Quartz Daily Brief—Asia Edition—Japan’s recession, Bharti Infratel’s IPO, Somali charcoal, the end of the world

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Good morning Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

More Operation Stimulus in the US. The US Federal Reserve is expected to announce more monetary easing at a two-day policy meeting beginning Dec. 11. The Fed’s Operation Twist, where short-term treasuries were swapped for long-term debt, expires this month.

India’s biggest IPO in two years. Bharti Infratel, a telecom tower provider and unit of the Indian phone carrier Bharti Airtel, will try to raise $715 million on Indian exchanges, in what will probably be one of the country’s biggest initial public offerings in two years.

Warnings of a US recession. Trade data from the US are expected to show that the US trade deficit widened to $42 billion in October, from $41.5 billion the month before. Combined with the looming “fiscal cliff” of tax raises and spending cuts, a worsening trade gap could help push the economy into a recession, bears warn.

Bragging from the Philippines. A government report may show that exports in the Philippines expanded for the second month in a row. It would be another positive sign for the emerging Southeast Asian economy, which grew 7.1% over the three months up to September, the country’s fastest rate in two years.

While you were sleeping

It’s official: Japan is in a recession. Japan’s economy is now in a technical recession after its GDP fell in two consecutive quarters, but the downturn could be a sign of good things to come next year, writes Quartz’s Simone Foxman.

Obama got optimistic about a fiscal cliff deal. The day after President Barack Obama met with Republican congressional leader John Boehner, his spokesman said the president believed a deal could go through. No details were released about the meeting on Sunday but a spokesman for Boehner says the Republican offer (closing tax loopholes to generate more revenue instead of raising marginal tax rates) remains the same as it was last week.

Egypt’s army got orders to arrest protesters.  Egypt’s president, Mohammed Morsi, has given the army temporary powers to arrest civilians during a referendum over a new draft constitution. Demonstrators have been protesting against the proposed constitution since last week because of its adherence to sharia law.

Venezuela might need a new president. Venezeulan president Hugo Chavez flew to Cuba for surgery. While he vowed, Terminator-style, “I’ll be back,” he spoke openly for the first time of his possible successor.

Apple is rumored to be rolling out an iPhone mini and possibly (finally) an Apple TV. A super-thin iPad, the iPhone 5s and other Apple goodies may be on the way, reports Quartz’s Christopher Mims.

Gmail went down. In a sign of Google’s growing centrality to the internet’s infrastructure, Google users from the UK to Brazil complained that Gmail and Google Drive, its storage service, went out today, while its browser, Google Chrome, crashed repeatedly. The company hasn’t offered an official explanation but some say a problem with authentication (i.e., signing people in) could have caused the crashes.

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on UN anti-terror sanctions on charcoal exports from Somalia. “Dozens of empty boats are waiting. Five thousand workers are waiting. Most importantly, four million sacks of charcoal, worth some $40 million, are waiting for the United Nations to lift a charcoal embargo imposed on Somalia, one of the world’s most troubled countries… While economic sanctions like these have become part of the modern way of war… when replacing bullets with bank bans, the human costs become harder to count.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

China faces de-industrialization. Only two years after China became the world’s factory, the country is scaling back on manufacturing because of rising labor wages, political unrest, and waning foreign investment.

In 18 years, China will be the world’s no. 1 economy but the US will still lead. A study from the National Intelligence Council predicts that China will pass the US in economic power by 2030 but an energy-independent US will continue to be a major world leader.

Apple’s demise would be better for everyone. Apple tablets are dumbing down society, the company spreads misinformation about the state of US entrepreneurship based on its stock price, and it does a host of other evil, insidious things, complains a columnist for the Asia Times who opens with the unequivocal “I hate Apple.”

Surprising discoveries

December 11th is the most fertile day of the year in the UK. Sept. 16th is the most common birthday, according to Lovehoney, Britain’s largest online retailer of sex toys, making Dec. 11 something of a national day of conception.

If the world ends on Dec. 21 we’ll never know whether cleaner desks help productivity. A team of scientists conducted a tongue-in-cheek assessment of  how the obliteration of the human race, as predicted by some based on the Mayan calendar, would affect clinical trials. The conclusion is not so surprising: it would be bad.

The world in your eye. A Belgian team of researchers at Ghent University have built an LCD screen onto a contact lens. Eventually the lens could be used to function as sunglasses or even act as a way to access the internet. So far, all the device does is flash a dollar sign.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, designs for dollar-sign contact lenses, or what you’ll be doing the night before Dec. 21 to or hit “Reply” to this email. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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