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Quartz Daily Brief—Europe edition—Eric Holder’s farewell, Ukraine’s cold shoulder, “Jihadi John” identified, flying fish bones

By Richard Macauley

What to watch for today

Britain joins the fight against the Islamic State. Prime minister David Cameron recalled parliament and has all but confirmed that the UK will join the US in bombing Iraq—but will likely stay out of Syria.

Ukraine fights off the cold shoulder. The European Commission will meet in Berlin in an attempt to settle Russia and Ukraine’s natural gas dispute before the winter begins. Ukraine hasn’t received any Russian gas since June.

Apple and Samsung rush their phablets to market. The South Korean handset maker launches the Galaxy Note 4 in its home market, and tries to get it into China before Apple’s supersized iPhones receive Beijing’s approval. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus lands in Taiwan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and 19 other countries today.

An upward revision for US GDP. The Department of Commerce is expected to raise its second-quarter annualized GDP growth figure to 4.6%, compared with an earlier estimate of 4.2%.

Where in the world is Kim Jong-un? The totalitarian leader of North Korea failed to appear at a parliamentary meeting on Thursday, extending his unusual three-week absence from state media. There is speculation that Kim is suffering from health problems, but it’s almost impossible to know for sure.

While you were sleeping

Islamic State executioner “Jihadi John” was identified. The FBI has not released the name of the man who beheaded three hostages in Syria, but said it discovered his identity after working with other intelligence agencies. “John” is likely UK-born, and has threatened to kill a fourth hostage.

Japanese inflation fell more than expected. One of the central goals of Abenomics suffered another setback as core consumer prices rose by only 3.1% in August, down from 3.3% in July.

Commercial drones got a lift. US regulators cleared several Hollywood movie studios to use the flying robots, the first time that corporations can legally use them in the lower 48 states (they were previously authorized for monitoring oil pipelines in Alaska). The ruling is an encouraging sign for companies like Amazon and Google, which are pursuing their own drone programs.

The US attorney general resigned. Eric Holder won’t leave his post until his successor is confirmed by the US Senate—which won’t be an easy task.

Fatah and Hamas shook hands. The rival Palestinian factions decided to set aside their differences and form a unity government to rebuild what’s left of Gaza after a 50-day Israeli offensive. The estimated repair bill: $7.8 billion.

Paris and New York’s subways went on high alert. Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi said security forces in Baghdad have captured Islamic State fighters who claim the militant group is planning attacks on public transport systems in New York and Paris.

Quartz obsession interlude

Zainab Mudallal on the health hazards of trekking to Mecca. “The density of bodies at Hajj creates a breeding ground for illness. A meningitis outbreak followed the Hajj in 1987, and as a result, is now a required vaccination for the visa (along with vaccines for tuberculosis, polio, influenza and yellow fever). One study calculated the meningitis carriage rate at Hajj to be as high as 80%. A cholera strain was discovered in pilgrims upon their return Egypt from Hajj in 1905, leading to the deaths of thousands of pilgrims and residents.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Obama showed us how a Nobel Peace Prize-winner starts a war: With plenty of charm.

Employees should take off all the time they want. It works for Richard Branson and his staff at Virgin (and, incidentally, for Quartz).

New Zealand has designed the world’s best government. It’s a real democracy, yet it still has a monarchy.

Japan should default on its debt. It would help redistribute wealth from the old to the young.

Surprising discoveries

The Earth’s water is older than the sun. The discovery bolsters the chances of life elsewhere in the universe.

KFC Japan makes fried chicken iPhone cases.  A deep-fried keyboard and computer mouse are also available. 

Northern Ireland is issuing “scratch and sniff” cards that smell like weed. It’s an attempt to sniff out cannabis factories.

Too much exercise may give you bad teeth. Parched athletes’ lower levels of saliva may be to blame.

Cows hate cowbells. They are heavy and as loud as a jackhammer, and the animals eat less grass when they’re wearing them.

Click here for more surprising discoveries on Quartz.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, vacation requests, and deep-fried smartphone accessories to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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