Quartz Daily Brief—Debt ceiling looms, Toyota brakes, YouTube defection, Santa tax

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What to watch for today

The fiscal cliff cuts short Barack Obama’s vacation. The President is returning early from Hawaii to reinvigorate stalled negotiations between Republicans and Democrats over the package of austerity measures that will otherwise start to take effect at the beginning of 2013.

Ireland braces for accidents. December 27 is one of the busiest days of the year for Irish accident clinics, with data showing that cases typically jump by about 40%.

Tropical storm Wukong hits the East Sea. A tropical storm will intensify in Southeast Asia as it moves over the Philippines.

The latest data on jobs and homes in the United States. The Department of Labor and the Census Bureau will provide the latest data on unemployment and housing, two areas of the US economy which have remained resistant to recovery. The latest numbers will help economists determine if the US economy has turned the corner.

While you were sleeping

Toyota to settle class-action suits. Seeking to close a damaging chapter, the Japanese automaker agreed to settle class-action litigation for $1.1 billion over claims that millions of cars sold in the US from 1998 to 2010 were liable to accelerate unintentionally. It will make payments to the owners and those who have sold their cars at reduced value and pay for the installation of a brake override system.

Japan reconsidering tax rise. Taro Aso, newly installed as finance minister and deputy prime minister after the Dec. 16 election, said Japan’s government would not proceed with a consumption tax rise from 5% to 8% in 2014 and 10% in 2015, adopted by the previous government, unless the economy improves. He said the new government would also abandon a bond issuance cap set at an annual ¥44 trillion ($520 billion) and called the central bank “insensitive to the problem of deflation.”

Chinese industrial profits climbed. Adding to signs of economic acceleration, official data showed net income growth rose 22.8% in November from a year earlier, after picking up only 0.5% in the first 10 months of 2012. Three-quarters of sectors surveyed reported higher 2012 earnings, with profits growing quickest among power generators.

University in $1.2 billion patent win. A federal jury in Pittsburgh ruled that chipmaker Marvell Technology infringed two patents held by Carnegie Mellon University. It determined that the action was “willful” which will allow the judge hearing the case to triple the verdict. The initial sum is already almost double Marvell’s latest annual profit.

Syria’s military police chief defects on YouTube. Lieutenant General Abdulaziz al-Shalal announced that he had defected from the government of President Bashar al-Assad in a YouTube video. “I declare my defection from the army because of its deviation from its fundamental mission to protect the nation and transformation into gangs of murder and destruction,” he said.

The US will hit the debt ceiling in four days. Tim Geithner, the Treasury Secretary, warned Congress that the US would reach its borrowing limit on December 31, but that the Treasury will undertake a number of accounting tricks to keep the United States solvent. Those measures are expected to provide about two months leeway, though it could be more—or less.

India’s gang-rape victim in Singapore hospital. The young victim of a brutal gang-rape on a Delhi bus was admitted in “extremely critical condition” to a Singapore hospital known for its expertise in multi-organ transplants. The Indian government arranged the flight and is paying for her care after several days of heated protests in the Indian capital that have been met with tear gas and water cannon.

Quartz obsession interlude

Tim Fernholz on how Germany’s economic and soccer dominance do and do not line up: “Though there are superficial similarities between Germany’s soccer success and its economic program—both involved a comprehensive reform initiative intended to address a national problem—they have some big differences. The soccer revival was built directly on the reinvestment after 2000, but Germany’s ability to withstand the 2008 crisis had less to do with the labor market reforms in the preceding years than with the country’s pre-crisis pessimism, advantageous trade position and history of past reform. Still, imperfect though the comparison is, German soccer and economic reform contain several lessons.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Just how close is an Asian war? An Australian professor weighs in on the tensions between Japan and China.

Europe should prepare for a tough 2013. Although markets appear to accept the fact that the region will fall into recession, lots of shocks could jolt the system.

The US is using less gasoline—but why? It’s about much more than energy efficiency.

Surprising discoveries

Hawaii is dissolving from within. Researchers have discovered that the island states of Hawaii states are actually dissolving at a quicker pace than they’re being broken down by erosion.

Go ahead—eat (some of) that expired food! “Sell by” dates aren’t what should dictate when you toss out your leftovers.

Even Santa Claus pays taxes in Ukraine. The state revenue service, short on cash, is cracking down.

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