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QZ Daily Brief—Europe and Africa edition—Winter storms, Cuban migrants, wood fire bans

By Quartz Staff

What to watch for today

Winter storms hit the US and the UK. The winter storm Goliath, part of deadly weather that killed at least 43 people over the weekend, moves into the Northeast. Meanwhile, Scotland faces floods as winter storm Frank hits the country with heavy rain and plunging temperatures.

A trio of reports on the US economy. Analysts expect the trade deficit to widen thanks to the strong dollar. October home prices are expected to rise 5.5% from last year in the latest survey from Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller, while consumer confidence numbers from the Conference Board are expected to rise due to falling gas prices and a stronger jobs market.

Erdogan arrives in Saudi Arabia. The Turkish president meets with King Salman against the backdrop of conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. Turkey recently announced it would join a Saudi-led coalition of Sunni states to fight terrorism.

While you were sleeping

The US grappled with more police shootings. Prosecutors in Cleveland drew heavy criticism after a grand jury did not indict the cop who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was holding a toy pistol, last year. Chicago residents held protests after police shot and killed two people over the weekend, including a bystander and activist who was a mother of four. An officer in Puerto Rico held three fellow officers hostage before killing them in a workplace dispute.

Saudi Arabia released a defense-heavy 2016 budget. King Salman’s newly formed government is making major cuts to energy subsidies and raising oil, electricity, and water prices. The country is paying a heavy financial price for its war against shale oil.

Iran shipped 25,000 pounds of uranium to Russia. After an accord last July that forced Tehran to reduce its nuclear capabilities, the Iranian government is sending a portion of its uranium stockpiles out of the country. Secretary of state John Kerry praised the move, but sanctions against Iran won’t be lifted until the UN inspects.

Guinea was declared Ebola free. The UN World Health Organization has found no new instances of the disease in 42 days. Liberia is now the only country still fighting the epidemic.

Cuban migrants were granted permission to continue to the US. A group of Central American nations agreed to a “pilot program” that would allow Cubans stuck in Costa Rica to fly to El Salvador, where they’d then be bused into Mexico and further north. More than 8,000 Cubans are currently trying to immigrate to the US from Costa Rica.

Quartz obsession interlude

Alice Truong on making virtual reality sound real. “Because of the immersive nature of virtual reality, any inconsistencies—including audio—can become glaringly obvious. But done right, virtual reality can create a sense of presence, which in essence fools the viewer’s eyes and brain into believing what’s virtually around them is in fact real.” Read more here.

Markets haiku

Christmas cheer is gone
Stocks held back by energy
As the year winds down

Matters of debate

Big Oil is coming to an end. Western oil companies, unable to compete with shale and OPEC, should consider graceful exit strategies.

Ethicists aren’t especially ethical. From littering to vegetarianism, they are not very good at practicing what they preach.

Elon Musk is right about the threat of AI. But he’s woefully wrong about why it’s dangerous.

Surprising discoveries

Louis Vuitton’s next top model is from a video game. Lightning, a character from the Final Fantasy series, stars in a new ad for the fashion house.

There’s almost nothing left of New York’s Little Syria. Just three historic buildings remain in the formerly bustling 19th century enclave.

Big Food is getting real. Hershey revealed closely guarded information about GMOs to win over hyper-conscientious consumers.

An Italian town banned wood-fired ovens. The classic pizza-making appliances are blamed for San Vitaliano’s pollution problem.

A condom-dispenser heist ended in disaster. A German man died trying to blow up the machine to steal the money and merchandise inside.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, well-behaved ethicists, and wood-fired pizza to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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