Quartz Weekend Brief—Ferguson’s lessons, water sommeliers, development’s failings, the Hillary show

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The little town of Ferguson, Missouri, became a global story again this week, after a grand jury declined to indict police officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown.

In the US, there’s a sense of missing leadership. Brown’s death forced everyone to notice the broader problem: that black Americans are far likelier to die at the hands of police than white ones (or seem to be; part of the problem also is that the data are notoriously incomplete). Yet despite the protests that roiled the country, despite reams of analysis in the media and online, despite a speech by the president, nobody is proposing a comprehensive approach to the problem.

To be sure, that’s in part because America is the problem—racial discrimination is a structural feature that will take generations more to eliminate. Yet it felt distinctly uninspiring that the best Barack Obama could offer was to send his attorney general on a trip around the country to “help build better relations between communities and law enforcement.”

Yet there’s something to temper the rest of the world’s noticeable Schadenfreude. In Mexico, it’s taken a grisly mass-murder by cops in cahoots with criminals to start a protest movement. In Brazil, if the data are to be believed, police have killed about as many people in four years as American cops have in two decades. In Egypt, where a law passed this week defines any disruption to public order as “terrorism,” it’s hard to imagine president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi making a sympathetic speech about police victims.

In short, America is fortunate to be a country where one man’s death can still get people angry. All the more pity, then, that nobody has worked out how to turn the anger into action.—Gideon Lichfield

Five things on Quartz we especially liked

The world’s OPEC opportunity. As oil prices collapse, the cartel has realized that cutting output would bring it only temporary relief. With OPEC neutered, Steve LeVine, argues, Western countries have a once-in-decades opportunity to push for their own strategic goals.

How Ferguson divides America. Emma Pierson, a statistician, created a map of the Twittersphere around the Ferguson grand jury decision. It shows what you might expect: There are large groups of people who not only disagree, they’re not even seeing the things the other side says.

The restaurant with 20 different waters. They cost an average $12.64 per liter, and come described in a 44-page tasting guide. David Yanofsky interviews the manager, Martin Riese, who calls himself “America’s only water sommelier.”

How a female US army colonel got her way in Egypt. She was seconded to an Egyptian general. He refused to deal with her. In a nice case study on negotiating cultural differences, Lt. Colonel Jill Morgenthaler relates how she got him to change without compromising either her authority or his.

The Quartz holiday gift guides. We present our shortlists designed around those people you always have trouble picking presents for—the video junkie, the stylish-but-practical traveler, the tech-loving adventurer, the budding drone enthusiast, the internet-connected cook, and the kid with CEO ambitions.

Five things elsewhere that made us smarter

Why international development keeps failing. Its history is littered with brilliant ideas that attracted publicity, won over donors, and inspired TED talks, but turned out to be duds. In the New Republic, Michael Hobbes, a veteran of the field, offers a searing critique of much of what is wrong with development aid—but concludes that ultimately, its biggest problem is our outsized hopes about what it can achieve.

The scourge of the gamers. Anita Sarkeesian never thought that her dense, scholarly feminist critiques of video games were going to go viral. But, as Sheelah Kolhatkar relates in Businessweek, she has become a linchpin of a movement against sexist game violence and the target of a vicious backlash from male gamers.

The running man. The journalist Jose Antonio Vargas is the poster boy of the “DREAMers,” people brought to the US illegally as children who are now campaigning for the right to stay. But the years of keeping secrets have taken a big emotional toll, as Marc Fisher writes in this sensitive profile in the Washington Post.

ISIL’s modern history. Though its methods invoke metaphors like “medieval,” the Islamic Statement movement is pretty modern, explains Karen Armstrong in the New Statesman—not just in its use of social media and corporate organizational strategies, but as the product of a complex interplay of religious and political factors that begin in the (relatively recent) 18th century.

The Hillary show. She charges $300,000 to give a speech—and that’s the discount rate. Her backstage demands are as detailed as a rock star’s. Rosalind Helderman and Philip Rucker at the Washington Post, who dug up details of one of Hillary Clinton’s speaking contracts, ask: Is this a credible presidential candidate to voters still struggling to climb out of the recession?


Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, development ideas, and excessive speaker fees to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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