Quartz Daily Brief—India protests, big phones, golden credit cards, China’s Batman

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Fallout after protests over the treatment of women in India.  After Dec. 22 protests demanding justice for a gang-rape victim turned violent, with police beating protestors, Indian officials promised to act swiftly. A former Supreme Court Justice will lead a commission of inquiry and politicians from both the governing coalition and opposition party leaders are calling for action.

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives in India for bilateral talks. Putin will meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in an effort to repair political, and above all trade ties to the country. India was traditionally a big buyer of Russian defense goods but has been leaning more to Western manufacturers of late. The two leaders could sign multi-billion dollar deals for fighter jets and aircraft engines at the conclusion of the meeting.

Gulf states talk Syria and Iran. The Gulf Cooperation Council, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait and Qatar meet in Manama, the Bahraini capital, to discuss Syria’s civil war and a bellicose Iran. With tensions high in the Middle East, the position of this bloc of oil powers could be key in establishing some stability. Meanwhile, UN peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

More conflict in Gaza? Reports of the first rocket fired by Gaza militants into Israel since a Nov. 21 ceasefire began could upset a tense situation.

A quiet day in the US and Europe, with markets closing early the day before the Christmas holiday. US markets could be jittery early over a legislative deadlock that could allow America’s automatic austerity package to take effect on Jan 1., though lawmakers will attempt to avoid the trigger with action after a holiday recess.

While you were sleeping:

Yen fell after monetary policy ultimatum. The Japanese currency neared a 20-month low after Shinzo Abe, elected just last week promising economic stimulus, warned the Bank of Japan that unless it adopted a 2% inflation target, his government would pass a law forcing the issue.

Grupo Bimbo prepared a bid for bankrupt Twinkie maker Hostess. Despite concerns about the antitrust implications of a bid, the Mexican baking giant, which already owns American brands like Entemann’s and Sara Lee, will look to scoop up both the snack and bread brands of bankrupt Hostess, the producer of the iconic Twinkie.

Egypt approved new constitution; the opposition will appeal. In a second weekend of voting, Egyptian voters approved a new constitution pushed by President Mohammed Morsi and his Islamist political party. Opposition parties promised to appeal, saying the vote was marred by violence and intimidation.

Syrian bank directors rush for the exits. Nearly half the country’s listed banks in the past two months have reported “emergency resignations“ of board directors seeking to distance themselves politically from the besieged regime of President Bashar al-Assad, reports The National.

 Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on how the United States ended up on the long road to the fiscal cliff: “These trends—more ideological parties, procedural rules that reduce the possibilities of compromise, and a history of lax fiscal policy—collided in Obama’s first term. As American political parties behaved more like those in Europe and other countries boasting parliamentary systems that allow governing parties to enact their agendas, US institutions, with their numerous veto points, became more ineffective. Though Obama promised a bipartisan manner, and attempted to deliver it—salting his stimulus plan with tax cuts, adopting the Republican health care framework to deliver the admittedly liberal goal of universal health care—his Keynesian approach to economic policy and liberal positions on social issues ignited conservatives’ anger and lead to their 2010 resurgence in Congress. That, in turn, has lead to the last two years of policy stagnation, with neither side able to convince the other to move forward on anything.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Why can’t we solve big problems? “We can put a man on the moon, so why we can’t solve [Problem X]?” You’ve heard that many times before, and so has Jason Pontin, who explains the obstacles between us and the technological revolution of your choice.

How the murder of Song Jiaoren changed Chinese history. It wasn’t heard ’round the world, but this gunshot had global implications.

Russia and China need to work together to rebalance their economies. Unfortunately, public officials in both countries are butting heads with vested interests.

The speech that explains why Indian woman are outraged over gang rape. And the way they are treated every day.

Surprising discoveries

You can buy a credit card-size gold brick. Why would you want to do that? So you could break off gram-size pieces to use as currency in the event of a financial collapse, of course!

Or you can wait to buy an almost brick-sized phone again. An official from Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei showed off a new smartphone with a 6.1-inch screen, half an inch bigger than the Samsung Galaxy Note II, which currently claims the size title. Samsung however is believed to be readying an even bigger model.

The time travel portfolio. Just follow our investment advice (by travelling back in time) and you could be rich!

China’s top stock commentator is a 26-year old dropout who goes by “Batman.”  Under the blogger name Yerongtian (叶荣添), Hu Bin has captured the attention of China’s 72 million retail investors by being thoughtful, but also bombastic and eccentric: In 2010, he bet that the Shanghai Stock Exchange Index would reach 5800 by the end of the year or he’d throw himself off a Shanghai skyscraper (neither happened).

Robbers targeting sea cucumbers. Canadian police are investigating a series of break-ins at Chinese herbal medicine shops around Vancouver. The latest haul netted more than $100,000 in Japanese sea cucumbers, American wild ginseng and premium swiftlet nests.

Interviewing Silvio Berlusconi is a hassle. Pity the Italian journalist trying to get news from former-and-now-aspiring prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who keeps threatening to walk out of the interview.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, feedback, or tiny gold bars to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day. We’ll be back in your inbox on Wednesday morning.

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