Quartz Daily Brief—Tata goes, port talks, killer whale finances, dolphin generosity

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What to watch for today

Ratan Tata hands over the reins. The first Indian businessman to build a corporate empire with $100 billion in annual revenues turns over the executive chairmanship of the family business to Cyrus Mistry, a non-relative. Known for the low-budget Nano car and high-priced Taj hotels, Tata Group has used acquisitions to extend its global reach to encompass Jaguar Land Rover, Corus Steel and Tetley tea. Here are five challenges Mistry faces.

Last-ditch attempt to avert US port strike. Federal mediators have called the International Longshoremen’s Association back into talks with shipping lines and port operators to seek a deal to head off a strike set to start Sunday that would shut down container shipping throughout the US East Coast and Gulf Coast. Retailers have called on the president to intervene.

Fiscal cliff crunch time. President Barack Obama is expected to meet with Congressional leaders of both parties to push his deal for avoiding the fiscal cliff. His proposal involves extending most tax breaks, except those for the wealthy, and deferring scheduled spending cuts. The action is now focused on the Senate, where a dozen Republican members have expressed a willingness to allow higher taxes on the wealthy. But it’s not clear their leaders will allow such a bill to come to the floor without a filibuster. If the Senate does pass a plan, Republican Speaker John Boehner has called the House back into session on Dec. 30 to vote on it. But the odds of going over the fiscal cliff are rising.

The largest Indian IPO in two years goes live. Bharti Infratel, the tower unit of telecom giant Bharti Airtel, lists on the Bombay and National Stock Exchanges. The company raised $760 million and the IPO was fully subscribed. Experts expect that the company’s 160.6 million shares will begin trading at around 200 rupees ($3.64) per share.

While you were sleeping

Data underscored Japan’s economic weakness… Industrial production dropped more than three times as much as economists expected in November, back to its low point after the 2011 earthquake. And consumer prices, excluding fresh food, continued to fall. The numbers will provide support to new prime minister Shinzo Abe’s plans for new stimulus measures.

…while mixed signals are coming from South Korea. By contrast with Japan’s, South Korean industrial production rose almost twice as much as expected. Even so, the government has lowered growth projections because it expects sluggish demand for exports from the EU and China.

SeaWorld will go public. Private equity giant Blackstone will take the Disney-inspired aquatic theme park public, hoping to raise $100 million. The aging brand faces new work standards legislation that could detract from the park’s initial appeal: humans swimming with marine animals, particularly killer whales.

Alarm mounts over CAR rebel advance. The UN Security Council condemned rebel attacks in the Central African Republic and called for the forces to withdraw from captured towns as the US closed its embassy in the capital amid worsening security and an attack on the French embassy by protesters seeking French intervention.

Quartz obsession interlude

Ritchie King on why 2012 will end up one of the world’s warmest years on record—yet again. “Barring a deep freeze in the next couple of days, 2012 will go down as the warmest year on record in the United States. And worldwide, it will break into the top 10, likely coming in as the 8th or 9th warmest year since record-keeping began in 1880. Such a distinction is all too common: Of the past 35 years, only 2011 was not among the globe’s 10 hottest at the time.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

What will 2013 bring? Experts from the Council on Foreign Relations weigh in on the risks ahead for the global economy.

Government spending beats venture capital. Why the US needs “big government”—not venture capital—to invest in its economy.

North Korean and Iranian missiles are an overhyped threat. Conventionally armed ballistic missiles rarely make a strategic difference and are unwieldy.

The China of Xi Jinping. How China’s new leaders will attempt to shape cyberspace, international relations, its domestic economy, and more.

Surprising discoveries

Dolphins like giving people gifts. Dolphins were observed on 23 documented occasions over the last few years giving humans at the Tangalooma Island Resort in Australia gifts like fish, eel, squid, tuna, and an octopus.

The White House must now seriously consider building a Death Star. A petition calling for the US government to build a giant, moon-like war machine like that featured in the film franchise “Star Wars” garnered 25,000 votes. In theory this means the administration is obliged to study the issue and provide a formal response. It could just point to a calculation showing that the steel alone would cost 13,000 times the world’s annual GDP. (Meanwhile, the petition to have British CNN anchor Piers Morgan deported for his anti-gun views is approaching 85,000 signatures.)

All the new regulations the US added this year will cost $215 billion to comply with. And other factoids in the year’s round-up of graphs from our friends at Wonkblog.

Best wishes from Quartz for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, feedback, or useless missiles to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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