STAR WARS

Quartz Daily Brief—Europe and Africa edition—New Year’s nervousness, new Iran sanctions, elephant seal traffic

What to watch for today

Uneasy New Year’s Eve preparations. Fearing a repeat of last year’s deadly stampede, Shanghai authorities have cancelled traditional celebrations. Festivities and fireworks were also called off in Brussels, due to an unspecified terror threat. Meanwhile, storm Frank is bringing power cuts and flooding to Scotland.

François Hollande speaks to a nation on edge. Following a fraught year for the country that included several deadly terrorist attacks, the French president will make a televised year-end address. The speech comes as Hollande is under fire for his proposal to strip French-born convicted terrorists of their citizenship.

Markets ring their final bells in 2015. Markets in Europe will be closed for at least half the day, and the US bond market will shut down at 2 pm. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index is on track to ring in 2015 right where it started (paywall), in the worst year for the US stock market since 2011. Europe’s year was also disappointing, while China’s Shanghai Composite may end flat after a turbulent year.

The last US unemployment data of the year. With the unemployment rate at a 7-year low, economists expect the latest four-week moving average to be a relatively modest 272,500.

While you were sleeping

Iran faces fresh sanctions. After Iranian rockets were fired 1,500 yards (1.4 km) from US and French Naval bases, the US is planning to cut ties with “nearly a dozen” companies and individuals associated with Tehran’s ballistic program, the Wall Street Journal reports (paywall).

Bill Cosby was charged with felony sexual assault. Prosecutors say the comedian drugged and raped a woman in 2004; he was released on $1 million bail, just days before the statute of limitations expired. Dozens of women have accused the 78-year-old of sexual assault.

The US indicted a friend of the San Bernardino shooter. Enrique Marquez, 24, faces potential charges for allegedly providing Syed Farook with two assault rifles used to kill 14 people in last month’s attack. He is also accused of conspiring to commit other attacks with Farook.

China released the relatives of a Uighur activist from jail. Authorities have freed Shawkem and Rexit Hoshur, brothers of Washington, D.C.-based journalist Shoret Hoshur, more one year after they were first detained. The unexpected news comes days after a French journalist was denied a visa renewal in China after reporting human rights abuses against Uighurs.

Quartz obsession interlude

Anne Quito on Louis Vuitton. “The iconic LV monogram with the Japanese-style flowers and quatrefoils was introduced in 1896…the custom step-and-repeat geometric motif was meant to be the brand’s most unique and distinguishing pattern. Ironically enough, the monogram pattern has become one of the most replicated branding insignias today—from cheap iPhone cases to waffle makers to body tattoos—as a graphic shortcut for luxury and wealth.” Read more here.

Markets haiku

Not too much trading

Just trying to tread water

Can’t light gas, boil oil

Matters of debate

It’s still better to be fat and fit than thin and unfit. Just being fat won’t kill you.

Don’t blame tech companies for San Francisco’s housing crisis. Progressive “housing advocates” are the ones making matters worse.

Airline luggage fees are actually pretty good deals. Travelers should be paying even more per bag.

Surprising discoveries

Microsoft didn’t tell over 1,000 Hotmail users they were hacked by China. Instead, after determining the government had accessed their accounts, it told users to change their passwords, Reuters reports.

Crows may be smarter than chimpanzees. At least when it comes to using tools.

Why did the 900-pound elephant seal cross the road? Authorities aren’t sure, but it snarled California highway traffic for two whole days.

Belgian police reportedly had an orgy during the manhunt for the Paris attackers. They were in close quarters during the city’s terror lockdown.

Neurosurgeons are experimenting with hypnosis as an alternative to anesthesia. Modern patients may benefit from old-fashioned trances.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, animal tools, and elephant seals to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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