Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
Negotiations in Ukraine. Separatists are meeting with Kiev’s forces in Luhansk in an attempt to reach some sort of peace agreement. But the government clearly isn’t hopeful: The 2015 budget boosts defense spending to over 5% of GDP, after this year’s conflict shrank the economy by an estimated 7.5%.
New Year’s flight strike. French unions are asking their members working for easyJet to take today and tomorrow off because they feel they’re not getting their fair share of the budget airline’s massive 21.5% increase in annual profits.
Spain’s small businesses get pinched. A Franco-era rent control law is set to expire, putting 65,000 small store owners at risk.
A last-minute spike in India car sales. Today is the last day for tax breaks on automobiles. Taxes on small cars and motorcycles will rise from 8% to 12%, and for SUVs the rate will climb from 24% to 30%, as the government moves to reduce its debt (paywall).
A bit of a Midwest slowdown. The Chicago purchasing managers’ index, which gives a reading on manufacturing levels in the Midwest, is expected to slow to 60.1 this month, from 60.8 in November. That’s still well above the 50 mark that separates expansion from contraction.
While you were sleeping
Bad weather delayed the hunt for flight #8501. Six bodies have been recovered from the crash site but ships and divers are on standby ahead of further recovery attempts, including the search for the plane’s black box. Previous reports that 40 bodies were recovered were incorrect, due to a miscommunication by Indonesia’s navy.
The US plans to station 150 armored vehicles in Eastern Europe. Most of the tanks and other vehicles could be based in the Baltic states, the commander of the US Army in Europe told Reuters, to help defend against Russian aggression.
Venezuela is officially in a recession. The country’s GDP fell by 2.3% in the third quarter, and the central bank said it also contracted in the first and second quarters. President Nicolas Maduro blamed political instability and plummeting oil prices.
China’s factory activity contracted. The final reading of the HSBC/Markit purchasing managers’ index, which monitors small- and medium-sized companies, fell to a seven-month low of 49.6 in December, from 50 in November. A number below 50 denotes a contraction in manufacturing activity.
Palestine’s draft resolution failed a UN vote. The US and Australia said no to a resolution calling for Israel to withdraw from Palestinian territory by 2017. The Palestinian Authority is now likely to step up its campaign to join other UN institutions and put pressure on Israel in the International Criminal Court.
Hong Kong banned poultry imports from mainland China. The measure comes after chicken samples from the mainland tested positive for the H7N9 bird flu virus. The city has also begun culling 15,000 poultry; a woman with the disease remains in a critical condition.
BlackBerries are the hot new devices at Sony Pictures. The company has turned to the unglamorous smartphones and other vintage equipment—including a machine to manually create paychecks—as it tries to recover from its recent hacking crisis, according to a new detailed account (paywall) in the Wall Street Journal.
Quartz obsession interlude
Jason Karaian on the profession that needs a tighter leash. “Are all bankers liars? Of course not. Then again … in an experiment recently published in the scientific journal Nature, bankers distinguished themselves by their dishonesty. Asked to report the results of unsupervised coin flips in return for financial rewards, bankers bent the truth more than any other group.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Nerds can be entitled too. They may not be alpha males but they can still be sexist.
The NYPD has gone too far. A police work slowdown has taken bitterness to a dangerous new level (paywall).
Ukraine’s revolution failed. The country’s 2015 budget keeps the old corrupt system running.
Putin is behaving like a medieval king. But taking his rivals’ family members hostage could backfire.
Cities should buy sports teams, not build stadiums. Teams are cheaper, and stadium revenues usually disappoint.
We could soon be using our ears and our smell to log in. Going beyond fingerprints to keep your data safe.
Bluetooth is named for a ancient king. The wireless logo is a combination of his initials in Scandanavian runes.
The US is under 30 active states of emergency. Including one from the 1979 Iran hostage crisis.
Americans are getting too fat for their buses. A rise in the official average weight means fewer passengers per bus.
There’s a Koran made entirely from herbs. It took an artisan 23 years to make.
Please note there will be no Daily Brief tomorrow (Jan. 1), but it will return on Jan. 2. Happy New Year!
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