Quartz Daily Brief—Americas edition—Modi’s US visit, Ukraine’s cold shoulder, Intel’s China deal, cows hate cowbells

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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. Turkey, which has been conspicuously absent from allied airstrikes, is also considering whether to take part (paywall).

Ukraine fights off the cold shoulder. The European Commission will try to settle Russia and Ukraine’s natural gas dispute before the winter begins. Ukraine hasn’t received any Russian gas since June, and its supply from Hungary was cut off on Thursday.

Apple and Samsung rush their phablets to market. The South Korean handset maker launches the Galaxy Note 4 in its home market, and will try to get it into China before Apple’s supersized iPhones receive Beijing’s approval. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus land 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

Narendra Modi has a summons waiting for him in New York. The Indian prime minister is set to begin a five-day swing through New York and Washington, DC, including a huge gala at Madison Square Garden. But just before his arrival a US federal court issued a summons in a lawsuit connected with 2002 riots in his home state of Gujarat, which claims he committed crimes against humanity and sanctioned extrajudicial killings and torture.

Tune into Quartz India for a livestream of Modi‘s Sept. 28 speech at Madison Square Garden in New York City, starting at 11 am EST / 8:30 pm IST. We’ll take your comments on our Facebook page.

The US is preparing a new nuclear proposal for Iran. Diplomatic sources told the Associated Press that US negotiators may allow Iran to keep nearly half of its uranium enrichment program intact, in exchange for other constraints on building a nuclear weapon. The two longtime adversaries recently found themselves facing a common enemy in the extremist group the Islamic State.

Intel aligned itself with the Chinese government. The US computer chipmaker agreed to pay $1.5 billion for a 20% stake in two mobile chip manufacturers backed by a Chinese government-affiliated private equity company. The deal could help Intel’s long-frustrated attempt to gain a foothold in the global smartphone industry, and boost China’s own semiconductor industry.

The Xinjiang riot death toll rose. Fifty people have now been reported killed and hundreds injured last weekend in clashes between ethnic Uighurs and security forces in China’s largely Muslim western province, according to state-owned media. Initial reports said there were only two deaths.

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

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

You can turn your deceased loved ones into action figures. They’re molded from cremation ash.

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 actually 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 You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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