Good morning, Quartz readers!
They eulogized him as a “warrior for peace,” but Shimon Peres spent much of his career as one of Israel’s chief hawks. He built up the country’s defense industry, created its nuclear program, and for years championed the settlements in the occupied territories—the settlements that, ironically, are now one of the biggest obstacles to the peace process for which he shared the Nobel prize.
His rebranding as a dove is thanks in no small part to his country’s rightward shift since the peace process collapsed. It’s also thanks to the elder-statesman patina that settled on him as his political rivals died off. If in his prime he was Israel’s Hillary Clinton—competent, experienced, but not much liked—by the time he assumed the ceremonial role of president in 2007, he was its Nelson Mandela, a grandfatherly embodiment of the country’s best, most noble self.
This is what the world leaders who flocked to his funeral were mourning—not only Peres the man, with a man’s flaws and complications, but Peres the invocation of the Israeli ideal. He was the last of Israel’s demigods, those who oversaw the state-building project from its very beginning; a link to a more unpretentious, more egalitarian, and more idealist country, a place that actually believed the Palestinians were grateful to it for occupying them in 1967—and in which, for a brief moment after it took over the role from Egypt and Jordan, that was actually true.
As president, Peres no longer really had the influence to serve as Israel’s moral compass. But his presence enabled the fiction that it had one. This is what is being mourned now, too: the loss, to Israelis and their allies, of the last figurehead of the “light unto the nations” that they once hoped Israel would become.—Gideon Lichfield
FIVE THINGS ON QUARTZ WE ESPECIALLY LIKED
The problem with European citizenship. The EU gave its citizens all the benefits of internal migration, without trying to cultivate a feeling of belonging to the countries they moved to. Kabir Chibber draws a historical parallel with ancient Rome to show why—as the Brexit vote made clear—this was a fatal flaw in the European project.
What you get when you “buy” digital goods. Think you understand a terms-of-service agreement? Take our quiz, and you may be surprised. Christopher Groskopf explains how online retailers have, in the absence of laws about digital goods, stealthily eviscerated the concept of ownership, leaving you with very few rights.
Should we be scared of bushmeat? More than three-quarters of all new human diseases emerge from animals. In a Quartz collaboration with Mosaic, Yepoka Yeebo traced the route of wild meat from the bush to the dinner plate in Ghana and tried to understand why, despite the risks, people still eat it. And Akshat Rathi analyzed whether the illegal trade in such meat could be the source of the next global pandemic.
Denim’s existential crisis. The growing popularity of “athleisure” wear has prompted Levi’s to add—horror!—stretch fabric to its iconic 501 jeans. Marc Bain charts the changing tastes of fashion and how brands are struggling to keep denim cool in the face of the yoga-pant onslaught.
The trials of traveling while African. Or, how it feels to be a second-class global citizen. Kenyan writer Ciku Kimeria has been, as she puts it, a “good African”—she’s visited countless Western countries, and always left on time. “So, why is it that every time I want to come back, you still doubt I will leave?”
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FIVE THINGS ELSEWHERE THAT MADE US SMARTER
The children who mine for your batteries. Cobalt goes into the lithium-ion cells that power all your digital devices, and most of it is mined in the Congo by adults, and sometimes children, with no safety equipment, health coverage, or even regular pay. The Washington Post’s investigation is superbly done and shocking, not least for the mining companies’ own ignorance—or indifference.
When Goldman went to Tripoli. After Muammar Qaddafi’s regime renounced nuclear weapons, some $60 billion in oil wealth was suddenly freed from international sanctions. Goldman Sachs was the first to pounce. For Bloomberg Businessweek, Matthew Campbell and Kit Chellel tell the sorry tale of Libya’s ill-fated sovereign wealth fund, or what happened “when Wall Street’s most aggressive bank took on the world’s most incendiary client.”
How China will win the robot wars. Hundreds of engineers compete in Shenzhen’s annual RoboMasters tournament, organized by Chinese drone maker DJI. The Verge’s Ben Popper explored the contest and spoke with DJI’s elusive CEO, Frank Wang, about how he’s corralled 1,500 engineers to build a robotics company he hopes can compete against any of the tech giants of the West.
Take health reporting with a mug of salt. Studies published by agencies like the US Food and Drug Administration are supposed to be the sort of gold-standard science the public can trust. But a Scientific American investigation by Charles Seife shows how the FDA manipulates media coverage of its work by denying access and offering deceptive half-truths to some news organizations, and forcing others to play by restrictive rules.
Hitler was a junkie. The Nazis’ aggressive deployment of crystal meth pills, cocaine chewing gum, heroin, and morphine was a contributor to some of their biggest World War II successes—including the invasion of France—and to Hitler’s ultimate dissolution. In the Guardian, Rachel Cooke profiles Germany’s Norman Ohler, who credits his own past use with helping him write a remarkable history of the Third Reich’s unbounded drug problem.
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