Quartz Daily Brief – Americas Edition – EADS rejig, Delta chases Virgin, UK chases tax, internet freedom

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Good morning, Quartz readers! 

What to watch for today:

Airbus parent restructures its investor base. EADS, the parent of Airbus, has confirmed reports it may change the composition of its shareholder base and may give more details later today. Reports claim EADS will balance the French and German governments’ stakes in the group to solve a decade-old problem concerning voting rights that contributed to the failure of a planned merger between EADS and Britain’s BAE Systems in October.

UN tries to gain control of the internet. A UN agency meets in Dubai to discuss proposals for regulating the internet. American commentators say this sort of talk is terrible, as it may lead to repressive regimes being able to suppress comment about them made in freer societies. The European Parliament and the US government do not want the UN to be in charge of the web. Google has also claimed that some proposals being debated in Dubai have the potential to limit free speech.

Delta may chase Virgin. Singapore airlines wants to sell its 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic, with US carrier Delta Airlines looking to swoop in, Reuters reported citing unnamed sources.

The US opposition’s plan to avoid the fiscal cliff. After presenting their plan to avoid the US’s upcoming austerity trigger and seeing it rebuffed, the Obama administration is waiting for Republicans, led by Speaker of the House John Boehner, to continue talks with an offer of their own 

The UK gears up to take action on multinationals’ taxes. There’s no better time to ratchet up tax collection than during a bout of austerity, and authorities in London are looking askance at multinationals that pay minimal taxes. Officials there have said the government needs to limit inter-company transactions that reduce companies’ UK tax bills. Amazon and Google are under the spotlight here. So is Starbucks, which funnels revenue through the Netherlands to lower its UK tax bill. Starbucks said Sunday it was reviewing its tax payments in the UK. It has paid only £8.6 million in corporation tax in the UK since 1998 on sales of more than £3 billion.

While you were sleeping:

More good China economic data, mostly because of state investment. HSBC’s survey of conditions for Chinese manufacturers showed business in the sector quickened in November for the first time in 13 months. This confirmed preliminary data already released by the bank, as well as some Chinese government statistics. Growth is unevenly distributed, however. Economists have noted that most manufacturers who are doing well are those receiving money from the Beijing government as part of its efforts to stimulate growth.

A top News Corp executive resigned ahead of the media company’s reorganization. Tom Mockridge, the executive installed to stabilize Rupert Murdoch’s scandal-hit UK newspaper arm News International, has resigned. NI owned the now defunct British tabloid News of the World, whose phone-tapping antics sparked the 16-month Leveson Inquiry into British newspapers and upset a lot of News Corp shareholders. The publishing division is going to be separated from the entertainment side of News Corp and Mockridge was considered a top contender for the job of running the spun-out publishing company. That job is reportedly now going to Robert Thomson, current managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, another Murdoch property.

Japanese tunnel collapse raised safety questions. Nine people have been confirmed dead after a tunnel on one of Japan’s major highways collapsed. Analysis is at an extremely early stage. But the police are investigating negligence. And the media’s attention is now turning to preliminary suggestions that the disaster may have been caused by decaying ceiling supports, as well as whether this potential cause could have been prevented. The disaster also sparked wider concerns about Japan’s aging infrastructure.

In Egypt, the top law court went on strike. An ongoing conflict between the country’s legal profession and head of state intensified as the Supreme Constitutional Court said it would stop its work ”indefinitely.” Tensions between Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and the country’s judges have risen sharply as the country awaits a decision on the legality of its new constitution, which gives the ruling party immunity from the courts. The Islamist party views the courts as a legacy of Egypt’s former dictator Hosni Mubarak, who was overthrown in a violent uprising last year. The last time Egyptian judges had an all-out strike was 1919, amid an uprising against British colonial rule.

Also in the news this weekend:

Russians got trapped in a monster, weekend-long traffic jam. Heavy snowfall caused tailbacks stretching as long as 125 miles (text and video) on a major route between Moscow and St. Petersburg, trapping thousands of people. Some drivers reported roadside restaurants were taking advantage of them by ratcheting up food prices, while gas stations ran out of supplies.

Australians got cigarette packets adorned with gangrene and cancer photos. Legislation requiring cigarette brand logos to be replaced on packaging with horrific images of gangrenous limbs and cancerous tongues came into force in Australia. Campaigners in Northern Ireland and some media in Singapore are among those urging their governments to follow Canberra’s lead.

Enrique Peña Nieto was sworn in as Mexico’s president. The country’s new leader will need to bolster his country’s emerging middle class in a country where drug-related turmoil masks an increasingly dynamic economy.

North Korea announced it will launch a ballistic missile into space between Dec. 10-22. The plan to place a satellite in orbit, in violation of a UN Security Council resolution, was condemned by Japan and South Korea, and even prompted warnings from China. The rocketry exercise ratchets up tension between the US and North Korea at a time when some hoped the new leadership of dictator Kim Jong Un might bring calm.

The question in France’s steel spat with ArcelorMittal. Racism or socialism?

A stalemate in Damascus. The Assad government used aerial bombardment to pummel rebel forces seeking to take the Syrian capital, with neither side gaining ground after a major advance by the Syrian Free Army marked the opposition’s boldest campaign to date.

Quartz obsession interlude: 

Chris Mims looks at Jolla, the mobile start-up gunning for iPhone and Android. ”Jolla cannot possibly take on Google and Apple head-to-head, and it doesn’t plan to. Rather, the company, which is rapidly becoming a Finnish-Chinese hybrid with headquarters in both Helsinki and Hong Kong, and an R&D operation in a yet-to-be-named location in mainland China, plans to nurture and grow an entirely new mobile ‘ecosystem’—meaning the phones, the operating system that runs on them, and the apps that run on that. And it plans to do it in China because that is the one market producing first-time buyers of smartphones fast enough to give such a scheme a chance.” Read more here

Matters of debate:

Entrepreneurs are fleeing France. The problem lies in president François Hollande’s tax policies.

Chinese dissident Chan Guangchen blasts the PRC’s new leaders. In a video released before Dec. 10’s international Human Rights Day, the blind lawyer calls for the release of political prisoners.

Uber, the American taxi hire app, is now possibly illegal almost everywhereEstablished cab firms hate it. And regulators are proposing rules that may legislate the innocent-sounding app out of existence.

If you completely evade the Greek legal system, then it’s easy to do business in Greece.

Goodbye outsourcing, hello insourcing. Is this the next trend for US multinationals bringing production home?

Redistributing income boosts economic growth. Who knew class warfare was a win-win?

Surprising discoveries:

This Wall Street informant wore a wire for two yearsAnd collected much of the evidence the authorities used in cases against hedge fund Galleon Group and others.

The spat between hedge fund Elliott Partners and Argentina can be explained with childrens’ toys. Reuters blogger Felix Salmon illustrates the complex story with plastic figurines and part of a train set.

Iceland is turning away investment from a Chinese billionaire. Huang Nubo, who wants to build a resort and mountain park in the cash-strapped country, keeps getting asked for more information. He is frustrated but will not give up.

Is Tonga’s weird satellite program just a puppet for China’s space ambitions? Then there’s the matter of a potentially misappropriated $75 million payment from China to the island country’s space program, TongaSat.

Today is the twentieth anniversary of the text message. TTYL.

Coin flips aren’t really an even chance. More like 51-49, according to one mathematician.

In Japan they’re farming tuna. Meet one of the people trying to keep bluefin from disappearing forever.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, queries, feedback, suggestions and ideas for how to explain other complex financial stories with toys to, or hit “Reply” to this email.

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