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Quartz Daily Brief—Europe and Africa edition—Modi in Moscow, extreme warmth in US, racist pyramid schemes

By Quartz Staff

What to watch for today

An annual India-Russia meeting concludes in Moscow. The two-day summit is Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s first official visit to the Russian capital, and a crucial bit of maintenance for Indo-Russian relations. Oil, defense, and nuclear energy were topics on the table during Modi’s private dinner with Vladimir Putin last night; today, the two heads of state are expected to sign a major weapons deal.

Record-high temperatures on the US east coast. A major chunk of the eastern seaboard will experience temperatures above 70 degrees fahrenheit; in some places, this will be a 30-to-40-degree deviation from historical norms. Meteorologists say the anomalies are powered by a stream of warm tropical air linked to this year’s strong El Niño.

The US labor department releases data on jobless claims. Initial claims for
state unemployment benefits are expected to have dropped (pdf) 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 270,000 for the week ended Dec. 19—that would be the 42nd straight week below the 300,000 threshold.

A holiday break for the markets. On the night before Christmas, the markets close early. US stock brokers wrap up business at 1 pm in New York, and bond traders can go home at 2 pm. Many European markets will also shut early.

While you were sleeping

Japan approved its budget for 2016. The prime minister’s cabinet put next year’s fiscal budget at a record ¥96.7 trillion ($799 billion), with social security expenses making up ¥32 trillion, also a record. If projections of ¥57.6 trillion in fiscal revenue are met, the country’s fiscal dependence (the ratio of bond issuance to budget revenue) will hit 35.6%, its lowest since fiscal 2008.

Rescue workers reached one more survivor from the Shenzhen landslide. Migrant worker Tian Zeming was found 67 hours after the pile of construction waste collapsed in Shenzhen, China; he was hospitalized and reported to be in stable condition. More than 70 people remain missing—Tian said he was next to another survivor, but state media reported that rescuers found him dead.

India tried to stop Facebook’s free internet. Regulators reportedly asked Facebook’s Indian telecommunications partner to shut down Internet.org, the tech giant’s initiative to bring limited internet access to developing countries. Internet.org is still accessible in India, and Facebook has said it is committed to working with local authorities to get India’s poor connected.

Hyatt Hotels reported a malware attack. The company has advised customers to check their credit card statements for unusual charges after its payment-processing system was compromised late last month. It didn’t say whether customer data was stolen—or why it took so long to issue an alert.

Quartz obsession interlude

Bobby Ghosh on the 15 best things he ate in 2015. “I can’t explain what makes one dish better than another, much less parse the fine points of ingredients and recipes. But I know good food when I eat it. This is part of the reason why, a few years ago, I started the Instagram hashtag #GhoshEats… a photo album of my gastronomic adventures, from Hong Kong to New York, Oslo to Cape Town.” Read more here.

Market haiku

Commodities rise,
Pulling energy with them,
Happy holidays

Matters of debate

“Wearables” aren’t a thing. The term we thought we needed to describe integrated technology ended up describing everything—and nothing.

America is becoming more liberal. Even if conservative politicians win big in 2016, the country at large is tilting leftward.

India needs to get over its obsession with fair skin. And it’s irresponsible for Bollywood actors to endorse lightening creams.

Surprising discoveries

3,200 American prison inmates were accidentally released early. Officials are tracking down the ex-offenders, and will give them credit for time spent in the community.

Women can save money by shopping in the men’s aisle. On average, beauty products like razors and soap aimed at men cost less than the same products for women.

The KKK was once a pyramid scheme. Now seen as fringe, the white-supremacist group gained millions of followers in the 1920s thank to its “wildly successful multi-level marketing structure.”

An endangered species of frog is benefiting from Puerto Rico’s debt. The lowland coquís stands a chance at survival now that industrial projects have come to a halt.

A psychologist tricked kids into turning down sugar. It involved a small dose of peer pressure, and inventing a fictional, less popular snack called “hemlock.”

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, endangered frogs, and fake hemlock to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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