Good morning, Quartz readers!
What to watch for today
Harvard’s affirmative-action trial begins. A Boston federal court will hear a lawsuit brought on behalf of rejected Asian-American applicants, who have accused the Ivy League university of setting quotas based on race.
The Macedonian parliament votes on a name change. Lawmakers will decide if the country should be rechristened as North Macedonia, a change that would help pave the country’s path to EU and NATO membership.
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.
Donald and Melania Trump visit storm-ravaged Florida. The pair will travel to the Panhandle on Monday to see the damage wrought by Hurricane Michael.
Over the weekend
Saudi Arabia threatened to retaliate against any punitive measures. The world’s largest oil exporter said it would hit back if Trump follows through on punishing the kingdom over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, noting its “vital role in the global economy.” The CEOs of JPMorgan, Uber, and Ford are among the business leaders who have cancelled plans to attend an investment conference in Riyadh in light of the tensions.
Sears filed for bankruptcy. The 125-year-old company filed for bankruptcy protection early Monday, just before its $134 million debt repayment (paywall) came due. Under an agreement with its creditors, hundreds of stores will remain open for now. Edward Lampert will stay on as chairman but has stepped down as CEO.
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are having a baby. Kensington Palace announced that the Duchess of Sussex is due to give birth next spring. The baby will be seventh in line to the throne. The news may cheer up Brits after Brexit talks between the EU and UK stalled late Sunday, mainly because the two parties can’t agree on a solution for the Irish border.
Germany’s biggest state turned away from mainstream parties. Angela Merkel’s Christian Social Union sister party lost its absolute majority in Bavaria after a 60-year winning streak. Voters made the left-leaning Greens the state’s second-biggest party and put the right-wing Alternative for Germany into the state parliament for the first time.
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
Alison Griswold on Uber’s secret weapon. “Uber is so fond of economists that it employs more than a dozen PhDs from top programs at its San Francisco headquarters. The group acts as an in-house think tank for Uber, gathering facts from quants and data scientists and synthesizing them to arm the lobbyists and policy folks who fight some of Uber’s biggest battles.” Read more here.
Matters of debate
Saudi Arabia’s threat to punish the US would have been much scarier 15 years ago. The US imports way less Saudi oil these days, thanks to domestic fracking and renewable energy.
The admissions process at elite colleges is broken. Harvard’s racial-discrimination lawsuit looks set to reveal many of the system’s flaws.
Men are making #MeToo all about them. Powerful men like Brett Kavanaugh are co-opting the position of victim and putting their pain in the spotlight.
An Amy Winehouse hologram will go on tour next year. The late singer’s father is working with the company that produced hologram tours for Roy Orbison and Maria Callas.
New Zealand’s bird of the year is “clumsy, drunk, gluttonous, and glamorous.” The kererū is famous for gorging on fermented fruit until it falls off its perch.
Sotheby’s sold the five most expensive bottles of wine ever. A 1945 vintage from Burgundy producer Romanée-Conti fetched $558,000.
There’s a “hamster commissioner” in Austria. Friedrich Vondruska’s job is to protect wild common hamsters at a Vienna university.
There’s a thriving black market for selfies with passports. Fraudsters will pay around $60 for a digital scan of a passport accompanied by a utility bill or selfie.
Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, hamsters, and luxury wines to firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 Jill Petzinger and edited by Sarah Todd.