Quartz Weekend Brief—Britain’s identity, dengue’s nemesis, Ukrainian gun-lovers, cattle thieves

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The paradoxes of both Britain’s electoral system, and the country’s evolving identities, came into focus this week.

Though it failed to secure independence for Scotland last year, the Scottish National Party swept to an unprecedented victory north of the border, winning 56 of a possible 59 seats at Westminster. Labour increased its vote share but lost seats; the Liberal Democrats lost not only votes, but so many seats that the party was almost extinguished in Parliament. The Green Party, which won only slightly fewer total votes than the SNP, and the anti-immigrant, euro-skeptic UK Independence Party—which won nearly three times as many—each took just one seat. And despite a surge in votes for smaller parties, the ruling Conservatives won the clear majority they had failed to secure at the last election.

In the past months, the UK had begun to see itself as a more multifarious country, where nationalists, greens, and centrists might all find their political places. The outright Conservative win is a reminder that the constituency system isn’t designed to allow for a wide diversity of thought, but to provide leaders. Yet it’s also delivering increasing geographical polarization: Labour’s red clustered around urban centers; the Conservatives’ blue blanketing the country everywhere else; and Scotland dyed a decisive SNP yellow.

Scotland is, of course, the big winner, gaining a clear identity in relation to Westminster. The rest of the UK will have to contend with its multitudinous voices finding representation in one party, this time without the check of a coalition partner or, for now, any strong opponent. If Scotland and the rest of Britain were to separate tomorrow, each would be the closest it has come to a one-party state for a very long time. That’s an alarming prospect.—Cassie Werber

Five things on Quartz we especially liked

A radical plan to wipe out dengue. Facing imminent lethal epidemics of dengue hemorrhagic fever, Florida wants to try using genetically modified mosquitoes to wipe out the local population. As Gwynn Guilford explains, though, the plan is fraught with the same ecological and evolutionary complexity that, with mankind’s help, led to the global rise of dengue in the first place.

The Met Gala, where fashion and geopolitics mix. At the Metropolitan Museum’s annual fundraiser in New York, Jenni Avins reports, celebrities took stunning fashion risks and had fun with the party’s China theme, with Henry Kissinger as the surprise guest. But as Heather Timmons notes, China’s human-rights record went ignored amid the glamorous clothing.

HSBC is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Namely, the high taxes of London versus Chinese control of Hong Kong. The bank’s chief seems pretty serious about moving HSBC from London to HK, but, ask Jason Karaian and Heather Timmons, is that such a good idea?

How do you run a $2 billion venture capital fund? John McDuling talks to Bill Maris, one of the big wigs of Silicon Valley and head of Google Ventures, about the claims of conflict of interest in Google’s investments and the “transistor moment” for life sciences (video).

Ukrainian civilians and their guns. In an increasingly volatile country, people feel they need weapons to defend themselves, sending gun sales surging. Andrey Lomakin’s striking photos portray Ukrainians looking much like American gun-rights advocates, posing with their firearms.

Five things elsewhere that made us smarter

The 14-year-old with Olympic potential and a crippling disorder. Amaris Tyynismaa found a refuge from Tourette’s Syndrome in running, quickly becoming one of the best athletes of her generation. Duncan Murrell at The Huffington Post follows the ingenue as she races, trains and continues to battle her disorder—as well as the trials and tribulations of being a teenager.

Wall Street’s biggest loudmouth tries to change his spots. Bill Ackman has spent his career and made his fortune shaking up companies like Procter & Gamble and Kraft. But as Antoine Gara details for Forbes, the billionaire activist investor is now trying to rebrand himself as the next Warren Buffett by building companies for the long haul.

Modern technology can’t stop a cow thief. There are 1,121 cattle missing in Texas. Could RFID have prevented the crime? Doubtful, explains Eric Benson at FiveThirtyEight. Microchips now track everything from shipping containers to the family cat, but ranchers, coping with a decade-long surge in beef demand, have found they don’t deter rustlers nearly as well as a more old-fashioned technology.

The Vatican is stuck in a dangerous time warp. The Catholic church seems to accept the Big Bang but still refuses to get behind the theory of evolution. John Farrell argues at Aeon that the church must get with the times, or risk millions of followers walking out of its churches.

How much does your cheap New York manicure actually cost? A lot more than you think, reveals an extensive exposé from The New York Times’ Sarah Maslin. Published in four languages, the two-part piece shows a dark side of the city’s massive industry, where manicurists are severely underpaid, exploited, and discriminated against for their ethnicity.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, Met gala dress designs, and RFID chips to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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