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Quartz Weekend Brief—Japan and the FT, CrossFit economics, postcapitalism, ISIL’s mysteries

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The length of an apologetic bow from a Japanese executive is a pretty good gauge of his embarrassment. And the 15-second bow by disgraced Toshiba CEO Hisao Tanaka—who resigned this week over a $1.2 billion accounting scandal—was a doozy.

It was only the latest uproar in corporate Japan recently—see also the deadly safety lapses at air-bag maker Takata, a botched restructuring at Sharp, and fines for breaking sanctions at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi.

All of which casts Nikkei’s $1.3 billion acquisition of the Financial Times in a potentially troublesome light. The paper has a reputation for hard-hitting business coverage—and it has not been shy about detailing the shortcomings of the Japanese press.

Back in 2011, the mainstream Japanese media failed to call Olympus to account when it was engulfed in a major accounting scandal. After Michael Woodford, the company’s newly installed CEO, clashed with the company’s board, he leaked a devastating dossier not to a Japanese paper, but to the FT. A 25-year Nikkei veteran later told the FT (paywall) that the country’s timid newspapers “are afraid of everything from losing advertisers to wrecking relations with corporate bosses,” and are dependent on innocuous leaks “that might dry up if journalists exposed uglier secrets.”

Japanese papers certainly aren’t alone in walking the difficult lines of access, influence, and conflicting business interests. Bloomberg backed away from (paywall) a controversial exposé of China’s leaders, allegedly due to fears of hurting its lucrative financial terminal business, and the Telegraph faced accusations from a top reporter that it had downplayed an HSBC tax evasion scandal because the bank was one of its largest advertisers.

So if Nikkei wants to justify the relatively high purchase price and maintain the FT’s status, it needs to recognize that only an unfettered press can hold corporate and government power properly to account—else the FT will barely be worth the famously pink paper it’s printed on.—Jason Karaian and Adam Pasick

Five things on Quartz we especially liked

CrossFit’s deceptively simple business plan. What started out as a couple of people posting workouts on a website is now a $4 billion industry. Marion Maneker explains how it’s a model of a modern, decentralized, social-media-driven business—complete with the questions about how many of its workers actually make money.

The iPhone in China is Apple. In a week when the tech giant’s earnings disappointed and Wall Street predicted its growth would soon stagnate, Dan Frommer analyzes what’s keeping it afloat: China’s exploding market for high-end phones.

Lessons from IBM’s logo. Rare is the branding that remains consistent, yet flexible enough to endure for more than four decades. Anne Quito on the designer who created those three horizontally striped letters and the measures he took to steward the company’s corporate identity through years of changing products and fashions.

What’s your identity worth? Typically, a little over $20, Keith Collins discovers, though that of someone with a good credit score can fetch hundreds. Data from a search engine that trawls the “dark web” show the range of prices that a stolen identity can fetch on online underworld marketplaces.

A cross-cultural Eid in Dar es Salaam. Omar Mohammed is “part Yemeni, part Baluchistani, part Indian, and part black African,” and he celebrates this mixed heritage of the Swahili people by describing the confluence of traditions that mark the end of Ramadan.

A podcast we like and we think you’ll like too

This week, Actuality stays up past our bedtime to meet a man who slept just 4.5 hours a night for an entire year—and thrived. Then, we get soaked by the world’s most economically important weather phenomenon. Plus, a Kazakh sleeping mystery.

Five things elsewhere that made us smarter

Our genetically tweaked future. A three-year-old technology called Crispr makes possible the precision DNA editing previously only seen in sci-fi movies. Amy Maxmen explains for Wired how it works and how the scientists involved are trying to make sure it doesn’t get misused.

The internecine warfare of Russia’s security forces. Boris Kolesnikov was a rising star in the Russian interior ministry’s anti-corruption department. But when he tried to snare an officer of the FSB, Russia’s spy agency, he wound up dead. Joshua Yaffa in the New Yorker unravels a tale that sheds much light on how the contemporary Russian state is run.

Welcome to postcapitalism. An unashamedly utopian vision, from Paul Mason in the Guardian, on how the information-based, peer-to-peer economy is breaking apart the conventional one, and how the right government policies could “dissolve market forces, socialise knowledge, eradicate the need for work and push the economy towards abundance.” (There’s also a good interview with Mason in Prospect.)

Why science is becoming more open. It’s a scientific tenet that experiments must be replicable, but they’re rarely replicated. Ben Goldacre explains in Buzzfeed how medical research is starting to undergo “a massive, and long overdue, culture shift” towards sharing raw data—a scary prospect for researchers, but one that will ultimately make science more reliable.

If we think we understand ISIL, we’re wrong. The tantalizingly anonymous author in the New York Review spends the whole of this literature review dismissing theory after theory of why the Islamic State has been so successful, arguing that its rise was neither predictable, nor explicable in hindsight. “We should admit that we are not only horrified but baffled.”

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, genetic blueprints, and theories of ISIL to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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