Quartz Daily Brief—Schengen suspended, Egyptian corruption, and whale culture

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What to watch for today

The EU inches forward on refugees. After a tumultuous weekend (see below), EU ministers will debate a plan for allocating 120,000 of the asylum-seekers who have arrived from Africa and the Middle East to various European countries. Some 40,000 people were expected to show up in Germany over the weekend alone (paywall).

Greece’s would-be leaders square off. Anti-austerity prime minister Alexis Tsipras faces his conservative rival Vangelis Meimarakis in the crucial last TV debate before next Sunday’s general election. Meimarakis’s chances are looking unexpectedly strong; Greeks might just punish Tsipras for months of uncertainty and angst over the country’s bailout negotiations.

OPEC publishes its monthly outlook. Scrutiny of the petroleum cartel’s report could be slightly closer than usual this month, after Goldman Sachs last week prophesied that oil prices might have to fall to $20 a barrel before oversupply evens out. This was just after OPEC itself had slashed its forecast for the year, though, so there may be few surprises in this report.

The United Auto Workers flex their muscle. The 142,000-strong American union’s annual contracts with the Big Three Detroit carmakers are due to expire. Expect tough talks; it’s the first year the union regains the right to strike that it gave up during bankruptcy restructuring in 2009, and workers want raises from the now more profitable carmakers.

The UN’s atomic watchdog convenes. ”You want your nice little Iran deal monitored? Give us more money.” That’s what the US energy secretary can expect to hear at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s annual general conference, the first since the hard-won agreement on Iran’s nuclear program this summer. Iran’s nuclear tsar will attend too.

Over the weekend

Germany suspended the Schengen agreement. The country imposed emergency controls at its border with Austria, temporarily halting train services, after refugees flooded Munich’s railway station. Member countries can suspend the agreement on free movement within Europe for short periods, but have done so rarely in its 30-year history. Meanwhile, a refugee boat sank in Greek waters, drowning 34 people, nearly half of them babies and children.

China unveiled partial privatization plans. The government introduced guidelines for a clean-up of state-owned companies, which employ some 7.5 million people, including a form of “mixed ownership” to bring in private investment. The move came amid weak economic data (paywall) that made the government’s 7% GDP growth target for this year look dicier than ever.

Labour veered hard to the left. Britain’s chief opposition party elected the socialist Jeremy Corbyn as its leader. Prime minister David Cameron called him a “threat to national security.” Corbyn, on his first day on the job, began the delicate task of choosing a shadow cabinet and pointedly snubbed a prestigious talk show in favor of a local constituency event. Here are 24 things he believes.

Gas explosions killed 88 people in central India. The first blast, according to an official, was caused by cooking gas in a restaurant. That sparked a second explosion from detonators stored nearby. The restaurant, in a town about 300 miles (480 km) from Mumbai, was full of customers having breakfast, with a busy bus stop nearby.

Egypt’s prime minister and cabinet quit. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi accepted the resignation of prime minister Ibrahim Mehleb and his ministers, days after the agriculture minister was detained on corruption charges. Al-Sisi asked the oil minister to form a new cabinet within a week. Mehleb had walked out of a press conference a few days earlier when a Tunisian journalist asked him about corruption.

Quartz obsession interlude

Dan Frommer on Apple’s sneaky strategy to undercut US cellular carriers. “By selling unlocked phones directly, Apple stands to potentially increase its customer loyalty—and marginalize the value of carriers, pushing them further into ‘dumb pipe’ classification.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Drone strikes won’t work against ISIL in Syria. Data show they’ve done nothing to reduce terrorist attacks in Yemen and Pakistan.

Brazil should ask for an IMF bailout. It doesn’t need the money, but the conditions attached to it would give Brazil a lever for politically difficult reforms.

Fight for the right to repair your gadgets. Manufacturers deliberately make it hard to carry out cheap, easy fixes (paywall) so you’ll buy new devices instead.

There’s no evidence yet that e-cigarettes lead kids to start smoking. The data suggesting they do are overhyped.

Only Scotland’s diaspora can save its dying language. Scots abroad need to invest in programs to keep Gàidhlig alive.

Surprising discoveries

Arts and science do go together. The most accomplished scientists are nearly twice as likely as the average to have an arts or crafts hobby.

Making your bed is bad for you. Covering it up after a night’s sleep makes it easier for dust mites to survive and breed.

Ancient Americans were caffeine addicts too. There was a roaring trade in caffeine-laced holly and cacao beverages 1,000 years ago in what’s now northern Mexico and the southern US.

Getting a chip implanted in your hand hardly hurts at all. Other parts of the body are another matter.

Whales have their own culture. Like many other social animals, whales learn habits and even “dialects” of a sort from other members of their group.

Our best wishes for a productive day—and if you’re celebrating the Jewish new year, Shana Tova. Please send any news, comments, millennium-old caffeine samples, and whale symphonies to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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