Weekend edition—the inescapable truth, #Musk loves math, and alien indifference

Good morning, Quartz readers!

For as long as there’s been media, politicians have decried its treatment of them. US president Donald Trump has taken it to a new level by branding any story or outlet he disagrees with as “fake news.” As bad habits go, Trump’s routine recasting of facts as the lies of his enemies is particularly egregious.

And now it’s spreading. An increasing number of executives in business and elsewhere have seized on Trump’s strategy of discrediting the media to deflect attention from their own struggles.

Michael Johnson, CEO of nutrition-supplement maker Herbalife, said the company’s financial struggles were “agitated by” public complaints from a short-seller, glossing over its $200 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission for running a pyramid scheme. Officials at FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, denounce “FIFA-bashing” in the media, even as more of them get swept up in corruption charges. And Eddie Lampert, CEO of Sears Holdings, this week lambasted the “irresponsible” media for “singling out” the 131-year-old retailer with negative coverage. Lampert says it’s “very unfair” that journalists keep using the word bankruptcy to describe the likelihood of Sears filing for, well, bankruptcy.

In business, as in life, there are often two sides to a story. Entire industries rest on the importance of analyzing companies’ successes and struggles. But commerce also rests on mutually agreed-upon facts. Sure, there’s nuance in how you ended up with them, or where you go next, but numbers—like hips—don’t lie. —Kira Bindrim & Oliver Staley


The secret to Elon Musk’s success. Whether it’s reaching Mars or boring tunnels through the earth, Tesla/SpaceX CEO Elon Musk loves to explain visionary projects using simple arithmetic. Michael Coren looks at how Musks’ back-of-the-envelope calculations help his companies execute on majorly complex ideas.

The making of Emmanuel Macron. France’s new president faces his first big test next month, when voters elect the parliament he will have to work with. Paul Smalera examines how the demise of 1990s-era third-way politics shaped 39-year-old Macron’s worldview, whileRoya Wolverson profiled Macron’s wife and closest political confidant, 64-year old Brigitte Trogneux.

A North Korean university seeks foreign faculty. Detention gets a whole new meaning at Pyongyang University for Science and Technology, which—isolationism be damned—provides “education, with an international outlook.” Tripti Lahiri notes that applicants should mind the fine print: Recruiters want “unpaid volunteers” willing to “submit to authority.”

American liberals are preparing for the apocalypse. Although doomsday “preppers” are often associated with the far right, Matthew Sedacca explores how an increase in anti-globalist sentiment is leading liberals to get ready for disaster.

Let your first name set you free. Sarah Todd found a diverse tribe when she explored the universe of women sharing her first name. And no wonder: When freed from the cultural expectations of a distinctive name, you can make of yourself what you will.


Meet the man who made “E-stonia.” Former president Toomas Hendrik Ilves transformed Estonia from a former Soviet republic to what Wired once called “the most advanced digital society in the world.” President Ilves and others will be at Brain Bar Budapest, Europe’s biggest festival on the future. Forward the Daily Brief to a friend and you both may win tickets to the event.


Extraterrestrials won’t have much use for humans. Movie-spun fears of alien invaders are overblown, Lewis Dartnell writes at Literary Hub. Lifeforms that evolved elsewhere aren’t likely to need us for food, and the chances of genetic compatibility are so low we won’t even make good breeding partners. Plus, robots are better slaves.

Rick Perry isn’t getting much time with his boss. The White House is keeping visitor logs private, so Politico built its own database of who Trump sees. With 22 documented contacts, secretary of state Rex Tillerson leads cabinet appointees in face time with the president; energy secretary Perry has had only three.

Major League Baseball is making headway on race. Fewer and fewer black athletes play baseball professionally, but Sports Illustrated’s Jack Dickey reports that MLB initiatives designed to attract young US prospects are reversing that trend.

The government controls how you shop. Frank Trentmann’sEmpire of Things argues that government policies—not the individual—write the history of consumption. In the New York Review of Books, Debra Cohen argues that states don’t just control spending—they shut it down.

How Houston became the most diverse city in America. An influx that started with Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s and Latinos in the ’80s, Brittny Mejia explains in the Los Angeles Times,transformed the Texas metropolis into “a major political centrifuge for immigration reform.”

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, survival gear, and alien slave applications to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day, or download our apps for iPhone and Android.



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