Hurricane Michael, Taiwan’s anti-China speech, BBC burns Bowie

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

The EU and UK divorce talks approach the finish line. The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, will brief the European Commission as part of a crowded schedule of talks ahead of a pivotal summit next week.

Hurricane Michael lands in Florida. The Category 3 storm is packing winds of 120 mph, and could bring a storm surge of 13 feet when it makes landfall in the early afternoon local time. More than 370,000 people have been ordered to evacuate.

India’s Supreme Court holds hearings over a French arms deal. A public-interest petition is seeking more transparency around India’s 2016 agreement to buy 36 of Dassault’s Rafale fighter jets from France to update its air force.

While you were sleeping

Taiwan’s president vowed not to submit to China’s oppression. Tsai Ing-wen’s National Day speech, which called the self-governing island a “beacon in the night for those who long for democracy,” is bound to inflame Beijing.

Sears prepared for bankruptcy. The former giant of US retail, which has struggled as shoppers moved online, has hired a boutique advisory firm (paywall) ahead of a looming $134 million debt-payment deadline, and could file as soon as this week.

Japan and Australia met to bolster their military alliance. In Sydney, the countries’ foreign and defense ministers discussed North Korea and rising tensions with China (paywall).

Activist investor Bill Ackman bet on Starbucks. His Pershing Square Capital fund revealed that it owns about 1% of the coffee giant (paywall), worth about $900 million, and predicted the shares could double in three years. Ackman, whose reputation has taken a beating over recent bad bets, also owns a major stake in Chipotle.

Quartz Obsession interlude

Dan Kopf on why giving Nigerian entrepreneurs cash was a great idea: “The contest was unlike any government program that had been rolled out before. But it was incredibly successful—so successful, in fact, that the idea is spreading across Africa, and helping to change the way that economists think about alleviating poverty.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Future cities should be made of wood. It’s a sustainable choice, especially if modern techniques can make timber-frame buildings more fire-resistant.

RIP, Black Friday. With deep discounts readily available all year long, there’s no point making US retail employees work on a holiday.

“America First” is starting to hinder the global economy. Trade wars and tax cut-related debt will cast a long shadow (paywall), the IMF says.

Surprising discoveries

SpaceX’s rocket launch looked like an alien nebula. The effect was caused by the sun’s rays shining through frozen chemicals over the Los Angeles night sky.

Indian airport police have to downgrade their smiles. Officers have been ordered to grin less broadly in order to appear “more vigilant than friendly.”

“Boof” doesn’t mean quite what you think. You can now look up the term, which surfaced at the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, in the Oxford English Dictionary.

A Hawaii veterinary hospital found an unlikely “butt-dial” culprit. A rogue gecko was found making calls with its feet on the director’s mobile phone.

A BBC talent judge called a young David Bowie “devoid of personality.” A new documentary reveals scathing reviews from the star’s early days.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, tepid smiles, and missed gecko calls to You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day or download our apps for iPhone and Android. Today’s Daily Brief was written and edited by Tripti Lahiri and Alice Truong.