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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Modi in Moscow, deadly US storm, racist pyramid schemes

By Quartz Staff

What to watch for today

Major defense deals between India and Russia. With a two-day summit between the two nations drawing to a close today, India’s Reliance Defence has already announced a $6 billion deal with Russian manufacturers of air defense systems. More such deals are expected to follow, possibly involving Russian frigates and a helicopter-building joint venture. 

Record-high temperatures on the US east coast. A major chunk of the eastern seaboard will experience temperatures above 70°F; 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 1pm in New York, and bond traders can go home at 2pm. Many European markets will also shut early, but it so far appears to have minimal impact on European equities.

While you were sleeping

Japan approved record high military spending for 2016. In the fourth consecutive annual increase, the cabinet approved a ¥5.1 trillion ($42.1 billon) defense budget, as well as ¥32 trillion in social security spending, helping to put the government’s fiscal budget at a record ¥96.7 trillion.

Embassies in Beijing warned foreigners of possible attacks. The embassies of the US, France, and the UK urged citizens to stay away from the city’s popular Sanlitun  shopping district around Christmas. They sent the warnings after receiving information on “possible threats against Westerners.”

Belgium announced the arrest of a ninth person over the Paris attacks. Police arrested the man earlier this week, but kept the details quiet so as not to alert potential accomplices. Local media reported the man was contacted by Hasna Ait Boulahcen, who sheltered the presumed ringleader of the attacks.

A deadly storm swept through the US South and Midwest. At least six people are dead and several more have been injured by a storm that forecasters had described as “particularly dangerous.” At least 20 tornadoes have been reported, and high winds have caused significant damage to homes.

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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