Quartz Daily Brief—Libor prosecution, gun control, Japan’s vote, drunk elephants

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for this week

Prosecutors go after the Libor-riggers. US prosecutors are expected to file charges this week, if not today, against people suspected of manipulating the benchmark London Interbank Offered Rate and its European and Japanese equivalents for Swiss bank UBS. These would be the first American prosecutions of individuals; the first Libor-related UK arrests took place last week. UBS is also expected to pay regulators of various countries fines of up to $1.6 billion to settle Libor-rigging charges; that would be three times what Barclays agreed to pay in a similar settlement in June.  

US politicians talk gun control, but will they act? After the shooting of 20 six- and seven-year-old children and six teachers in a school in Connecticut on Dec. 14, various politicians are talking about introducing tighter restrictions on guns. President Barack Obama has called for “meaningful action”, without specifying what; some expect him to elaborate this week. But gun-control activists have done poorly at convincing politicians that theirs is an election-winning issue, partly because pro-gun groups outspent them by some 15-to-1 in the last election cycle.

Progress on the fiscal cliff, or delaying tactics? Amid reports that Republicans have opened the door to the principle of raising income tax rates for the wealthy, some think it’s now just a matter of the two sides’ haggling over numbers to conclude a deal and prevent the automatic belt-tightening of the “fiscal cliff” from kicking in on Jan. 1. But President Obama and Republican majority leader John Boehner are said to have a testy relationship and little respect for each others’ bargaining skills.

Watch spaceships crash into the Moon. Two NASA probes that have spent the last year and a bit orbiting the Moon creating a gravity map have spent their fuel and will crash into the lunar surface at about 5.28pm EST (6.28am HKT on Dec. 19). You can watch live.

Over the weekend

Japan’s old ruling party is back in power. The conservative Liberal Democratic Party won a snap election on Dec. 16th, returning it to power after a three-year absence. Returning premier Shinzo Abe advocates an aggressive fiscal stimulus and monetary easing to get the economy out of the doldrums—but it’s not clear what he’ll do that his party hasn’t already tried, and there are fears that his hawkish stance towards China will worsen relations.

Half of Egypt votes for a new constitution. Unofficial results suggest that Egyptians in half the country voted in favor of a new basic law that has upset liberals with some of its provisions about the role of religious law and the powers of the military. Though the vote was not as ringing an endorsement as the Muslim-Brotherhood-led government would have liked, the regions due to vote in the second half of the referendum on Dec. 22 are more rural and more likely to support it.

Venezuelans went to the polls again. Venezuelans voted over the weekend in state elections, including the state of Miranda, where recent presidential contender Henrique Capriles Radonski was defending his seat as governor. Results will show whether Capriles has kept the support he will need to mount a new presidential bid if Hugo Chávez, currently undergoing cancer treatment, steps down.

Singapore and the EU concluded a trade pact. It’s not going to rescue Europe’s economies from their slump, but it could serve as a model for agreements with other Asian countries.

Liberty for the LibertadA UN court has ordered Ghana to release an Argentine navy ship, the Libertad, which was impounded in a dispute between a hedge fund and the Argentine government. The hedge fund, Elliott Management, is still locked in a dispute with Argentina over the payment of defaulted bonds.

Quartz obsession interlude

Zach Seward on how Google is starting to act more like a content company, settling disputes with other content companies on how it excerpts their material in its search results. “It’s not clear exactly how search results will change, but any concession would be significant because Google has long maintained that it has the right to incorporate some information from other websites—for instance, ratings and excerpts of reviews—into its own products… Ceding ground on this issue could have implications for other industries that have also complained about Google’s use of its content and perhaps encourage others to do the same.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The best reporting on guns in America. To understand the country’s conflicted relationship with arms, read through this list of articles rounded up by investigative outfit ProPublica, and this one from the Daily Beast. If you only have time for one piece, read “Battleground America” by Jill Lepore.

A eulogy for Occupy. Musings on where America’s radical protest movement went astray, by one of its most assiduous chroniclers, Quinn Norton.

The worst CEOs of 2012. Most of them, surprisingly, people you probably haven’t heard of.

Buying a New York apartment may not be such a great investment. Data suggest rental rates have been rising more slowly than property prices in recent years, common wisdom to the contrary.

Surprising discoveries

Drive safely in Dubai, win a car. In an attempt to encourage safe driving, motorists who maintain clean driving records will be eligible for prizes. The bar is pretty low: you can start winning cash prizes if you have no violations for a year. To enter the draw for a car will take five years, though.

Australia is the land of retail opportunity. Foreign retailers are flocking there as markets everywhere else stumble.

In Russia, even elephants drink. Their handler gave two circus elephants a case of vodka apiece to help them deal with the cold when they got temporarily stranded in the middle of a Siberian winter. “Apparently they were happy,” he reported.

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