Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today and over the weekend
The UN Security Council votes on new North Korea sanctions. The US-led resolution would tighten the cap on petroleum exports to the nation and ban exports like wood, industrial metals, and food products. It also calls for the repatriation of North Koreans working abroad—an important source of income for the regime.
The US releases its durable-goods report for November… The commerce department will offer the latest snapshot of business investment, which has trended upward this year, with another increase expected (paywall).
…And tells Americans what they spent last month. Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity in the US, is expected to have grown by 0.5% (pdf) in November, after a 0.3% increase in October.
While you were sleeping
Separatist parties won a majority in Catalonia’s snap election. The parties combined won 70% of the vote—same as they had in the previous parliament. It’s a blow to Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, who hoped dissolving the regional parliament and calling a snap election would restore stability. Coalition negotiations will be long and confusing: the centrist Citizens party, which wants Catalonia to remain part of Spain, came first but doesn’t have enough votes to form a government.
Japan armed itself to the max. With the North Korea threat looming, the Japanese cabinet today approved a record defense budget of $46 billion, a 1.3% increase over this year’s spend. After a decade of cuts, prime minister Shinzo Abe has upped the budget every year since taking office in 2012. He has pledged to beef up Japan’s missile defense with American weapons.
The founder of South Korea’s Lotte Group was found guilty of corruption. Shin Kyuk-ho, who started the country’s fifth-largest conglomerate in 1948, won’t serve his four-year prison sentence due to his age (95) and failing health. It’s been a rough year for South Korea’s huge family-controlled firms, with the scandal surrounding impeached president Park Geun-hye bringing down top-level executives, including the head of Samsung.
Peru’s president survived an impeachment vote. In a session that lasted more than 13 hours, opposition lawmakers in congress fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to oust Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. He was accused of corruption tied to Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.
Alphabet said Eric Schmidt will step down as executive chairman. His role as Alphabet’s “ambassador” included political outreach, but since Trump came to power, the influence of Schmidt, a prominent Hillary Clinton backer, has waned in Washington (paywall). Meanwhile, regulatory scrutiny into the tech giant has increased this year.
Quartz obsession interlude
Tim Fernholz on US nuclear tests killing more civilians than previously estimated. “When the US entered the nuclear age, it did so recklessly. New research suggests that the hidden costs of developing nuclear weapons were far larger than previous estimates, with radioactive fallout responsible for 340,000 to 690,000 American deaths from 1951 to 1973.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
2018 is the year something will finally give on North Korea. Pyongyang’s advancing weapons, the UN’s increased sanctions, and Donald Trump’s flippant rhetoric could be a recipe for disaster.
Signing a noncompete agreement is bad for you. Employees bound by one have lower starting pay and career earnings than their unbounded peers.
The internet sport of finding sexual anatomy in logos is ruining graphic design. Snarky comments make clients nervous and limit designers to safe options that no one will notice.
A beverage company’s shares jumped 500% after it added “blockchain” to its name. Changing its name to Long Blockchain—from Long Island Iced Tea Corp.—was all it took.
Kim Jong-un’s birthday isn’t marked on 2018 North Korean calendars. His father’s and grandfather’s birthdays are national events, but it’s unclear why there’s no mention of Kim’s, believed to be Jan. 8.
Jakarta is sinking faster than any other big city on the planet. Illegal wells are draining the underground aquifers (paywall) on which the Indonesian capital rests.
One of America’s greatest ventriloquists pioneered female-friendly sex toys. Ted Marche realized that the dildos of the 1960s needed a makeover.
Global disasters in 2017 cost $306 billion—nearly double the cost of 2016. The world should prepare for even greater losses in the future.
The Daily Brief will be taking a holiday break on Monday, Dec. 25.
Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, salacious logos, and ventriloquists to email@example.com. You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day or download our apps for iPhone and Android.