🌍 Europe’s breaking covid records (again)

Not everyone is safe

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Here’s what you need to know

Covid-19 cases broke records in Europe. Hungary, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia all reported new highs in daily infections. The surge has prompted the EU’s public health agency to push for a faster booster rollout.

The US economic recovery showed signs of acceleration. Consumers spent at a rate faster than inflation in October. But if high inflation continues, US Federal Reserve officials said they’re ready to raise interest rates.

Olaf Scholz was confirmed as the next German chancellor. The center-left Social Democrat has built a coalition with two other parties, and succeeded Angela Merkel. In a separate leadership change, Sweden’s first female prime minister resigned hours after her appointment.

Jamie Dimon backtracked an offhand comment on China. The JPMorgan CEO had compared the centennial of the country’s Communist Party to the same milestone at JPMorgan, but said the latter would last longer.

A water vessel carrying migrants in the English Channel sank, killing more than 30. It’s the deadliest event in the Channel since 2014.

What to watch for

While consumers were told to start their holiday shopping early this year—and many stores are staying closed today for Thanksgiving—US retailers are expecting big sales on Black Friday and throughout the weekend.

Shoppers may be disappointed to find their gifts cost more than they did last year. Retailers are blaming it on the rising cost of shipping, but freight costs can only explain a fraction of the holiday price hikes. Instead, much of the blame can be pinned on shortages: Retailers’ inventories are running low, and shoppers are spending more on all sorts of goods. When more buyers are chasing scarce goods, sellers have more power to raise prices.

A bar chart showing the total price increase vs. freight cost increase from 2019-2021 for cast irons, air fryers, weighted blankets, and 49-inch LED flat-screen TVs. For all four items, the freight cost increase could only explain a small portion of the total price increase. For example, the price of a cast iron went up $41 in that time period but associated freight costs only increased $4.18.

Spreading the word (of the year)

NFT: a unique digital certificate, registered in a blockchain, that is used to record ownership of an asset such as an artwork or a collectible

The abbreviation for non-fungible token is Collins Dictionary’s word of the year. The use of the term increased 11,000% in 2021.

The buzz around NFTs, which remain difficult to really define, has been unrelenting over the last 12 months. In March, surrealist digital artist Beeple made history by selling an NFT at Christie’s for a cool $69 million. Everyone from filmmaker Quentin Tarantino to Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan, and film studio Warner Bros to the Oscars, has embraced the fad.

NFT is one of three tech-based words to make Collins’s longer list of 10 words of the year. The others are metaverse—the concept Facebook steadfastly committed to, and even changed its name for—and crypto, the slang for cryptocurrency.

The complete guide to NFTs

Quartz has been covering the explosion of NFTs for a while now. We created a guide collecting all our coverage as well as the best outside resources to help you understand what’s real and what’s hype.

Here are a few of the questions we tried to answer:

  • Why do people buy NFTs?
  • Where are NFTs sold?
  • How do you make an NFT?
  • What’s the carbon footprint of an NFT?

Our ABCs of NFTs is part of the field guide to how crypto went mainstream. ✦ You’ll need a Quartz membership to access these guides—try it free for a week.

Handpicked Quartz

🚢 How the world’s big shipping lines are spending their pandemic profits

💉 A new study of India’s Covaxin could be a precursor to its booster dose policy

🤑 Scammers are going after an Afrobeats star’s unusual $400,000 fundraising appeal

🐭 As streamers pare down their subscriptions, Disney+ may be the most at risk 

🌍 A majority of young Africans have not traveled within the continent, a survey shows

📉 The fall in cryptocurrency prices sparked by India’s proposed ban may be premature

Surprising discoveries

Scientists made bacterial ink that’s alive. The toothpaste-like material reproduces itself and can be used in 3D printing.

Mystery Santa hats adorned statues that were really high up on a college chapel. The theory is someone scaled the building to deck the idols.

Japan is recruiting astronauts with no science background. All that’s required is three years of experience working in society—and, well, a certain height.

The US Pentagon formed a new department to study UFOs. The group will try to identify objects and “assess and mitigate any associated threat.”

iPhone screens get their signature polish from rare earth elements. It’s one of the many slick tricks of rare earths, discussed on the latest episode of the Quartz Obsession podcast.

🎧 Listen to all this season’s episodes on Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google | Stitcher

Our best wishes for a productive day. Send any news, comments, moving ink, and mysterious holiday decor to hi@qz.com. Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our iOS app and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was brought to you by Nicolás Rivero, Ananya Bhattacharya, Liz Webber, and Morgan Haefner.