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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Mali’s hostage crisis, Pollard released, financial literacy tests

By Richard Macauley
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

What to watch for today and over the weekend

A developing hostage crisis in Mali. Two gunmen are holding 140 guests and 30 staff hostage at a Radisson Blu hotel in the capital city of Bamako.

The US releases an Israeli spy. Jonathan Pollard, a US citizen, will be released from prison (paywall) after serving 30 years for passing military intelligence to Israel. Pollard’s detention has long been a sticking point between the two countries.

EU interior ministers discuss tighter borders. France is pushing for stricter passport controls at the external border of the bloc’s visa-free Schengen zone, and for more collaboration over sharing airline passenger data, at an EU meeting. Separately, a third body was discovered in the Paris apartment in which the ringleader of last week’s attack was killed.

Volkswagen faces a US deadline. The German auto maker must explain how it will fix 480,000 diesel engines that do not comply with emissions standards. Investors will be watching too.

A forum on US pharmaceutical drug prices. The US government invites consumers, healthcare providers, and drug producers to discuss the rising prices of prescription drugs in the country, which could become an unwanted export under the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

While you were sleeping

Euro-zone inflation got a shot in the arm. Mario Draghi, the European Central Bank chief, said the institution will “do what we must” to achieve a healthy rate of consumer price rises. The ECB may expand its quantitative easing program or lower the interest rate to below zero to spur spending.

The US investigated Bosch over Volkswagen’s emissions scandal. The Department of Justice is probing the German auto supplier to assess whether it knew about technology that helped VW cheat on emissions tests, according to Reuters. Bosch built key parts for some VW models that had the device fitted.

New Zealand began a referendum on a new national flag. Residents have a little under one month to submit their nomination to choose one of five designs for a new national icon. The winning design will go to a face-off vote against the current flag next year.

ABN Amro’s IPO raised $3.6 billion. The Dutch bank was valued at €16.7 billion ($17.9 billion) after selling shares at €17.75. That allows the Dutch government a chance to recoup some of the €22 billion it spent bailing out the bank during the financial crisis.

More dreary expectations from Japan. More than a third of respondents believe the economy will slip back into deflation, according to a Morgan Stanley survey—a rise from just 27% last year. Separately, a Reuters poll found that most analysts expect core consumer prices to have fallen by 0.1% in October.

Quartz obsession interlude

Jenni Avins on packing the perfect carry-on bag. “For years, I allowed the packing process to eat up an entire evening as I tried on clothes and shifted piles from bed, to bag, to bed again—only to travel with an over-stuffed suitcase of clothes I didn’t need. But after a slew of 4-5 day work-plus-weekend trips that one colleague has dubbed ‘the work-end,’ I’ve noticed my suitcase holds the same items, again and again.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Anonymous is no threat to ISIL. The “hacktivist” group’s ongoing cyberwar against the terrorists has accomplished little.

Customers should have to take a test before they can open a bank account. Financial literacy is so low that it’s dangerous otherwise.

Women need help discovering music. So said Apple Music’s Jimmy Iovine.

The West’s next great culture war is playing out at American universities. It’s a foolish clash between free speech and political correctness.

Surprising discoveries

Mouse sperm is longer than elephant sperm. As animals increase in size, sperm quantity becomes more important than quality.

More Mexicans are leaving the US than entering. So perhaps there’s no need for Trump’s proposed border wall.

Men eat more food when women are at the table. To show off, of course.

Bangladesh switched off its internet by “mistake.” The government was just trying to block social networking sites.

American airports aren’t terribly busy on the day before Thanksgiving. It’s only the 121st-busiest air travel day of the year.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, surprisingly long sperm, and your financial literacy test results to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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