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PODCAST: Consumers spending, an international Internet agreement

Savannah Finnerty takes items off the shelf at the Black Thursday sale at the Toys 'R' Us store in Times Square November 22, 2012 in New York City.

Turns out holiday shoppers have been getting a little gift of their own this season, even if they don't know it. Consumer prices dropped three tenths of a percent in November. So, inflation appears well under control. That's also a nice holiday present for the Federal Reserve.

Apple shares are down around 4 percent this morning. The company launched the iPhone 5 today in China -- and the early word on demand is not good. Shares are down for Apple and other tech companies that supply it.

The Swiss Bank UBS is reportedly headed for a one billion dollar settlement over accusations that it rigged the key global interest rate LIBOR. That fine is double what Barclay's Bank paid over the summer to settle similar allegations.

In terms of data: U.S. manufacturing output expanded in November by more than a percent. That's a sturdy recovery from the previous month, and from Superstorm Sandy. It was the first month since July that auto production increased.

Today's a big deadline for the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has been ordered to finalize controversial new air quality standards that have been fought over for more than a decade.

It's an international internet showdown: The U.S. and other western countries have rejected a new UN treaty on oversight of the internet. The U.S. has long taken the perspective of major tech players like Google that internet regulation needs a light touch, if any. Evidently much of the world does not agree.

You know, perhaps our world leaders should stop bickering over regulating the Internet and start worrying about the big problems. Fortunately, some one is on the case: It's been almost 14 years since the blockbuster film The Matrix came out, but researchers are finally getting serious about seeing if it is real. Separate research projects are underway at Cornell and the University of Washington to test if, in fact, we are all simply living in an elaborate computer simulation. So when they tell you the awful truth, will you take the red pill or the blue pill? Anyway, their conclusions are still some ways off, so just try to enjoy the holidays in the meantime.

At sundown tonight, Jews will light candles for the seventh night of Hanukkah. They may also have received a holiday-themed 'daily-deal' offer by email...from a site like jdeal or -- get ready for it -- Jewpon. A growing number of sites like this target a specific ethnic market.

Next week, Congress takes up a $60 billion recovery package for areas affected by Superstorm Sandy. When the lights went out and the floodwaters moved in, people needed food and sandbags, sure -- but they also needed information and connectivity. Volunteers with laptops and technical skills were also fixtures of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the Haiti earthquake.

And the government is mobilizing its best technical minds to take on one challenge in the days ahead. The North American Aerospace Defense Command, will resume its annual duties tracking the progress of Santa's sleigh. This year, NORAD had a special gift for Microsoft. After five years of using Google Maps, in 2012 the highly sophisticated military surveillance operation will be conducted using Bing.

About the author

Jeff Horwich is the interim host of Marketplace Morning Report and a sometime-Marketplace reporter.

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