Devastation at Europe’s borders is nothing new. In May, Spanish immigration authorities released x-ray images of an eight-year-old Ivoirian boy found huddled inside a suitcase. In June, a man fell from the sky onto a rooftop in London, having stowed away in the undercarriage of an airplane all the way from South Africa. In August alone, more than 600 people drowned trying to reach Europe.
Most of the rest of the world shrugged and went on with its business.
Now, reproached by devastating front page photos of a Syrian toddler found face-down in the surf, governments across the Middle East, Europe, and North America are calling for action, and public opinion has been catalyzed into genuine grief. Why only now? And why do our sympathies distinguish between refugees of war and those fleeing economic or environmental hardship, who are dying alongside them?
Refugees constitute only a small percentage of the world’s 232 million migrants. On the deadly Mediterranean Sea passage from North Africa to Europe, smugglers endanger all kinds of people fleeing an assortment of crushing conditions. As Syrian Kurds, three-year-old Alan Kurdi and his family were in bureaucratic limbo in Turkey. Perhaps their lives were not in danger, but like any other migrant family with limited access to work and education, their future was.
Kurdi’s parents risked everything to change that, and we have been shown—not for the first time—what it looks like when circumstances compel such a gamble. —Caitlin Hu
Five things on Quartz we especially liked
The sleep myth, busted. Study after study shows we’re not getting the good night’s rest we need. Akshat Rathi sorts out the science from the fiction, and finds that the trouble seems to have less to do with our sleep habits, and more to do with the studies themselves.
What is MTV without TV? Not much, Jenni Avins reports after a disappointing evening spent livestreaming the MTV Video Music Awards. If the network wants to reach enough young people to create another MTV generation, it’s going to have to try harder than this.
Egg on their faces. Emails released this week showing how an organization established by the US Congress to represent the American egg industry tried to thwart a competitor—Hampton Creek, the maker of a vegan mayonnaise substitute. Deena Shanker pieces together the evidence of a government conspiracy against egg-free mayo.
Courting bias. Serena Williams is one of the most elite athletes in tennis history. So why doesn’t her endorsement pay match that of less-winning stars of the sport? If racism and sexism come to mind, says Marc Bain, you’re onto something.
The long goodbye. Anand Katakam makes his annual trip to his grandparents’ house in southern India and is struck by their onset of loneliness. In stark photographs, he documents how even daily routines have become a struggle. “It has become my own way of dealing with their mortality,” he writes.
Five things elsewhere that made us smarter
The invention of Donald Trump. By the end of the 1980s, the real estate world’s most famous face, profiled this week by Bloomberg’s Max Abelson, “had already emerged in Manhattan as a fully formed version of himself.” Three decades later, there’s still a lot to ponder.
Taking it to the streets. What happens when you apply analytics to the one- and two-point scoring system commonly found in pickup basketball games? Kirk Goldsberry, investigating for Grantland, finds that even “[s]eemingly trivial shifts in scorekeeping manifest in massive changes to the relative values of different kinds of field goals.”
Grammar lessons for the passive aggressive. Writing in McSweeney’s, Vijith Assar shows the many ways in which a writer can manipulate a sentence written in the active voice and reconstruct it with the passive voice—and why this temptation is best avoided.
Fit to burst. Are the tech industry’s soaring valuations really different this time? Nick Bilton takes the temperature in Silicon Valley for Vanity Fair—and looks at what might break the fever.
The fortune tellers of Kabul. Afghanistan’s mystics are once again in high demand—and under threat. In the Guardian, May Jeong examines the modern manifestation of a centuries-long tradition.
Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, mayonnaise substitutes, and sentences written in the active voice to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.