#Alibaba vs. shorts, #Trump spooks markets, $9 million license plates

Good morning, Quartz readers!

WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY

Short sellers take aim at Alibaba. The stock has rallied since the summer, but concerns remain that the e-commerce giant’s profitability may be overstated. Investors have bet a cumulative $11.6 billion (paywall) that Alibaba’s shares will fall.

The Federal Reserve stays the course ahead of Election Day.The US central bank is widely expected to keep interest rates unchanged, but will signal its plans for December. A strong economic recovery has bolstered the central bank’s plans to hike rates.

Facebook announces its earnings. The company is expected to reveal a 70% increase in profit, fueled by strong mobile ad sales. Analysts say the company has a “virtually insurmountable advantage.”

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING

Markets got jittery about Donald Trump. Asian shares tumbled to seven-week lows, following the S&P 500 closing at a four-month low, after a poll showed the GOP presidential nominee with a one-point lead over Hillary Clinton. The dollar and Mexican peso both fell, and the VIX index—a measure of volatility known as the “fear gauge”—rose to its highest level since the UK’s Brexit vote.

Iraqi forces entered the eastern edge of Mosul. The battered city, still home to 1.5 million people, is the last bastion of Islamic State fighters in Iraq. Kurdish and Iraqi army units attempting to retake the city have been facing fierce resistance.

A major US gas pipeline exploded, and prices spiked. A fire broke out along the Colonial Pipeline in Alabama, killing one worker and closing the pipeline that provides gasoline for 50 million people on the US east coast. Futures prices rose more than 8%, though the effect on retail gas prices is unclear.

Pope Francis said that there would never be female priests.Speaking aboard a plane from Sweden to Rome, the pontiff said thatthe ban on female priests would never be revoked. He had previously hinted that women might be able to serve as deacons.

Russia put the Syrian peace talks on indefinite hold. Defense minister Sergei Shoigu blamed attacks on Syrian civilians near Aleppo on rebels backed by Western governments. The Kremlin, which itself has been widely condemned for causing civilian deaths in Aleppo, added that it would resume airstrikes if the rebel attacks continued.

QUARTZ MARKETS HAIKU

Fear of the unknown
isn’t nearly as scary
as a Trump comeback.

QUARTZ OBSESSION INTERLUDE

Tim Fernholz on the crucial role that Google’s chairman played in Hillary Clinton’s campaign. “‘I met with Eric Schmidt tonight,’ John Podesta, the longtime Hillary Clinton adviser, told campaign manager-in-waiting Robby Mook in April 2014, more than a year before Clinton announced her candidacy for president. The email, stolen by Russian hackers and published by Wikileaks, details the billionaire Alphabet chairman’s interest in backing Hillary Clinton’s nascent presidential run.” Read more here.

MATTERS OF DEBATE

Design has nothing to do with art. Legendary designer Milton Glaser thinks it’s about “the process of going from an existing condition to a preferred one.”

The Google Pixel has an excellent camera, but not much else.The flagship smartphone is full of small inconveniences that make it annoying to use.

Bitcoin isn’t anonymous enough for the dark web. Two new cryptocurrencies, Zcash and Monero, aim to fill the gap.

SURPRISING DISCOVERIES

A Dubai man spent $9 million on a license plate. Property developer Balwinder Sahni bagged the single digit “5”; he previously paid $6.7 million for the number “9.”

Indonesia wants to require doorless dorm rooms. It’s a minister’s controversial suggestion to curb promiscuity and homosexuality.

Venezuela’s cash is easier to weigh than count. Hyperinflation has devalued the bolivar to the point of absurdity.

Facial recognition can be fooled with cheap glasses.Researchers used them to trick AI software like Alibaba’s “smile to pay” feature.

Deaf and blind Americans created a language that only uses touch. “Pro-tactile American Sign Language” doesn’t require seeing or hearing.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, expensive license plates, and anti-AI glasses tohi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day or download our iPhone app.

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