Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Apple Pay in China, Syria talks, mountainous gift

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What to watch for today and over the weekend

Democrats debate. US presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley will face off in a third debate in New Hampshire on YouTube this Saturday. Clinton has widened her lead nationally, but in Iowa, where primary voting kicks off, Sanders is only nine points behind.

The Force Awakens worldwide—almost. The seventh film of the Star Wars saga could earn up to $220 million in the US and Canada in its opening weekend, smashing records. The movie won’t premiere in China, the world’s second-largest movie market, until Jan. 9.

High-level Syria talks in New York. US secretary of state John Kerry chairs a UN Security Council meeting, arranged during Kerry’s visit to Moscow this week, in an effort to broker an end to Syria’s bloody civil war.

While you were sleeping

A friend of the San Bernardino attackers was arrested. Enrique Marquez allegedly bought two rifles used by the attackers in the US’s worst terror attack since 9/11. He was also charged with plotting an earlier terror attack with the San Bernardino gunman.

The African Union wants to deploy peacekeepers to Burundi. Its Peace and Security Council proposed sending 5,000 troops to pull the country back from the brink of civil war, according to Reuters. That would be the first time the council uses its right to send troops to a country despite opposition from its national government.

Apple confirmed a China Apple Pay deal. UnionPay, China’s largest credit card provider, agreed to a tie-up with Apple that will allow Chinese cardholders to use the iPhone maker’s contactless payment system there. The system will roll out as soon as early 2016.

Another day, another $2 billion in M&A. Zurich Insurance agreed to pay up to $1.1 billion for Rural Community Insurance Services, owned by Wells Fargo. Separately, pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline’s HIV drug unit agreed to a $1 billion price tag for assets owned by US peer Bristol-Myers Squibb (paywall).

David Cameron appeared upbeat on his EU pitch. The British prime minister presented four demands aimed at renegotiating the UK’s relationship with the European Union, and said he was confident that solutions would be found. European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker described each of the issues as “tricky.”

Afghanistan won approval to join the World Trade Organization. The country now has until June 30 to ratify the offer, which it and the US hope will bring a reduction in poverty. It might also encourage better opportunities for women.

Quartz obsession interlude

Corinne Purtill on how a butter coffee maker sells an entire lifestyle: “In company lingo, “being Bulletproof” means hacking your diet, your sleep, your workout routines and virtually every other interaction with your environment to become a smarter, sharper, better performing you… What Bulletproof is really selling isn’t high-fat coffee but a new take on a perennially popular product: the promise of a better life, and a faster, easier way to get there.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

“The Force Awakens” is exactly the movie we were waiting for. For fans, it feels truly like coming home.

Mars should be independent from Earth. Future colonists should renounce their Earth citizenship.

Instead of treating depression, we should preempt it. The animal tranquilizer (and sometimes party drug) ketamine could help.

Surprising discoveries

A bank robber was caught on a live news report returning to the scene of the crime. He was trying to rob the bank a second time.

American teens prefer marijuana over tobacco. Weed use has stayed constant; cigarette use has fallen sharply.

Hong Kong police seized $190,000 worth of pangolin meat. The endangered species is prized in China for its supposed medicinal qualities.

Norwegians are campaigning to gift a mountain to Finland. It’s to celebrate 100 years of Finnish independence.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, spare mountains, and Mars citizenship applications to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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