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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Climate talks endgame, Saudi women to vote, fire-breathing drones

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

What to watch for today and over the weekend

The UN climate change conference wraps up. It’s the last official day of COP21, and world leaders have been working nonstop to reach an agreement on how to combat global warming. The draft is in better shape than it was earlier this week, but some suspect that negotiators may miss tonight’s deadline and deliberations will drag on into the weekend.

US, Russia, and the UN discuss Syria. The three-way talks in Geneva coincide with separate negotiations between Syrian rebels and opposition groups in Riyadh. The UN Syria envoy, Staffan de Mistura, will also oversee talks between the Syrian government and rebels in January.

Saudi women will vote in elections for the first time. They are also being allowed to stand as candidates in a nationwide municipal election tomorrow (paywall), only the second such election ever held in the highly conservative kingdom. Women make up less than 10% of the country’s 1.5 million registered voters.

Shinzo Abe travels to India. The Japanese prime minister kicks off a three-day visit where he’ll hold talks with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, and is expected to sign a deal to build India’s first bullet-train network.

North and South Korea meet. Officials will meet in the North Korean border town of Kaesong and hold high-level talks (paywall) on how to improve ties. The meeting was part of an agreement reached in August to de-escalate the current military stand-off on the peninsula—a cause that was not helped by North Korea declaring yesterday it now has a hydrogen bomb.

While you were sleeping

One of China’s most prominent businessmen went AWOL. Guo Guangchang, who has been described as China’s Warren Buffett and is one of the richest men in the country, was not reachable. Trading in shares of his firm Fosun was halted in Hong Kong. He is not the first to go missing.

Investigators in San Bernardino searched a lake. Two people who killed 14 in a gun attack last week were thought to have visited Seccombe Lake Park, about two miles from the site of the attack, on the day of the shootings, the FBI said. They didn’t specify what they were looking for.

One of ISIL’s finance chiefs was killed. The US military said Abu Salah was killed (paywall) in an airstrike in November, describing him as “one of the most senior and experienced members of [ISIL’s] financial network”.

An Oklahoma ex-cop was convicted of sexually assaulting eight women. Daniel Holtzclaw, a former Oklahoma City police officer, was convicted of 18 counts of rape or sexual assault while he was on duty. All of the women were black, the youngest 17 and the oldest 57.

A suspected architect of genocide in Rwanda was arrested. Ladislas Ntaganzwa, who is accused of orchestrating mass killings while he was mayor of Nyakizu, in southern Rwanda, in 1994, was arrested by Interpol in Congo. He has been on the run for 21 years and has a $5 million bounty on his head.

Europe’s soccer boss was told he couldn’t return to work. In October, UEFA head Michel Platini was suspended from any soccer-related activity for 90 days while a corruption investigation is underway. He appealed the ban, but was denied.

Quartz obsession interlude

Mike Murphy on the state of robots in 2015. “This was the year we were supposed to get hoverboards and flying cars. Instead we got more robots that fall over. They may build our cars and clean some of our floors, but for the most part, robots remain tucked away in research facilities and space operas.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

You can���t be Steve Jobs, but you could probably be Steve Ballmer. The former Microsoft CEO was dealt a poor hand–and turned it into billions.

Slacktivism can make a difference. New research shows that tweeting activist messages helps those on the ground.

The future of electric cars is not about Tesla. It’s about China, where sales of electric cars are soaring on the mainland.

Surprising discoveries

New Zealand may have chosen its new flag. The current winner—before overseas votes are counted—features a silver fern on a black and blue ground.

Space agencies will start gathering moisture on Mars. A probe will capture 5 ml of water vapor a day—Skywalker-style moisture farms may not be far off.

A scientist injected with 35-million-year-old bacteria is feeling better than ever. He believes it may lead to an eternal life.

Canada’s maple-syrup cartel wants to put a grandma in jail. She is one of a small group of rebellious maple syrup producers.

A teenager created a fire-breathing drone that can roast a turkey. Police say the state’s laws “have not caught up with technology.”

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, rebel maple syrup, and fire-extinguishing drones to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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