What to watch for today
The Syrian rebels are leaving Homs. Under a ceasefire agreement, the city will pass back entirely into government control. About 800 rebel fighters and civilians are leaving. Homs was once called the “capital of the revolution” against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
The president of Iraqi Kurdistan goes to Turkey. Masoud Barzani will call for Turkey’s support in fighting ISIL in Iraq. But the Turkish military’s current presence there—in what it says is merely an advisory role—is already viewed by Baghdad as a threat to its sovereignty.
A $120-billion US chemicals merger is on the cards. Dow Chemicals is in late-stage talks to merge with DuPont, in what could be the largest-ever deal in the industry. The newly-merged company—should regulators around the world approve—would then divide into separate companies based on industry and sector.
Brazil braces for even higher inflation. Prices are expected to have risen in November at an even higher rate than October’s 9.9%. That may force Brazil to raise already-high interest rates, deepening its recession and further eroding president Dilma Rousseff’s popularity.
While you were sleeping
Australian police raided the home of the possible Bitcoin founder. Officers searched Craig Wright’s Sydney property only hours after Wright was reported on as being the early developer of the cryptocurrency. Police said the raid is not connected to the media reports.
Another of the Paris attackers was identified. Foued Mohamed Aggad, 23 and from Strasbourg, was identified by French police as the third gunman to have attacked the Bataclan theater last month. All the attackers to have been identified so far were from Belgium or France.
Rwandans will vote on whether their president can serve a third term. The government has announced a referendum next week on an amendment to the constitution that could allow Paul Kagame to remain in power until 2034.
South African inflation rose to its highest level since July… It was 4.8% in November from a year earlier, up from 4.7% in October. The rand weakened to a record low against the dollar, pound, and euro, with the country narrowly avoiding a slip into recession in the third quarter.
…while China’s consumer prices beat estimates. Inflation rose by 1.5% in November from a year earlier, ahead of expectations of a 1.4% increase. That could suggest China’s massive stimulus is taking effect, though producer prices continued to fall, marking their 45th consecutive monthly drop.
The US ramped up its sanctions against North Korea. American companies will no longer be able to transact any business with several banks and companies allegedly involved in the proliferation of weapons in the country. Any US assets they hold will also be frozen.
Spotify tweaked its approach to free music. The music streaming service plans to allow some artists to make albums available only to its paid subscribers, and not to the company’s free listener base. Spotify will test the results with a few artists first, before making a permanent decision.
Quartz obsession interlude
Mike Murphy on the changing face and fortunes of a computing giant. “IBM has shed its skin so many times it’s hard to believe that this 104-year-old company started life making meat grinders and cheese slicers…Critics say it adapted too late to technological shifts such as cloud computing. Prophesying the company’s inexorable decline has become something of a journalistic sport.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Donald Trump is a danger to US security. His anti-Muslim rhetoric “bolsters ISIL’s narrative,” says the Pentagon.
Burgers, beer, coffee, and condoms are the best investments. They will benefit from the rise of the global middle class.
Zimbabwe’s deflation is no positive solution to hyperinflation. It could add political unrest to bad economics.
Fossil fuels kill more people than war, murder, and traffic accidents combined. That’s 4.5 million deaths per year.
A Soviet general got secret Coca-Cola during the Cold War. It was clear and featured a red star on the bottle.
Another woman’s portrait may be hidden under the Mona Lisa. A scientist says she is not looking at the viewer.
Icelanders are flocking to a new religion. The Zuist movement worships ancient Sumerian dieties—and champions tax breaks for all.