Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—NRA speaks, Vodafone charged, most overlooked stories of 2012

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

The National Rifle Association in the US will yield on gun laws in a press conference, or not. The gun lobby has a history of dodging the issue of gun control in the wake of America’s (numerous) mass shootings, but its actions in the wake of the most recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut might be different. The organization promised that today’s press conference would include a “meaningful contribution” to the solution to such tragedies.

The end of the world. Generally, the dates of projected apocalypses pass without incident, but in China, an eyebrow-raising 20% of those surveyed said today’s the day it all comes crashing down. However, the chief forecaster at China’s National Meteorological Center said falling weekend temperatures were not related to the “end of the world.”

Important news that US companies want to bury. The Friday before the Christmas holiday season is traditionally a great time to announce news that you’d like to see disappear down the memory hole as quickly as possible. (See: NRA press conference.) On Monday Dec. 24th, markets will also have a shorter day to react to any news announced after they close on Friday.

While you were sleeping

Vodafone and Bharti charged in India corruption probe. Federal police filed criminal conspiracy charges against the country’s two largest mobile companies, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone’s India unit, and a former government telecoms official over their conduct during spectrum allocation in 2002.

ArcelorMittal wrote down its European business. The world’s largest steelmaker will write down the value of its European business — mostly the product of Lakshmi Mittal’s $33 billion acquisition of Arcelor in 2006  — by $4.3 billion to adjust to low demand amid the eurozone crisis.

UK commission called for ‘electrifying’ banking ringfence. A parliamentary panel urged the government to put more force behind its proposal to separate banks’ retail and investment banking operations by empowering the regulator to break up banks that try to ‘put holes’ in the fence.

Officials ruled out Cyprus debt haircut. Jean-Claude Juncker, the outgoing Eurogroup chief, echoed Cypriot officials in dismissing the possibility of a writedown of the country’s sovereign debt. The comments came after Standard & Poor’s moved its rating on Cyprus’ debt deeper into junk territory over the “considerable and rising” risk of a default.

Japanese deal approvals backed up in China. Sony and Olympus postponed a medical device joint venture as they are still awaiting approval from Chinese competition regulators. Several other deals involving Japanese companies, including Daiwa House’s purchase of Fujita and Marubeni’s buyout of Gavilon and Dentsu’s acquisition of Aegis are in similar Chinese limbo.

RIM and Nokia reached patent peace. The two troubled phone makers reached a pact to settle all patent disputes between them, with RIM to make both a one-time and ongoing payments to the Finnish company. The agreement came shortly after RIM reported its first drop in subscriber numbers.

Quartz obsession interlude

Steve LeVine names the eight most disruptive geopolitical events of 2012: “For Saudi Arabia, 2012 marked a year of growing apprehension as a frightening trend emerged: that by the end of the decade, according to mid-range forecasts, two new hyper-producers—Iraq and the US—will be pumping some 14 million barrels of oil a day, a 58% jump from today’s production levels. And that’s not even counting Iran, which is also likely to have resumed full-tilt production, churning out four million barrels per day (bpd), an increase of 1.3 million bpd from current production. All in all, OPEC will have much less influence over a world awash in oil.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

How luxury brands fail e-commerce 101. This company sold out of an $840 reindeer leather apron this holiday season, by re-introducing the one thing that’s usually missing from luxury brands when they move online: the human touch.

Did the human hand evolve for fighting? We’ve long been a pugilistic species, and the evidence is in our balled up fists, says science. Overall, violence has been declining for thousands of years, perhaps because we learned to use our hands for anything but combat.

Europe is giving up on Putin. The leader of Europe’s largest country has failed to undertake democratic reform, putting distance between Russia and the EU.

Americans love their guns. Always have, always will.

Surprising discoveries

China’s cities are filling up with poor people. China has 160 million “rural migrants” who are banned by law from gaining the same benefits as residents of cities, and they provide the country with a significant portion of its labor supply.

Danes want to build a manned space rocket and give the plans away for free. In part of a larger trend of “open source” hardware, a pair of engineers and their 20 or so helpers want to make Denmark only the fourth country ever to launch a manned rocket into suborbital space.

Thais can’t get enough of McDonald’s. The country’s sole franchisee, which operates 178 outlets, has issued a notice restricting customers to occupying seats for no more than an hour during lunch, dinner and weekend hours and discouraging them from using power outlets for more than 30 minutes. Frustrated customers have complained of not being able to find a seat because of tables occupied by others work or studying for hours.

The future of animal protein is mealworms. One kilogram of mealworm protein can be grown on just 10% of the land required to grow a comparable amount of cattle. When roasted, they taste “just like nuts or seeds.”

Facebook will let you spam people outside your network for just $1. Of course, the point is that if it costs you money to send a message, it’s probably not spam.

Africa’s mobile phone market grew forty-fold in just the past 10 years. The total size of the market is now greater than either the EU or the US.

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