Weekend edition—Gun control, trade-war winners, escape rooms 

Good morning, Quartz readers!

Americans are exceptionally more likely to be gunned down in a public place than residents of any other country in the world.

This exceptionalism is a choice, one made each time nothing is done to limit access to military weapons after the latest burst of killing. Increasingly, the exceptionalism is linked to the white nationalist rhetoric embraced by president Donald Trump and the Republican party.

Don’t forget it as you view Trump’s photo op: He and his wife Melania held an orphaned baby whose parents were among the 22 people gunned down in El Paso, Texas. In the photo, Trump is grinning and offering a thumbs-up.

The killer in El Paso, like killers at synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, or mosques in Christchurch and Quebec, cited rhetoric mainstreamed by Trump. Everyone knows what Trump and Fox News do when they describe non-white people with words like “infestation” and “vermin” and “invasion,” talk of “sending them back” and “shooting them,” and warn of “murderers” and “rapists.”

We know because we’ve studied genocides, ethnic violence, and hate crimes for decades. This rhetoric gives people permission to act. To call it a dog whistle disrespects canine subtlety.

We also know that many Republicans look the other way, because without white nationalism their political coalition could fall apart. That coalition also needs guns, and the money provided by the gun lobby. Already, the scandal-ridden head of the National Rifle Association is on the phone with the US president, telling him that his voters won’t support background checks on gun owners.

You will hear that gun restrictions are too complicated to enforce, even though history in Australia and South Africa shows it isn’t so.

The shooter in Dayton, Ohio was not apparently motivated by politics. But though he was recognized by many in his life as dangerous and unstable, he was able to buy an AR-15 variant and a 100-round drum magazine over the internet. A year from now, will there be any US federal laws in place to prevent a similar purchase?

I doubt there will be an exception. —Tim Fernholz

Five things on Quartz we especially liked

Who’s winning the US-China trade war? Many worry that the bilateral tariff fight between the world’s two largest economies will cause long-term damage to the global economy. For now, though, the tussle is clearly benefiting certain third-party countries, among them Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and Canada. In a series of charts, Youyou Zhou shows the surging exports to the US or China such nations are enjoying in categories ranging from soybeans to circuit boards.

A cool idea. As the Earth warms in coming years, one thing is clear: People will be reaching to crank up their air conditioning. The problem is that most AC units contribute to the global emissions problem. As Chase Purdy writes, a California company wants to change that, harnessing the cold emptiness of outer space to more efficiently make the coolness we crave.

One country, two phones. Police in Beijing have been stopping passersby at random to check what’s on their cellphones. Many suspect they’re looking for information related to the Hong Kong protests, which China’s state-controlled media has suppressed. As Jane Li reports, many Chinese internet users are starting to more actively resist such intrusiveness by sharing tips and software hacks. Key advice: Carry two handsets, one ready for police inspection.

Stop the hate. At least eight monk seals have been shot or beaten to death by humans on the Hawaiian island of Molokai in recent years. Such violence, on top of environmental factors, only hastens the decline of the endangered marine mammals—of which about 1,100 remain worldwide. As Justin Rohrlich reports, the US government wants someone to broker peace between the seals and the locals, who resent the protected pinnipeds stealing fish, among other issues.

Sledgehammer politics. For well over half a century, its special status in India gave Jammu & Kashmir independence over all matters except defense, foreign affairs, and communication. This week, Narendra Modi’s government abruptly modified that arrangement in a move to give itself more control and bifurcate J&K into two union territories. As Kuwar Singh writes, the decision could have far-reaching consequences on democracy in the region—and may embolden secessionists.

Five things elsewhere that made us smarter

A not-so-open future. By tech-world standards, the smartphone is now middle-aged. What comes next? As investors place their bets, one thing seems certain: We won’t see anything like Android again. For Bloomberg Businessweek, Shira Ovide shows that Google’s free mobile operating system has in many ways powered the smartphone revolution, and speculates that the biggest platforms in the future—when all manner of objects will have their own fast internet connection—will be more proprietary.

Who needs precogs? As mass shootings continue unabated in the US, the desire to identify potential perpetrators before they do something terrible—a la the 2002 film Minority Report—grows stronger. For Cosmopolitan, Andrea Stanley profiles a woman (aka the Savant) who tracks angry men online and has an “uncanny ability to suss out when, exactly, hate speech will morph into violent action.”

Scrubbing out stress. One way to relieve anxiety is to clean your house: Research has linked higher stress levels to living in a messy environment. Another way is to watch other people clean their homes, which is one factor behind the rise of “cleanfluencers,” as Tyler Kingkade writes in the Atlantic. YouTube cleaning videos are not only popular; they’ve helped people get through depression. It’s all about taking refuge from the chaos of the world.

Deep three-pointer. Next month will see the release of NBA 2K20, the latest offering in one of the world’s most popular video-game series. In a first, WNBA players will be featured. Given the equal-pay conversation in sports, writes Claire Breen for The Lily, it “feels like a ripe moment for women athletes to be represented in video games, too.” Aside from inspiring girls to play pro basketball, the game could also generate broader interest in WNBA games.

A satisfying puzzle. In real life, it feels like so many of our actions—recycling, for instance—don’t amount to much. That’s one reason escape rooms are now a big business: For an hour so, the line between cause and effect is clear. For Vox, Rachel Sugar examines the rise of the industry, from an experiment in Japan to the staple of corporate team-building is it today, noting that in the US alone there are now at least 2,300 escape rooms.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, inter-species mediators, and soothing housecleaning videos to hi@qz.com. Join the next chapter of Quartz by downloading our app and becoming a member. Today’s Weekend Brief was edited by Steve Mollman and Kira Bindrim.