Good morning Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
Continued clashes and protests in Egypt. Opposition leaders rejected President Mohammed Morsi’s move to end a standoff by annulling a decree that granted him sweeping powers but calling for a referendum on a draft constitution to move forward. The mood is tense in Cairo as both sides plan demonstrations, and the country’s military is on alert.
Tense talks around national regulation of the internet. At the International Telecommunications Union talks in Dubai, a surprise proposal has emerged backed by Arab states, Russia, and China to require governments to regulate Internet companies. Enshrining this in an international treaty could add legitimacy to online restrictions and censorship by repressive regimes. The discussions are supposed to lead to a final treaty by Friday.
The Nobel Prizes are awarded. The journalists and Twitter wags who had such fun sending up the Nobel Committee’s decision to award the peace prize to the European Union back in October will get to do so again. Norwegians too are protesting this year’s bizarre choice of winner, and there is also discontent in many quarters that the literature prize is going to Mo Yan, a Chinese writer who appears to defend the system of state censorship. Still, writes one Norwegian commentator, this is the one day of the year that Norway is guaranteed the world’s attention—as well as its “annual opportunity to teach the world that, no, Norway is not the capital of Sweden.”
While you were sleeping
Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s center-left coalition was projected to win Romania’s general election. The results mean a continuation of the power struggle with President Traian Basescu, and potential uncertainty as the European Union’s second-poorest member tries to negotiate a new International Monetary Fund loan.
And the president of Ghana, John Mahama, was re-elected. But the opposition says it will contest the results of the close-run race one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and most stable African countries.
A Republican senator signaled the party could accede to President Barack Obama’s push to raise taxes on the rich. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said such a concession could pave the way for a focus on cuts the Republicans desire to government programs, amid negotiations around the fiscal cliff.
Broader pushes for special taxes on multinationals. Starbucks, Amazon, Google and others have come under fire in the UK for successfully minimizing the amount of corporate taxes they pay there. Now a government advisory group in Australia is looking into ways to collect more tax from such companies.
China pitched in to help AIG. Who says China and the US government are foes? A Chinese investment consortium has relieved bailed out insurer AIG of its aircraft leasing unit, which it has been trying to, ahem, monetize for ages. This fits well with China’s so-called “going out” strategy, where the government aims for the country to acquire more actual corporate assets (paywall) instead of just accumulating foreign exchange reserves.
Bloomberg weighs up buying the FT. This rumor has been floated many times. But now the New York Times has put its weight behind the story that the financial information giant might buy the Financial Times Group, which includes the newspaper with the (as only a New York publication could describe them) “bisque-colored pages”, as well as a half share in The Economist. Financial Times owner Pearson has consistently denied the newspaper group is for sale, but with chief executive Marjorie Scardino about to depart, the new leadership is seen as more open to the idea.
Also in the news this weekend
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said he would step down once parliament passes the 2013 budget law. His planned resignation could lead to general elections in February, with billionaire former prime minister and convicted fraudster Silvio Berlusconi declaring his intent to run for prime minister again. But Berlusconi’s running could in fact generate the chaotic political conditions that could land Monti back in the prime minister’s office.
China factory output and retails sales rose. The National Bureau of Statistics said output from Chinese factories beat forecasts to climb 10.1% in November from a year ago, its best performance since March. Retail sales rose 14.9% in November. Government spending on infrastructure and looser monetary policy has helped boost China’s economy.
Xi Jinping started his job, as expected, with factory tours. China’s incoming new leader has been touring factories in the wealthy export city of Shenzhen, which is a stone’s throw from Hong Kong. Some believe his visit to the city hints he is aiming at economic reforms which would give more opportunities to private enterprises over government-owned companies. Cynics, however, would say Shenzhen factory tours are a tried and tested way for China’s leaders to get positive pictures of themselves into global media, via the large crowd of Hong Kong based reporters and photographers for whom Shenzhen is an easy day trip.
Quartz obsession interlude
Matt Phillips on Wall Street’s five worst trades of 2012. The infamous “London Whale” takes the top spot: “Beyond the billions in financial losses tied to the trade, the loss of credibility for J.P. Morgan chief Dimon—who had become one of the most vocal critics of government efforts to impose new regulations on Wall Street in the wake of the financial crisis—may have the farthest-reaching implications for the financial world.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
3D printing is more than a fad. And that should give toy makers chills.
China’s opaque and disjointed foreign policy process is causing confusion and escalating tensions.
One must now add the UK to the list of candidates for Sick Man of Europe. Its economy is expected to shrink 0.1% this year, and it risks being doomed to years of sub-par growth.
Michael Bloomberg does not need a newspaper. His “stranglehold on financial news makes him more powerful than Rupert Murdoch,” it can be argued.
Japan’s three big consumer electronics makers are having a giant “garage sale” of $3 billion in assets. The “Chippendale” building in New York City is among the possible disposals.
The world’s deadliest road is in Bangladesh. The World-Bank-funded Dhaka-Sylhet highway has no crash barriers, no pedestrian footpaths, no footbridges, and no traffic lights or speed controls.
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