Quartz weekend brief—Modi’s silence, the Calais Jungle, zombie epidemiology

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Narendra Modi is hardly a man of a few words. So when the Indian prime minister remains silent on a wave of sectarian discord sweeping the country, people notice.

In September, for instance, a 50-year-old Muslim man was lynched on suspicion of storing beef in his refrigerator. (Cows are sacred to India’s Hindu majority.) A month earlier, MM Kalburgi, an Indian scholar and rationalist, was assassinated in his own house.

Modi has done almost nothing to dispel fears that such violence will continue. He and his party, the Hindu-nationalist BJP, have either simply ignored critics, or branded them unpatriotic citizens out to malign India’s image. From a right-leaning government, that’s not entirely unexpected when liberal-minded artists, academics and scientists revolt, as they have. But now, India’s business community, which solidly backed Modi’s electoral campaign, is growing increasingly concerned.

Moody’s Analytics (not the same as the ratings agency) sent out a warning last week: “Modi must keep his members in check or risk losing domestic and global credibility.” The unrest over religious intolerance is diluting the government’s focus on economic reforms, and will give India’s opposition parties more ammunition to disrupt parliament once it reconvenes later this year. A hamstrung parliament has already slowed down Modi’s reform momentum; key bills are stuck in limbo. India’s lumbering economy urgently needs these reforms, and the delays are starting to make India’s businesses uncomfortable.

Unperturbed, Modi and his lieutenants are sticking to their script: “India is doing better than when we took office 17 months ago.” But it’s not good enough, compared either to rising expectations, or to their own promises. Unless Modi changes tack quickly, his election slogan of “minimum government, maximum governance” risks degenerating into “mediocre government, maximum nuisance.”—Devjyot Ghoshal

Five things on Quartz we especially liked

Welcome to the Jungle. The sprawling refugee encampment on France’s north coast has 6,000 residents, and is still growing fast. Aamna Mohdin, herself the child of a previous generation of refugees, visits the camp, in a series of unsettling encounters between her past and her present.

The high-earning poor of America. They have “upper-middle-class” income, but their savings are dwindling and they’re getting deeper into debt. What happens when they hit retirement? Allison Schrager on the increasingly perilous straits of a large slice of America’s workforce.

How Pantone became pop culture. A standardized set of color swatches for designers has come to form the basis of clothing designs, contemporary art, baked goods, and even a hotel. Anne Quito explores one of the world’s ineffable mysteries of branding and cultural appropriation.

Who’s fighting whom in Syria. Baffled by the web of alliances and hatreds between the various Islamist factions, rebel groups, and foreign governments? Keith Collins’ and Loubna Mrie’s interactive guide will set you straight—or at least make you feel OK about being confused.

All the zombie apocalypses, rated by plausibility. OK, there are no zombies. But let’s say there were zombies. How would the zombification pathogen propagate? We asked an infectious-disease expert, Tara Smith, to rate some of the most popular zombie movies and shows for their epidemiological realism. (Spoiler: The Walking Dead doesn’t win.)

Five things elsewhere that made us smarter

The silent corporate takeover of American justice. Class-action lawsuits are a weapon to consumer advocates and regulators, and a nuisance to companies. No prizes for guessing which side the New York Times backs in this excellent series, worth braving the paywall for, on the massive increase in binding arbitration clauses that effectively ban such lawsuits, denying basic due process to countless consumers and employees.

Willie Nelson’s campaign against Big Pot. The 82-year-old American music star wants to start his own sustainable pot business. New York magazine’s Wil Hylton smokes a terrifying quantity of weed with Nelson and emerges with a surprisingly cogent primer on the emerging business models of the US’s nascent marijuana industry.

To tackle jihadis, ditch reason. Dounia Bouzar is an anthropologist who advises the French government on how to turn young people away from violent radical Islam. Her methods are controversial, but as Pauline Mevel and Chine Labbé explain for Reuters, she’s learning a lot about the thoroughly modern tricks jihadist recruiters use to tap into the tortured teenage psyche.

Oil trading? Don’t try it at home. Bloomberg reporter Tracy Alloway thought it would be fun to experience the oil futures market by buying an actual bottle—not a big one—of sweet crude. Her modest investment, she quickly learns, will make no profits, be a huge pain to look after, probably help terrorists—and possibly kill her.

A first language never leaves its speaker. Linguist and writer Julie Sedivy barely spoke Czech after leaving her father’s country at the age of two. After his death, she writes in a haunting account in Nautilus, she returned to the Czech Republic, and using the language of her youth revealed forgotten vocabulary and memories.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, spare Pantone swatches, and crude oil samples to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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