Fed meeting begins, Uber driver union, cheetahs stand guard

Good morning, Quartz readers!

As the year comes to an end, we’re taking stock of everything we learned in 2015, from the prosaic to the profound. We’re inviting Quartz readers to answer this question: What do you know now that you didn’t know a year ago?

Let us know at hi@qz.com, and some replies will be edited and published. Thanks!

What to watch for today

A nice day for a hike. The US Federal Reserve kicks off its final two-day policy meeting of the year, and virtually all experts think it will raise the cost of borrowing. Fed chair Janet Yellen has said that would be a “testament” to the recovery since the 2008 recession.

The World Trade Organization tries to remain relevant. Attendees in Nairobi were expected to conclude the largely stalled Doha talks, aimed at making globalization work better for developing nations. If the talks fail, the WTO’s relevance may be eroded.

John Kerry talks Syria with Vladimir Putin. In Moscow the US secretary of state and Russian president will discuss how to bridge gaps in the two countries’ approaches to Syria. The US wants Syrian president Bashar al-Assad gone; Russia, not so much.

A ceasefire in Yemen. Hostilities are set to end for seven days from midday local time (9am GMT), 12 hours later than originally scheduled. Meanwhile, Shia Houthi rebels will meet Yemeni government representatives for peace talks in Switzerland.

Marine Le Pen faces a hate speech verdict. The National Front leader, reeling from a painful sweep in regional elections yesterday, has been charged with inciting hatred against Muslims. She compared Muslim street prayers to the Nazi occupation—ironic since many of her party’s founders were enthusiastic Nazi collaborators.

While you were sleeping

Seattle gave Uber drivers collective bargaining rights. The city councilvoted unanimously in favor of forcing ride-hailing services to negotiate with a driver representative, should enough drivers opt in. That covers casual drivers for apps such as Lyft and Uber, as well as taxicab drivers.

Thailand’s king made a rare public appearance. King Bhumibol Adulyadej was filmed swearing in judges from the hospital where he currently resides. Concerns have risen lately about the 88-year-old monarch’s health.

Qantas hiked its profit forecast. The Australian airline said underlying income could reach A$925 million ($672.1 million) for the six months to Dec. 31, well above expectations and almost triple last year’s A$367 million.

Details surfaced on Toshiba’s planned job cuts. The struggling Japanese electronics giant is in the “final stages” of a move to cut 7,000 jobs, according to Nikkei. Toshiba may consider ending production of TV sets, to plug losses in its consumer products unit.

Apple is running a “secret” Taiwan research lab. The iPhone maker has hired 50 engineers at a venue one hour’s drive from Taipei, to research how to make screens both better and more energy efficient, according to Bloomberg. Moving such research in-house could reduce Apple’s reliance on Samsung and LG.

Quartz markets haiku

Steady as we go

Spilled oil shockingly buoyant

Gas is all hot air.

Quartz obsession interlude

Josh Mitnick on Israel’s potentially wasted offshore gas bonanza. “If the gas from Leviathan stays in the ground, the government could lose up to $2.4 billion in tax revenue by 2022, according to an estimate by the finance ministry. There’s also the problem of energy security: Israel would have to find a source for imports instead of relying solely on the Tamar field, which currently supplies half of Israel’s energy.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

“Hate search” has deadly consequences. Googling for “kill Muslims” iscorrelated with more hate crimes.

The world has reached peak iPhone. Markets are saturated and sales will begin falling next year.

Burundi isn’t on the brink of another genocide. But that doesn’t mean it won’t need urgent solutions to the current chaos.

Surprising discoveries

An Indian woman named her baby “Uber.” He was born in an Uber vehicle en route to the hospital, after his mom couldn’t hail a cab.

A Texas plumber sued after his truck was used by ISIL. He says a local dealership broke its promise to remove his company’s logo from the vehicle.

South Africa uses cheetahs to guard airbases. They chase off smaller creatures that could endanger airplanes.

Your TV may be giving you “empathetic stress.” Characters in distress can be hazardous to your health.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, guard cheetahs, and baby names to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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