Saudi threats, Hawking’s final warning, Indian-Chinese food

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Italy submits its budget to the European Commission. Brussels likely won’t appreciate Rome’s plan to run budget deficits well above what was agreed to with the EU. Officials are worried Italy could spark a sovereign debt crisis like Greece did in 2010.

Harvard’s affirmative-action trial begins. A Boston federal court will hear a lawsuit brought on behalf of rejected Asian-American students who have accused the university of setting quotas based on race (paywall).

China’s largest trade fair opens. Many of the exporters gathered at the Canton Fair in Guangzhou are in a somber mood due to the intensifying trade war between China and the United States.

Sears comes up against a debt deadline… The American retailer, which is preparing to file for bankruptcy, is due to pay back $134 million today (paywall), with about $5.6 billion outstanding in total.

…While the US gets a checkup on retail sales. Economists expect a 0.6% jump in September led by automobile sales after a meager 0.1% increase in August.

Over the weekend

Saudi Arabia threatened to retaliate against punitive measures. The world’s largest oil exporter noted its “vital role in the global economy” after Donald Trump said he could take action against the kingdom over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Turkey says it has recordings of Khashoggi’s alleged murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. In a New York Times op-ed (paywall) on what would’ve been Khashoggi’s 60th birthday, his fiancé, Hatice Cengiz, wrote that “tyrants eventually pay for their sins.”

Brexit talks failed, again. A deal on Britain’s exit from the European Union fell apart late Sunday, after the two sides could not agree on the Irish border. Members of UK prime minister Theresa May’s cabinet are mulling resignations, rather than being forced to publicly back certain positions.

Former political prisoner Anwar Ibrahim won a by-election in Malaysia… Anwar was sworn into parliament this morning after Saturday’s landslide victory. Mahathir Mohamad, who was elected prime minister in May, had said he would hand over the reins to Anwar, a former political foe, within two years.

…While Conservatives lost ground in southern Germany. The Christian Social Union lost its absolute majority in Bavaria on Sunday for only the third time in post-war history, a blow to chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. The left-leaning Greens made the biggest gains.

Stephen Hawking’s final warnings to humanity emerged. In his last writings, the late physicist predicted that a breed of genetically engineered “superhumans” would take over. Artificial intelligence, meanwhile, could develop “a will that is in conflict with ours.”

Quartz Obsession interlude

Maria Thomas on the rise of Indian-Chinese cuisine: “A man named Nelson Wang, the son of Chinese immigrants in Kolkata, is most often credited with its creation. The story goes that Wang ended up in Bombay in the 1970s, working as an assistant cook at another Taj restaurant, Frederick’s. One day, he happened to experiment with mixing garlic, ginger, and green chillies—quintessentially Indian ingredients—with soy sauce and cornstarch to thicken the gravy. The result was the now ubiquitous chicken manchurian.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Avocados aren’t vegan. Indulging on almonds or avocados ignores the suffering of bees.

The admissions process is broken at elite colleges. Harvard’s racial-discrimination lawsuit looks set to reveal many of the flaws.

You should have dinner at 2pm. Eating all your meals by early afternoon is good for the waistline, and will help you feel full in the evening.

Surprising discoveries

A US embassy apologized for an invitation with a pajama-wearing cat. The email titled “meeting” sent in Canberra was the result of a training error.

There’s a “hamster commissioner” in Austria. Friedrich Vondruska’s job is to protect wild common hamsters at a Vienna university.

Papua New Guinea bought 40 Maseratis to chauffeur world leaders. The purchase of the $150,000 cars for an APEC summit sparked outrage as a third of the population lives in poverty.

Princess Eugenie’s wedding dress showed off her scoliosis scar. She wanted to challenge unrealistic beauty ideals.

There’s a thriving black market for selfies with passports. They go for about $15 a piece, but can fetch more if accompanied with other forms of identification.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, ethical avocados, and early dinners 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 by Alice Truong and edited by Isabella Steger.