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Quartz Weekend Brief—The gun-control conflict, stolen memory, extreme commuting

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

There is nothing more to say.

As the British journalist Dan Hodges observed in June, “In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

Since that massacre less than three years ago, there have been almost 1,000 shootings in the US at which four or more people were hit, and over 1,200 deaths. The most shocking thing about this week’s killing of nine people in Oregon was its ordinariness.

The media frenzy each time is predictable, and predictably prurient. So are the non-stop, urgent-voiced news bulletins, the jerky cellphone videos, the social-media firestorms, the self-righteous statements from both pro- and anti-gun people, and the sad-faced commentary by world-weary pundits. It’s theater, created to sustain not the impression that we care but the fiction that caring makes a difference.

In this, its industrial-scale output of performative speech, the gun debate echoes another frozen conflict: the one in Israel-Palestine. Four years of covering it made me see that, in certain disputes, the opposing forces attain a sort of self-correcting stasis. Even after a particularly cruel outrage, equilibrium returns quickly, as if neither side can let go of its claim to eternal victimhood. Change does come—many decades-long conflicts have ended—but it takes its own, often mysterious path that neither words nor any single tragedy can alter.

Indeed, instead of ”gun-control debate,” we should call it the “gun-control conflict.” There is no debate here, only forces locked in frozen combat.

To be clear, I don’t think the right to bear arms and the right to not get shot dead by the nearest lunatic are merely competing but commensurable demands, like the Jewish and Palestinian claims on a piece of land. But for all practical purposes, they might as well be. There really is nothing more to say. All there is to do is wait.—Gideon Lichfield

Five things on Quartz we especially liked

The man whose memory was stolen. A brain tumor gradually destroyed Demetri Kofinas’s ability to remember and made his life fall apart. In an extraordinary tale of an almost literal rebirth, he relates how he finally found a surgeon who could help, and what happened when the memories that his brain had been making all along—but keeping hidden from him—came flooding back.

Meet the extreme commuters. Uprooting your family to follow your career is out. Weekly international flights or living on another continent’s time zone are the new normal—at least for the ambitious executives Miriam Kreinin Souccar spoke to.

The final, flawed barrier for refugees in Europe. Having braved drowning and other dangers, asylum-seekers in Europe are being put through language and dialect testing to make sure they’re from where they claim. But this system has some serious shortcomings, reports Aamna Mohdin.

The pain-based philosophy of shopping for clothes. Marc Bain set himself a goal: never buy any garment for less than $150. He explains how it has forced him to make more careful, ethical choices about what he buys, in a world where people all too easily buy rafts of cheap fast-fashion clothes they then discard.

A love letter to the unknowns of Tinder. “Digital people are just too easy to dismiss.” Lauren Brown pens a tender ode ”to all the men on Tinder I might have loved”—the men whose faces she swiped out of her life with barely a second’s thought.

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

This week, Actuality talks to two survivors of April’s deadly avalanche on Mt. Everest—five-time summiteer David Breashears, and Quartz’s own Svati Narula—and discusses the massive industry that’s grown up around Everest ascents. Plus, a flying bag of marijuana destroys a dog house.

Want to work at Quartz? We’re hiring for about 20 positions in our New York and London offices, across editorial, marketing, and engineering. Let us know if you see anything you like.

Five things elsewhere that made us smarter

Where America got its gun rights. Pro-gun folk in the US like to cite the 1846 case of Nunn v. State in their legal battles. What they, and the courts, don’t acknowledge—explain Saul Cornell and Eric Ruben in the Atlantic—is that the case essentially held up the right of white men to use guns to intimidate slaves and settle their quarrels in public.

You don’t “get” old age until you’re in it. “How can a seventeen-year-old like me suddenly be eighty-one?” laments a well-known scientist in Ceridwen Dovey’s essay on old age for the New Yorker. Rebutting lazy literary stereotypes of the elderly as crotchety, comically free-spirited, or senile, Dovey asks: Everyone gets old, so why is it so hard for the young to imagine?

In Europe, austerity is now a vote-winner. In London and Athens, leaders committed to steep spending cuts were recently returned to power. The same may be about to happen in Lisbon and Madrid, as Paul Taylor of Reuters explains. There are exceptions, of course, but the tide seems to be turning as voters play it safe with the devil they know instead of untested upstart parties with questionable credibility.

How Steve Jobs fleeced Carly Fiorina. Medium’s Steven Levy sticks the knife into the ex-Hewlett Packard CEO and turns it, slowly and exquisitely. Fiorina, now running for the Republican nomination, made Jobs out to be her best buddy in the last debate. But Levy has the story of the business deal in which the Apple chief took her and her company to the cleaners.

A new frontier in economics. “If you made me king of the world, I wouldn’t actually know what we should do,” says star MIT economist Amy Finkelstein about how to deliver good health care. It’s a rare admission for an economist, especially one who has already shifted conventional wisdom on risk, moral hazard, and health insurance, and she explains why she’s now focused on that question in an engaging interview with the Minneapolis Fed.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, ridiculous commuting schedules, and Carly Fiorina anecdotes to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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