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Quartz Weekend Brief—Gaza’s “Groundhog Day,” Andreessen’s tweets, Ukrainian utopians, the new atheists

By Quartz Staff

Since Israel launched “Operation Protective Edge” on the Gaza strip on July 8, at least 100 Gazans have been killed in air strikes. These are their names. They range from 75 years to 18 months old.

“Protective Edge” is the sixth major Israeli offensive against Gaza in eight years. Each time the story is the same—a dystopic Groundhog Day. Something triggers an escalation in the continuous low-level conflict. Militants in Gaza launch more rockets, and Israel drops more bombs or sends in ground troops. Eventually enough people die for popular pressure to make the militant groups stop launching rockets, and it all subsides. Until the next time.

No matter whether you think Israel is being barbaric or just acting in self-defense, it’s clear that this pattern isn’t working, for either side. But the proximate cause of this particular escalation—the killing last month of three Israeli teens and the revenge killing of a Palestinian one—showed more clearly than ever that neither side’s leadership really has any control over the course of events. Once radicals start a provocation, the anger and politics of the region take on their own momentum. This, in a nutshell, is why the peace talks the US half-heartedly promotes keep going nowhere.

There are reasons to worry that it will be harder than usual to defuse this flare-up: The politics on both sides are getting more extreme, and Egypt isn’t around to act as a mediator. But a third Palestinian intifada, which some have warned of, is unlikely; Israel can quash the Gaza rocket attacks through sheer use of force, while the West Bank Palestinians see Gaza as increasingly separate from them, and have little organizational capacity for mounting an uprising. That’s why we can expect the same depressing script to play out once again.—Gideon Lichfield

Five things on Quartz we especially liked

Why you’ll let car insurance companies monitor how you drive. Because if you don’t your premiums will go up. Or you may not even get insurance. Leo Mirani on how the coming era of telematics-based “behavioral” car insurance could make our driving more risk-averse—and cars will likely be only the beginning.

This is what we meant when we said “new global economy.” By Today six of the world’s 10 biggest cities are Asian. By 2030, nine of the 10 biggest will be in Africa or Asia. Adam Pasick maps the population trends.

Marc Andreessen’s epic six months on Twitter. The Silicon Valley venture-capital guru tweeted twice in six-and-a-half years—and then 21,783 times in the subsequent six months, including one 500-tweet day. He shared his entire Twitter archive with Dan Frommer, who analyzed the data to pick apart his tweeting patterns.

We tried on white jeans so you don’t have to. Jenni Avins and some enthusiastic collaborators road-tested 30 pairs of women’s white jeans to find the one perfect summer fit. Yes, this one comes with pictures. 

The CIA would like you to know the difference between “tortuous” and “torturous”. Michael Silverberg picks out the most telling writing tips from the CIA’s house style manual. Among them: Always write “crisp and pungent” prose, and never call a government friendly to the US a “regime.”

Five things elsewhere that made us smarter

Everything is too expensive. And we’re not talking about your latte or your gym membership. Neil Irwin at the Upshot examines why assets worldwide, from Mexican bonds to Manhattan offices, are overpriced. Is it a boom or a bubble? And in a follow-up he explains how it might play out—with anything from a new burst of growth, to stagflation, to market collapse.

Meet Ukraine’s utopians. “Students scribble manifestos on napkins; dinner conversations end with grand plans about what is to be done.” Peter Pomerantsev visits Kyiv for the Atlantic and finds it full of strange visionaries trying to plot out Ukraine’s future in the wake of the revolution that threw out its president. “We’re pagans,” one tells him. “We worship DNA.”

Google’s chief hacker is smarter, cooler, and sexier than you. Parisa Tabriz heads the massive team employed to find security holes in all of Google’s products. Since it’s Elle Magazine, this profile of her by Clare Malone focuses a little more than strictly necessary on her clothes and (lack of) makeup. But it’s still an interesting look at the world of “white-hat” hackers.

Atheism matters only if God matters. Atheism has a long intellectual history. But, writes Michael Robbins in Slate, today’s New Atheists, personified by the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, have little do with it; they deal in superficial arguments that forget what made the rejection of the divine meaningful—and terrifying.

Why the World Cup suddenly has so many goals. The biggest influence on the 2014 tournament might not be a manager or a player but physics: Specifically, the behavior of a vital millimeter of air surrounding this year’s ball, the Brazuca, that makes golazos possible.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, utopian ideas, and soccer ball designs to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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