New trade partnership, shutdown drags on, Mussolini calendars

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today and over the weekend

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership goes into effect. The successor to the Trans-Pacific Partnership—the trade deal Donald Trump pulled the US out of last year—goes into effect on Sunday. The deal cuts tariffs and other trade barriers for its members, among them Japan, Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, and Singapore.

A big deadline for Sears. Liquidators will likely break the US retail icon into pieces, barring a bid for the whole company. Chairman Eddie Lampert put forward a $4.6 billion proposal to buy the company out of bankruptcy through his hedge fund, but faces a deadline today to submit his offer.

Bangladesh votes. On Sunday, 100 million voters in the South Asian nation will decide whether to give prime minister Sheikh Hasina a third term. Hasina is hoping that Bangladesh’s impressive economic growth will deliver her another victory, but scores of opposition members have been jailed or attacked ahead of the polls.

A tense Democratic Republic of Congo holds elections. After two years of delays, Africa’s second-biggest country holds its presidential election on Sunday. Protests erupted this week when the government said voting would be delayed in key opposition areas for three months—after the new president is sworn in. Incumbent Joseph Kabila blamed the Ebola outbreak for the decision, which impacts more than 1 million voters.

A new Black Mirror installment. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, which debuts on Netflix today, could be the franchise’s long-awaited choose-your-own-adventure film. It appears to be set in 1984, at a UK video game company.

While you were sleeping

Lawmakers accepted the government shutdown would drag on. The shutdown is now expected to extend into the new year, when a Democrat-controlled House will have a stronger hand in dealing with Trump’s demands for border wall funding. Key economic data releases have been delayed, including trade figures expected today, offering little support to unsettled markets.

New York City’s night-sky was flooded with bright blue light. A transformer explosion at a power plant’s substation in Queens sparked a fire that lit the sky blue, and prompted LaGuardia Airport, which experienced a temporary blackout, to cancel some flights.

Data on nearly 1,000 North Korean defectors was stolen. Unknown hackers leaked the names, birthdates, and addresses from South Korea’s resettlement agency’s database, the Unification Ministry said today. It discovered the hack last week after malware was planted using an internal email address. Some 30,000 defectors live in South Korea.

China’s new passenger plane successfully completed another test flight. The third prototype for the C919 jet landed in Shanghai after a 1 hour 38 minute flight. The plane, which will have three more prototypes, will compete with Boeing and Airbus. There are already more than 800 commitments to buy the jet, which is expected to be ready by the end of 2020.

A former Irish president got mixed up in the mystery of Dubai’s missing princess. Mary Robinson, who was also the former UN high commissioner for human rights, appeared in photos released by the emirate’s royal family showing her with Sheikha Latifa, who hasn’t been heard from since March after she tried to flee Dubai. Robinson was criticized by rights groups who allege that the young woman is being held against her will.

Quartz obsession interlude

Why do soda and suds come in sixes? Thank Coca-Cola, which wanted a portable number for people to put in their newfangled refrigerators. Apart from craft brewers trying the four-pack out, the six-pack’s dominance is pretty well fixed—except for the plastic film that binds it. Read more here.

Matters of debate

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The West won’t catch up to China in payment apps. Government oversight, low competition, and China’s healthy headstart on fintech has left America firmly in the dust.

Businesses need to rethink affirmative action. The policy should be less about diversity and more about leveling a playing field tilted by generations of systemic racism.

Smartphones are fueling sexual violence in India. Increasingly easy access to porn isn’t being accompanied by a more meaningful understanding of sex and relationships.

Surprising discoveries

Michelle Obama is now America’s most admired woman. Hillary Clinton had dominated the top spot on Gallup’s poll for 17 years.

The EU is seeking forgotten women writers. A $1.7 million research grant will fund efforts to rediscover oppressed works by authors and diarists from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries.

Demand for Mussolini calendars is up. Right-wing populism in Italy is fueling fresh interest in calendars featuring the ruthless dictator.

A transatlantic journey in a high-tech barrel. French adventurer Jean-Jacques Savin, 71, has embarked on a uniquely ambitious mission, to try help oceanographers study currents.

A father went to great extremes to spend Christmas with his daughter. He traveled with his daughter, a Delta Airlines flight attendant, on six flights over three days in the US.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, seaworthy barrels, and cool payment apps to Join the next chapter of Quartz by downloading our app and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was written by Eshe Nelson and edited by Jackie Bischof.