Quartz Daily Brief – Americas Edition – OPEC meets, Bernanke speaks, Rosneft grows, fish with legs

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Ben Bernanke gives the markets an early Christmas present. The US Federal Reserve chairman is expected to announce that the bank will begin buying $45 billion a month in Treasurys, making for a fourth round of “quantitative easing.” The aim is to keep interest rates at around zero through 2015. Commodity prices may well rise on the news, as could the already surging global stock markets.

OPEC meets to talk oil output. The oil cartel is meeting today to decide on output levels, amid reports the Saudis have already cut their production to its lowest level in a year (paywall). Output will probably stay the same, with a ceiling of 30 million barrels a day. But the Saudis and Kuwaitis are likely to signal their intent to cut production rapidly if prices begin falling.

Google gets its way with patents. The US Federal Trade Commission may announce a settlement of a patent case against Google. The firm has demanded that rivals in travel, shopping and other searches stop using a special class of patents called standard essential patents. Under the settlement, Google would stop seeking injunctions against these firms, but they would have to hold licensing negotiations with Google to use the patents.

While you were sleeping 

North Korea launched a rocket, scarily and more successfully than in the past. In defiance of international warnings, the hermit kingdom launched a missile that appeared to put an object into space, which North Korea called a “satellite.” Watch how North Korean state TV broadcast the launch here. South Korea, the US and other nations had urged North Korea not to go ahead with the launch, viewing it as a test of long-range missile technology banned by UN resolutions. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has called an emergency meeting of his top advisors. Here is a chronology of Pyongyang’s missile and rocket launches.

Euro zone production slumped again. Data just out show euro zone industry output slumped in October for the second straight month. This is yet more evidence that feeble domestic demand is likely to prolong the bloc’s recession.

Rosneft took another step towards behemoth status. The state-owned Russian oil firm sealed the deal to buy a 50% stake in TNK-BP from four oligarchs. In addition, Rosneft is buying out BP, which owns the other half of TNK-BP. The deals, worth almost $60 billion, will result in Rosneft producing 4 million barrels a day of oil, and becoming the largest publicly-traded oil company.

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on a proposed new framework for fighting global financial meltdowns. “The idea is to make it easier to bring failing global banks in for a soft landing without taking the rest of the world’s banking infrastructure down, too. The framework builds on Dodd-Frank, the 2010 law that overhauled US financial regulation, and reform efforts in the UK. While global banks have been a reality for quite some time now, only recently have regulators been given the powers they say they need to deal with the fallout from the collapse of such a large institution without saddling taxpayers with losses or crunching the financial system.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

China’s ghost towns are not a problem. They may get filled as the economy grows. The country is recovering, and rapid growth often justifies excessive investment.

The Fiscal Cliff is boring Washington to deathHere is an alternative take on the debate, complete with lines such as: “the threat of economic calamity simply isn’t hanging over Washington’s head like it has in the past.” And “the fiscal cliff is the most boring crisis I’ve ever seen.”

Greece’s recent bond buyback was a successSort of.

India doesn’t have much of a bribery case against Wal-Mart. The US supermarket giant is in hot water over corporate lobbying to access the Indian market. Lobbying is banned in India but is allowed in the US, where Wal-Mart sought its advice.

Do scientists have an ethical duty to call out other scientists’ bad work? 

How do you eat a banana? With a knife and fork, naturally. An argument in favor of finishing schools and etiquette training.

 Surprising discoveries

HSBC’s Mexican branches were drug traffickers’ favorites. Actually that is unsurprising. But the detail in this story about how Mexican drug cartels moved money through the British bank makes it a compelling read (and is likely to be making the bank’s staff cringe with embarrassment).

Humor has been known to be the best medicine. It is also a highly effective management tool, improving productivity, self-confidence, problem-solving and employee engagement.

Political upheaval is not necessarily a health hazard. Some scholars have blamed a surge in Russian deaths between 1990 and 1994 on the chaotic and stressful economic and political times. But the reason for the spate of dying Russian men may be the simpler one—they drank too much.

Scientists have created a fish that has legsMaybe the next step is to teach it how to ride a bicycle.

Paper towel or hot air dryer? You’re standing there in the bathroom, and you always wonder, right? The answer is a paper towel—they are more hygienic and only slightly more polluting.

And while you’re at it, get your ears symbiotically cleaned. There may be nothing better than a red-billed oxpecker to get the job done, especially if you happen to be an impala.

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