Quartz Daily Brief—Europe Edition—Gun control, JP Morgan, bulls are back, crying in space

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Some ideas for action on guns. US vice president Joe Biden will present proposals for reducing gun violence, in the wake of December’s school massacre. They’re expected to include closing loopholes that allow many gun buyers to avoid background checks—a move that would have widespread support—as well as various measures president Barack Obama could take without consulting Congress, which would oppose many of them. New York’s state senate will also vote on a bill to introduce tougher gun laws in the state.

Germany’s slowdown becomes more visible. GDP data for all of 2012 are expected to show a less-than stellar 0.8% increase as Germany’s vaunted export engine sputters along with the broader European economy. Roughly 71% of German goods were destined for other European countries in 2011.

Christmas—the official report. US retail sales for December will give a post-mortem on the all-important holiday shopping season. Consensus estimates are of a 0.2%  month-over-month gain. Early indications are that retailers resorted to deep discounting to lure shoppers into the stores.

A defense plan for Mali. Defense chiefs from West African countries will agree on a supply of troops to bolster Malian forces against Islamist militants. The rebels yesterday made gains despite French air-strikes, over-running the garrison town of Diabaly.

A constitutional showdown in Egypt. The constitutional court will rule on whether the upper house of parliament, the Shura Council, should be dissolved, in the latest stage of a power struggle between the Islamist parliament supporting president Mohammed Morsi and a judiciary more loyal to ousted president Hosni Mubarak.

While you were sleeping

Did Japan’s central bank just fall into line? At a meeting of branch managers of the Bank of Japan, governor Masaaki Shirakawa said the bank would pursue “powerful monetary easing,” a signal that he will cooperate with demands from prime minister Shinzo Abe that the BoJ pursue an aggressive anti-deflationary policy. Reports are that it’s just a matter of time before the BoJ sets a joint inflation target with the government

Toyota takes the crown back from GM.  The Japanese car maker beat General Motors in total global car sales in 2012. Germany’s Volkswagen also posted its best ever full-year sales, up 34% in the US and 25% in its largest market, China; in the US, it beat a record for cars sold that was set in 1970.

What’s bad for Apple is bad for Asia. Reports that Apple has cut orders for iPhone 5 parts by half caused shares of Asian suppliers like Sharp, AAC and Samsung to fall sharply.

JP Morgan gets a slap on the wrist for the Whale. US regulators told the bank to fix flaws in its management that led it to lose $6 billion last year to a rogue trader in London, and to tighten up its safeguards against money-laundering, but issued no fines. British regulators continue to investigate it.

How do you organize 30 million people? Ask Harvard University, which has sent scholars to study the economics and logistics of the Kumbh Mela festival. The event, which has just begun, takes place once every four years, but this year is the “complete” Kumbh, which happens once in every 12. Some 8 million Hindu pilgrims were said to have bathed in the frigid waters of the River Ganges on the first day alone.

Quartz obsession interlude

Lily Kuo on the massive expansion of the global middle class. “The rising purchasing power of these new shoppers has retailers and market analysts, who have given emerging market consumers their own moniker of ‘the next billion,’ salivating. Multinational corporations have been trying to tap into the Chinese consumer market via tailoring goods to local tastes (‘hot pot’ flavored Lays chips or ‘green tea’ Oreos).” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The belief that China doesn’t consume enough is just wrong.

The US deficit problem really isn’t so bad. And the US debt limit should be abolished.

Why Aaron Swartz is becoming a martyr, and why you should care.

The largest structure ever observed in the universe is a quasar cluster.

Here’s the right way to evaluate teachers.

Everyone is still waiting for that “great rotation” out of bonds back into stocks.

Workers must be protected from robots.

Japan is right to break with economic orthodoxy.

Surprising discoveries

Herbert Hoover drank Long Island Iced Tea.

It is quite difficult to cry in space.

The bulls are back, judging by junk-bond prices.

Cats (not bulls) can be excellent stock pickers. (They’re quite nimble.)

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, presidential drink recipes and dire forecasts about the debt-ceiling to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates during the day.

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