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Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Key North Korean dies, Apple’s Italian tax bill, hoverboard priests

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

What to watch for today

The Central African Republic holds a historic election. CAR hopes to reinstate democracy after voting was delayed three days because of technical difficulties. That’s a short wait compared to the volatile three-year transition period the country has endured since longtime president François Bozizé was ousted by rebels.

Julius Baer will pay $547 million to end a US tax-avoidance dispute. The Swiss private bank is on the verge of settling (paywall) a case that has been rolling on since 2011, when it was caught up in a US investigation as to whether it aided tax dodgers.

The Indian public weighs in on Facebook’s plan for free Internet. It’s the last day to comment on whether India’s government should allow telecoms to charge different rates for data, which would affect Facebook’s plan to provide limited internet access to India’s poor. CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently made his case.

Filipino protesters leave the South China Sea. A group of students, led by a former naval commander, arrived on a contested island on Saturday. The students described their “patriotic” voyage as an act of defiance to protest China’s claim to the South China Sea.

While you were sleeping

A key North Korean diplomat was killed. State media reported that Kim Yan Gon, a veteran DPRK official who was a top negotiator with Seoul, perished in a car accident. Analysts believe that his passing will halt progress on North Korea’s relations with South Korea.

The US said it killed an ISIL militant involved in the Paris attacks. Charaffe al Mouadan had a “direct link” to ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud and “was actively planning additional attacks against the West,” US military officials said. He was killed during one of the air strikes in Syria and Iraq.

Apple was hit with a $348-million tax bill in Italy. The tech company has agreed to the payout after investigators revealed unpaid tax between 2008 and 2013, according to local media. It’s the latest in a long line of demands for tax payments from multinationals skilled in creative accounting.

DuPont cut 1,700 jobs before its Dow merger. The chemical company plans to eliminate nearly one-third of its workforce in its home state of Delaware. There’s more to come: executives want to shrink its overall workforce of 63,000 by 10% before the convoluted deal is done.

UK house prices surged this year—especially in London. In the British capital, prices rose by 12.2% in 2015, according to Nationwide. Across the country, they rose by 4.5% during the year, with one of the largest hikes seen in December. Britain’s south-east has too few houses amid a lot of foreign demand.

Blackberry exited Pakistan. The smartphone maker says it can no longer protect its customers’ privacy after the government demanded unrestricted access to its servers. Meanwhile, Blackberry’s share of the global smartphone market continues to decline.

Quartz obsession interlude

Alison Griswold on why Airbnb is becoming a real threat to the hotel business in big US cities. “Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has famously shied away from the term ‘disruption,’ and the hotel industry has also embraced the notion that its core base of business travelers isn’t the same as the people booking vacation jaunts in Airbnb’s housing stock. US-wide, that might still be the case. But the city-level data on Airbnb’s bookings makes that story a lot harder to believe.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

New Year’s Eve is a scientifically proven disappointment. Expecting a good time is a surefire way not to have one.

Dyslexic men should be allowed to donate sperm. But the UK’s largest clinic has been turning away donors with “neurological diseases”.

Japan’s “comfort women” apology is all about geopolitics. The long-awaited admission comes at a huge moral cost.

Surprising discoveries

The most prolific wall-punchers are 15-year-old boys. US teenagers are also punching thermostats, washing machines, and paper-towel dispensers.

The North Pole will be warmer than parts of Southern California this week. Temperatures will be up to 60℉ higher than normal.

A giant squid went swimming in a Japanese marina. Only a few hundred of the tentacled creatures have ever been spotted.

A Filipino priest rode a hoverboard at Christmas Eve mass. He has since been punished for his irreverence.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, giant squids, and dyslexic sperm donations to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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