Quartz Weekend Brief—Brazil’s election, SpaceX grows up, the breakdown of Liberia, the dental divide

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Good morning, Quartz readers!

While much of the world’s attention has been focused on other matters—Ebola, the Middle East, or the collapse of world oil prices—one of the most exciting presidential elections in decades has been unfolding in Brazil.

The drama follows on from the turmoil of the World Cup in July. As Brazilians protested the tournament’s $11.5 billion price tag, amid fast-rising consumer prices and unemployment, the national team suffered a disastrous loss against Germany in the semi-final. Some speculated that such a humiliation could ignite a political revolt sufficient to unseat incumbent president Dilma Rousseff. Aécio Neves, a pro-business legacy politician from Minas Gerais, seemed to be the one for the job.

Or not. One month after the World Cup ended, the third-place presidential contender, Brazilian Socialist Party (BSP) candidate Eduardo Campos, died in a plane crash. His running mate, former environment minister Marina Silva, took his place. BSP popularity surged, and excitement grew. Would Silva, a staunch activist from the poverty-stricken Amazon, be Brazil’s first black president? Surveys predicted an all-female runoff between Silva and Rouseff. The polls swung, favoring first the former and then the latter.

But in the first round of voting on October 5, it was Rousseff and Neves—the white, wealthy, business-friendly candidate—who came out on top, suggesting Brazil’s emerging middle class might prefer more conservative politicians. Or maybe Rousseff’s detractors just didn’t think Silva could unseat her.

This Sunday, Brazilians head back to the polls for a runoff vote. The numbers are in Rousseff’s favor. But Silva, business leaders (paywall), and football legends are all in Neves’ corner, and a new cover story in the popular weekly magazine Veja alleges that Rousseff knew of Petrobras corruption. If we’ve learned anything from this election—and the World Cup before it—it’s not to bet too big on the final outcome.—Jenni Avins

Five things on Quartz we especially liked

How SpaceX grew up. Tim Fernholz charts the rise of the company that began as an Elon Musk vanity project and, through failed launches and funding scrambles, became possibly America’s best hope for remaining a serious spacefaring nation.

The land where touch is forbidden. Ebola doesn’t just kill people; the fear of catching it is gradually, painfully atomizing society for the survivors, Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia. And Caitlin Rivers argues that we could have stopped Ebola early if we’d only listened to the data; Zach Wener-Fligner charts the spread of the outbreak.

Oil prices are falling, but what does it mean? Jason Karaian, David Yanofsky and Steve LeVine compiled a handy interactive chart that shows which countries will benefit most if oil slides below $80 per barrel, based on the cost of their energy imports relative to GDP.

Why every newborn on Facebook has the same baby blanket. Lisa Selin Davis ruminates on the iconic striped hospital blankets that have, inexplicably, become ubiquitous in much of the world, and the company that makes them.

Language as a weapon in Hong Kong. Gwynn Guilford unpicks the linguistic and political reasons why the name “Umbrella Movement” for the Hong Kong protests is so subversive, and Lily Kuo in Hong Kong provides the backstory to seven of the the movement’s most popular protest slogans.

Five things elsewhere that made us smarter

The forgotten war that made Iran. Western observers frequently ascribe Tehran’s behavior and attitudes to the 1979 Islamic Revolution. But to understand Iran’s view of itself and the world, writes Behnam Ben Taleblu in the National Interest, you need to examine the trauma that its eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s inflicted on the national psyche.

Fear and loathing in the euro zone. In a well-sourced exposé on the inner workings of the European Central Bank, a trio of writers at Reuters paint a picture of bickering, backbiting, and overall bad manners. What a relief that they don’t actually have anything important to worry about, like, say, a continent-wide recession.

Luxembourg’s secret Société. Matthew Karnitschnig and Robin Van Daalen of the Wall Street Journal meet Marius Kohl (paywall), the colorful former head of Luxembourg’s federal tax agency, Sociétés 6. The fiendishly complex structures that companies use to lower their tax bills in the Grand Duchy drive other countries nuts. But when quizzed on his methods, Mr. Kohl “licked his thumb and held it up in the air.”

How museums succeed where diplomacy fails. Britain’s museums have more autonomy from private benefactors or governments than their American and European counterparts. That’s given them the leeway to act as cultural ambassadors to countries with which Britain has chilly relations, argues Cristina Ruiz in the New Republic.

The dental divide. Most Americans now have health care, but nearly half have no dental coverage. Sarah Smarsh in Aeon reflects on how bad teeth have become a symbol of poverty, a mark of shame, and a form of class divide as stark as race once was.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, ECB tattle, and x-rays of your teeth to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

Sign up for the Quartz Daily Brief here, tailored for morning delivery in Asia, Europe & Africa, and the Americas.