US Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner meets with congressional leaders to talk about reducing the US deficit.

New iTunes. Apple is expected to release its long-awaited new version of iTunes. The likely big difference is that it will offer users the ability to stream media after purchasing and downloading it once. So users who download a song to their laptops, for example, will be able to play the same song on their iPhones directly from the internet without downloading it again, making iTunes work more like Spotify and other streaming services.

British press gets its day of reckoning. Following a 16-month probe into widespread phone hacking and other misdeeds by Britain’s print media, a judge is set to recommend a new system for regulating the press. Editors and publishers are worried that the so-called Leveson Inquiry will propose replacing industry’s current self-policing model with a body that has legal powers to regulate the industry. Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid, The Sun, claimed “the future of Britain’s free press hangs in the balance today.” Two of Murdoch’s News International former top editors were charged with criminal offences earlier this month over alleged illegal payments to public officials. The pair, Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, appeared in court today.

Standard Chartered may settle Iran allegations. The UK bank is reportedly close to agreeing to a $300 million fine to end investigations by the US authorities that it violated sanctions in transactions with Iranian clients.

Groupon considers a change of captain… A regularly scheduled board meeting of the daily-deals website will consider replacing its youthful CEO and founder, Andrew Mason, on whose watch shares have fallen 80% since the IPO a year ago. Groupon is suffering from weak demand in Europe, while online group discounts have lost some of their novelty in the US too. Mason seems rather philosophical: “It would be weird if the board wasn’t discussing whether I’m the right guy to do the job,” he told an investor conference. The shares jumped.

…While rival Living Social plans layoffs. Also suffering from waning demand for its products, Groupon’s biggest competitor will cut 400 jobs and part company with the head of its international business unit.

Palestine officially comes into existence… sort of. The UN General Assembly votes today on whether to admit Palestine as a non-member observer state, and the vote should pass easily, after the failure of the Palestinians’ bid for full membership a year ago. Israel, having warned that the civilized world as we know it would come to an end if Palestine were recognized, is now saying that it really makes no difference.

While you were sleeping:

German unemployment rose again. This is the eighth straight month the number of people out of work has increased. Due to the euro zone crisis, German firms are delaying investment and hiring decisions.

China wades further into disputed waters. From Jan. 1, Chinese police will board ships that enter parts of the South China Sea the nation claims as its own territory, much to the chagrin of its neighbors.

Quartz obsession interlude: 

Advocates of debt-reduction take note: the only time the US has ever had close to zero debt was in 1834-36, writes Quartz’s Matt Phillips, and it achieved this only thanks to a massive sell-off of government land. “And how did the federal government come to have all this land to sell? Why, by removing the people who lived on it, en masse. The expulsion of Native Americans from the southeastern United States serves as a sizable black mark on Jackson’s tenure as president and on the country’s history. According to estimates, around 100,000 Native Americans were removed and 4,000 people died on the forced trek west known as the Trail of Tears.” Read more here.

Matters of debate:

Minimum wage laws are a good thing. For a long time, economists argued that minimum wages actually hurt workers by curbing the demand for more labor. As evidence mounts that having wage floors can boost employment and pay, and minimize wage gaps, academics are coming closer to a consensus.

The global economy is producing way too much steel. Government-backed companies in emerging markets are adding to a global glut. However, the world does not have enough copper.

China’s new leaders might just be its dream team. China watchers ballyhooed the selection of conservative hardliners on China’s powerful Politburo Standing Committee. But never fear: A streamlined leadership has already consolidated political capital to push through needed economic reforms.

Starbucks thinks it is the right time to sell $7-a-cup coffee. Madness or a perceptive vote of confidence for the US economy? The rare brew is named “Geisha”. It’s going to be sold in 46 locations in the US Northwest.

Surprising discoveries:

The heaviest thing Amazon will ship for free weighs almost a ton. It is a fire safe, by the way, which holds 48 guns.  

It took the Singaporean press days to start calling a bus drivers’ strike a strike. So rare is industrial action in the eerily calm Asian city state, local reporters may have forgotten the vocabulary or been scared to use it. The media ran through euphemisms including “action” and “episode” before getting to the “s” word.

While a leading Malaysian paper published an entirely nonsensical letter covering homosexuality, fertility and football. It included the line: “A Gallup poll survey ranked Singapore as the most emotionless society in the world. Yet, Malaysia had to go and lose to the Singapore football team.”

Sex-tape scandals have arrived in China. Though in an intriguing Communist twist on what is now a humdrum American media theme, the person at the center of the controversy is not a reality TV star but a mid-ranking government official.

No one was shot or stabbed in New York on Monday. For the first time in as long as police could remember, no one was attacked on Nov. 26, according to police reports, in a city once home to one of the highest homicide rates in the developed world. “Nice way to start the week,” said Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne for the police department.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, queries, feedback, and suggestions for less dramatic words for “strike” to,  or hit “Reply” to this email.

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