Good morning Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
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.
Bloomberg responds to rumors it may buy the FT? The New York Times has put its weight behind an old rumor 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.
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
Italian markets showed fears Berlusconi will be back. 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 running for prime minister again. In Italy this morning, bond yields are rising and shares are falling.
Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s center-left coalition won a landslide victory. 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 closely-run race in one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and most stable African countries.
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.
Also in the news this weekend
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 the 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.
Does it make sense to steer students to majors with better job prospects by charging less tuition?
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.
Apple Maps are leaving Aussies stranded in the Outback. Police in the state of Victoria have discouraged people from relying on Apple’s sometimes faulty maps app after rescuing several people who were stranded in the wilderness after following the phone’s directions.
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.
Czechs celebrate Christmas by eating carp. So do Germans and Lithuanians. Zimbabweans have roast Ox, and the Danes like rice pudding.
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