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Quartz Weekend Brief—Why Davos matters, McDonald’s requiem, self-destructing e-books, the clue to autism

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Does Davos matter? It’s an old and contentious question. But it’s one that has traction as the power brokers at the World Economic Forum meeting this week turn their lofty gazes to the issue of gender parity.

Just 17% of the attendees of are women, the same level as two years ago. And a WEF report concluded that women won’t have parity in the workforce for another 80 years if we stay on our current path.

But equal opportunity for women is high on the agenda here, with a dozen public and private panels, meals, and other events devoted to the issue, and celebrity champions such as the actor Emma Watson (of Harry Potter fame).

Veteran Davos attendee Rick Goings, CEO of Tupperware, says that gender issues were never mentioned during his first year at the forum, a dozen years ago. This year, at a lunch his company sponsored on the subject, it was standing room only; even former heads of state were turned away.

There is a strong business case for closing the gender gap, Goings says: For instance, many of the company’s superstar saleswomen are in countries where their opportunities outside the home are otherwise limited. This is the kind of clear business message that resonates with the Davos crowd, and one that’s not always apparent amidst the platitudes in the forum’s public sessions.

But will anything come of it, or is women’s equality just the latest Davos fad, to be displaced next year by another equally worthy and intractable cause? No, Goings says. “We discuss what to do after this lunch. I’ve now got a group of people around me who are also all-in on this—we watch what they’re doing and they see what we’re doing.” Those initial connections were made in the Alps. “That’s why Davos matters,” he says.—Kevin Delaney & Jason Karaian

Five things on Quartz we especially liked

The glorious past and ignominious future of maison Morgan. The most important building in American financial history isn’t the New York Stock Exchange, but the nearby home of James Pierpont Morgan—and there are plans to turn it into an entertainment complex complete with bowling alley. Matt Phillips laments its fate with a history lesson.

How The Economist chose its first female editor-in-chief. A.k.a. “How I failed to become editor of The Economist.” Quartz editor and former Economist staffer Gideon Lichfield was one of the 13 candidates, and offers an inside view of how the 171-year-old British magazine—er, “newspaper”—picked someone else.

A semi-eulogy for McDonald’s. Fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle are slowly displacing the golden arches in American consumer consciousness. On the heels of Thursday’s disappointing McDonald’s earnings, Paul Smalera remembers working there as a teenager with mixed emotions.

Should you go lossless? Music has moved in the opposite direction to images and television, in that as the technology has improved, the quality of the medium has gotten worse. John McDuling explores whether new “lossless” formats are a huge leap forward or just a marketing stunt.

The nail-biting reading of the self-destructing e-book. Adam Epstein chose to accept the mission of reading James Patterson’s new thriller, an e-book that self-destructs after 24 hours, and faithfully chronicled the experience. You have been warned.

Five things elsewhere that made us smarter

The ignorance of economists. They would, you might imagine, have a good handle on the important theories of their discipline. But from the Efficient Markets Hypothesis to Ricardian Equivalence, they make a surprising number of repeated errors. Tyler Cowen lists a few of the most common mistakes at his blog, with many more nominated in the comments section.

Why bad spelling messes up healthcare policy. The US government’s Open Payments database is supposed to bring transparency to the murky relationship between drug companies and the doctors they pay to promote products. But as Charles Ornstein and colleagues document at the New York Times, it’s riddled with misspellings and multiple names for different drugs that badly obscure who’s paying whom for what.

Get used to your future as a guinea pig. From websites to fitness trackers, a growing number of the things you use are collecting data on you to be used as part of huge experiments not only on behavior patterns, but behavior modification. And, says Parmy Olson at Forbes, you are probably going to love the results.

Why Kim Kardashian’s butt didn’t break the internet. When Paper magazine published naked pictures of the star in its “Break the Internet” issue, the one thing it didn’t actually want was for a flood of readers to break its website. Paul Ford at Medium has the inside story of how it prepared—a great read for anyone who’s stopped to wonder how a website actually is built.

How the clue to autism was found. A group of researchers have turned the conventional wisdom about the genetics of autism on its head. The genes that cause it, they’ve found, aren’t inherited, but go haywire just at the moment of conception. Stephen Hall in MIT Tech Review on how the mystery was uncovered.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, self-destructing e-books, and spelling corrections to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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