Quartz Weekend Brief—The pope and Trump, African fintech, the love of a camera

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Poor Pope Francis: He had no idea what he was getting into.

On a recent visit to the US-Mexico border, the pope called Donald Trump “not Christian” for his anti-immigrant views, and the Republican presidential candidate went ballistic. The Holy Father would be singing a different tune, he raged, when ISIL overran the Vatican. The next day a papal spokesperson issued a mollifying retraction; Trump reacted in kind; and that seemed to be that.

Some say Trump was just being his usual “tetchy narcissist.” After all, to paraphrase Stalin, how many electoral-college votes does the pope have?

But there may be more to this surreal spat than meets the eye.

The battle between Trump and his leading rivals for the Republican nomination, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, is in part a battle for the Christian vote. White evangelical Christians, to be sure, not the Catholics of immigrant origins who love the pope and hate the Donald. But in the political realm, evangelicals and Catholics in the United States have lately overcome their historical antipathy to forge alliances around traditional conservative issues such as abortion and gay rights.

The pope’s sympathy for immigrants and the global poor, however, puts him at odds with that conservative wing. His comments this week favoring birth control for women at risk of catching the Zika virus appear to position him as even more liberal—even if, as some argue, it’s largely illusory liberalism.

So when the world’s top Catholic questions a candidate’s Christian credentials, it’s both a provocation to the right, and potentially significant in a tightly fought nomination race. And when Trump attacked the pope as “very political,” he didn’t mean it in an abstract sense. He meant the pope was meddling in US affairs.

How many electoral-college votes hath the pope? Perhaps more than you (or he) might think.—Gideon Lichfield

Five things on Quartz we especially liked

Americans will buy electric SUVs and pick-up trucks. They may not think they will, but oh, they will, says Steve LeVine, in a look at the US car market of the future. The American love of big cars will collide with increasingly strict regulations on emissions and mileage per gallon, and big cars will win—even if their engines have to sound like purring cats instead of growling tigers.

In China, Uber is a cure for loneliness. “To many upper-class Chinese drivers… Uber acts more like a social platform than a ride-sharing app, connecting them to new friends,” writes Zheping Huang, after meeting a surprising number of Uber drivers in Shanghai who are definitely not in it for the money.

Africa’s big banks are betting on bitcoin and blockchains. The “leapfrog effect”—the rapid spread of new financial technology (such as M-Pesa, the mobile money service) in areas that never had much in the way of traditional banking—is finally shaking African banks out of their complacency, Elizabeth Gould writes, and they’re scrambling to catch up.

Elderly addicts are society’s most vulnerable—and ignored—people. The frailty and loss that come with old age also drive many people to depend on alcohol and other drugs. But, says Jordan Rosenfeld, the stigma of addiction, and the notion that it’s a young person’s problem, means it’s never discussed in the context of the aged.

The highly profitable, deeply adorable, and emotionally fraught world of Instagram’s famous animals. The headline of Corinne Purtill’s piece says it all, really. That, and this: “Fur looks pristine. There are no litter boxes in sight. The lighting is perfect. Even animals on social media live better than you do.”

Five things elsewhere that made us smarter

Fuerdai is Chinese for “rich second generation.” Wealth—and the wealthy—are leaving China at a staggering rate, leading to a global, reality-show-worthy nouveau riche generation not unlike the Russians that came before. The New Yorker’s Jiangyeng Fan took a ride with the young, rich Chinese denizens of Vancouver, whose cash is changing the face of the city.

When is it okay for “disrupters” to break the law? Uber and Airbnb are known—and applauded—for skirting regulation, but the founder of Zenefits, a human-resources software company, just lost his job because of it. Why? Ben Thompson of Stratechery argues that it comes down to a few key factors, and in particular, whether the company can lean on its users to rally around its illegal—or borderline illegal—behavior.

The secret lives of Tumblr teens. The New Republic’s Elspeth Reeve delves into the lives of teenage misfits who find sanctuary and sometimes wealth in the anonymity of online communities, where soul-baring humor is the ultimate commodity. At least, that is, until they promote the wrong pyramid scheme.

Robert Caro on the limits of genius and the wielding of power. The ace biographer, author of authoritative books on Lyndon Johnson and Robert Moses, talks to Gothamist about documenting the lives of powerful men—and how real power is deciding the height of highway bridges.

For the love of a camera. To get through Craig Mod’s 8,000-word essay on the Leica Q, it may help to be a camera buff. But even if you’re not, this remarkable love-poem makes you appreciate the intense, deep connection that a craftsman can develop with a favorite tool.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, animal Instagrams, and highway bridge specifications to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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