Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Fed meeting begins, Apple’s secret lab, cheetahs stand guard

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As the year comes to an end, we’re taking stock of everything we learned in 2015, from the prosaic to the profound. We’re inviting Quartz readers to answer this question: What do you know now that you didn’t know a year ago?

Let us know at, and some replies will be edited and published. Thanks!

What to watch for today

A nice day for a hike. The US Federal Reserve kicks off its final two-day policy meeting of the year, and almost everyone thinks it will raise its benchmark interest rate for the first time in nearly a decade. Fed chair Janet Yellen has said a hike would be a “testament” to the recovery since the 2008 recession.

The World Trade Organization tries to remain relevant. Attendees in Nairobi are expected to conclude the largely stalled Doha round of talks, aimed at making globalization work better for developing nations. If the negotiations fail, the WTO’s relevance will suffer.

John Kerry talks Syria with Vladimir Putin. The US secretary of state and Russian president will meet in Moscow to discuss how to bridge gaps in the two countries’ approaches to Syria. The US wants Syrian president Bashar al-Assad gone; Russia, not so much. Both agree, however, that ISIL is “the worst of terrorists.”

Yemen’s government and rebels enter peace talks. Shia Houthi rebels meet Yemeni government representatives for peace talks in Switzerland, amid a ceasefire that began midday today local time (4am ET). Months of fighting has also allowed ISIL to creep in to the country (paywall).

While you were sleeping

Saudi Arabia announced an anti-terror coalition. A total of 34 Arab, African, and Asian nations have agreed to coordinate existing efforts to fight Islamic extremists in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, and Egypt. Iran, a regional rival of Saudi Arabia, did not join.

Qantas hiked its profit forecast. The Australian airline said underlying income could reach A$925 million ($672.1 million) in the six months to December, well above expectations and almost triple last year’s A$367 million result.

Nigeria’s military killed at least 60 in a Shi’ite raid. The government claimed that the Islamic Movement, a local sect, had attempted to assassinate the army’s chief of staff, after military forces arrested its leader and killed dozens of supporters. The IM alleged that even more were killed but that the military removed the bodies.

Apple is running a “secret” Taiwan research lab. The iPhone maker has hired 50 engineers at a venue one hour’s drive from Taipei, to research how to make screens both better and more energy efficient, according to Bloomberg. Moving such research in-house could reduce Apple’s reliance on Samsung and LG.

European car buyers punished Volkswagen. The German automaker embroiled in an emissions-cheating scandal reported a November sales increase of just 4.2% compared with a year earlier. That’s far lower than the 14% increase for the industry in the EU as a whole.

Quartz obsession interlude

Josh Mitnick on Israel’s potentially wasted offshore gas bonanza. “If the gas from Leviathan stays in the ground, the government could lose up to $2.4 billion in tax revenue by 2022, according to an estimate by the finance ministry. There’s also the problem of energy security: Israel would have to find a source for imports instead of relying solely on the Tamar field, which currently supplies half of Israel’s energy.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

The world has reached peak iPhone. Markets are saturated and sales will begin falling next year.

“Hate search” has deadly consequences. Googling for “kill Muslims” is correlated with more hate crimes.

Burundi isn’t on the brink of another genocide. But that doesn’t mean it won’t need urgent solutions to the current chaos.

Surprising discoveries

An Indian woman named her baby “Uber.” He was born in an Uber vehicle en route to the hospital, after his mother couldn’t hail a cab.

A Texas plumber sued after his truck was used by ISIL. He says a local dealership broke its promise to remove his company’s logo from the vehicle, which ended up in Syria.

South Africa uses cheetahs to guard airbases. They chase off smaller creatures that could endanger airplanes.

Your TV may be giving you “empathetic stress.” Characters in distress can be hazardous to your health.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, televised stress relievers, and startup baby names to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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