Quartz Weekend Brief—Americas edition—Borders, battery science, the science of art, blood types

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International air travel makes the world a smaller and, it would often seem, a friendlier place.

But after a week of frankly horrific news capped by the destruction of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 and the 298 innocent people on board, it’s clear that it’s not really possible to fly above suffering and conflict—figuratively, or literally in the case of this tragedy.

In the MH-17 disaster, we saw in Vladimir Putin a leader whose support for an insurgency just across his border loosed forces he can no longer control. That culminated, in the most likely scenario to explain MH-17, with a deadly missile launched at a plane the fighters couldn’t see, much less identify. As we grapple with the toll—80 children and three infants among the dead—there is more focus on which nations will gain or lose politically in this tragedy than how it could have been prevented. We’ve hardly begun to contemplate the soul-crushing irony that many of the passengers were AIDs researchers bound for a conference on fighting the disease, which devastates Russia and Ukraine as well as millions of children.

At another contested border, between Israel and the Gaza strip, four children were inexplicably killed in front of a global cadre of journalists, and more will suffer as Israel sends ground troops into the densely populated area. This latest round of violence—spurred by the murder of Israeli teens and reprisals against their Palestinian counterparts—has seen children as political props for historic grievances, not victims of them.

Even the most settled borders, in wealthy counties, don’t escape this cynicism: At the US border with Mexico, children fleeing violence in troubled nations are piling up in poor conditions, and the political debate in the US is largely focused on how quickly they can and should be sent back.

The critique of globalization we know so well—that it creates an unfortunate homogeneity in the world—may be overstated. In a world where the economy has us all so closely connected, humans are still adept at finding ways to tear themselves apart.—Tim Fernholz

Five things on Quartz we especially liked

Is the breakthrough automobile battery dead? Despite the hopes of researchers, it appears the battery that GM and the automobile industry expected to revolutionize electric cars isn’t all it was hoped to be—and, Steve LeVine writes, that could be a win for Elon Musk’s Tesla and others who bet on conventional batteries.

Art needs science. Jeff Koons, the artist/provocateur behind some of the most expensive artwork in the world, doesn’t just rely on inspiration: Nina Stoller-Lindsey discovered that he also needs the advice of Nobel prize-winning physicists, 3D-imaging, and advanced materials to make enormous balloon dogs and mysteriously floating basketballs.

What Microsoft’s layoffs mean around the world. When a truly global company decides to cut 14% of its workforce, the repercussions play out from Manaus, Brazil to Oulu, Finland. Nikhil Sonnad and Tim Fernholz have mapped out exactly where CEO Satya Nadella intends to prune, and to grow.

The future of passwords isn’t better passwords. It’s not two-factor authentication, either. Leo Mirani argues that technology reliant on a trusted log-in or a physical USB key will replace the increasingly bewildering array of phrases you try to remember while managing your digital life.

Our suggestions for the next BRICs. SNIP, SNAP, and STOIC—and many more—can be found in a new tool Nikhil Sonnad and Zach Wener-Fligner built for constructing emerging market investment strategies and the catchy acronyms used to market them. Which is another way of saying: Maybe there’s less uniting the BRICs than meets the eye.

Five things elsewhere that made us smarter

Why’s your type? Scientists discovered more than a century ago that humans have different varieties of blood. But Carl Zimmer says they still don’t know the purpose of this evolutionary feature—which has only encouraged the development of pseudoscientific explanations.

The biggest star on YouTube is a mystery woman. “DisneyCollectorBR” probably earns more money than most CEOs by simply opening and playing with toys for the all the world to see, reports BuzzFeed’s Hillary Reinsberg.

In the battle between Google and Hitler, Google is losing. Jeffrey Gettleman travels in a Nairobi matatu minibus named Hitler to understand why the modern, contact-less transit card from Google is failing.

How total pop domination set the BeeGees up for failure. In 1978, Bob Stanley writes, the band was responsible for 2% of the recording industry’s profits. But then it faced the full backlash of the disco era.

What happens when your child has an unknown disease. The structure of scientific research makes it hard for victims of newly identified diseases to build a community—and momentum toward successful treatment. The New Yorker’s Seth Mnookin found one family who used the internet and the falling price of genetic sequencing to create a new model for battling a rare condition.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, Disney toys, and enormous balloon dogs to You can follow us on Facebook here and on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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