Quartz Daily Brief—Europe Edition—AIG, Bharti Infratel, Chávez, life without Facebook

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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 today. The Fed’s Operation Twist, where short-term treasuries were swapped for long-term debt, expires this month.

Treasury readies to sell more AIG shares. The latest deal in what has to be American bankers’ favorite bailout ever is likely to be the US Treasury selling a sixth tranche of the shares it acquired in the insurer as part of the $182.3 billion bailout in 2008. The offer will be priced at $32.50 a share, Bloomberg said, citing unnamed sources. This follows yesterday’s news that AIG is offloading its aircraft leasing division to Chinese buyers. The Treasury has not yet confirmed the share sale.

Big test for market sentiment on India. Bharti Infratel, a telecom tower provider that is part of the blue chip Bharti Airtel, will try to raise $715 million on Indian exchanges in one of the country’s biggest initial public offerings in two years. The deal’s progress will be viewed as a bellwether for investor sentiment on India generally. The nation’s economy is stalling due to high inflation and bureaucratic paralysis. But there are multiple ways for it to recover. A policy induced slowdown in a fast growing nation might be reversible.

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.

Egypt braces for more protests. Opposition parties are calling for yet more protests in their campaign to get a referendum on the country’s controversial proposed new constitution canceled. Civil rights campaigners fear the draft constitution erodes women’s rights while strengthening the role of Islamic law. On Monday, president Mohamed Morsi gave the military authority to arrest civilians in a strong-armed bid to keep order.

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: 

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.

Venezuela might need a new president. Venezeulan president Hugo Chávez 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

The outcome of  this Japanese election might actually matterPoliticians are generally seen as weak caretakers of a stagnating economy. But the Liberal Democratic Party, which is likely to emerge from the December 16 elections as Japan’s largest, seems to have found a new lease of life.

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. 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

Asia’s delightfully old-fashioned bond markets are going electronic. Automated trading is gaining popularity in some markets. How quaint.

Qatar is bankrolling Islamic radicals that the neighbouring UAE is jailing. That is worrying for the US, which wants the Gulf nations politically united, mostly to support its stance on Iran.

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.

Can teenagers survive a few months without Facebook? This school in Vermont (video) is cutting its pupils off from mobile phones and heavily restricting their internet access. Maybe the kids will take to old fashioned games such as tiddlywinks or egg-and-spoon races. Or car-jacking.

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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