Weekend edition—In the Nobel’s defense, disaster seen through Snapchat, replicant outerwear

Good morning, Quartz readers!

Even if you’re not a scientist or literary critic, you likely couldn’t help but notice that this week was Nobel Prize week (the last prize, in economics, will be announced Oct. 9). Though most people may not remember any winner’s name next month, these 10 laureates will walk as demigods among colleagues for the rest of their lives.

They will also walk past more than a few raised eyebrows.

Awarding a prize to a few humans for such grand achievements is inherently unfair. Prizes by nature require arbitrary limitations; the science Nobels, for instance, don’t recognize large collaborations, and are restricted to anachronistic categories (where’s thetechnology Nobel?). Interpretations of achievement are subjective; the peace Nobel seems to reward hope more than actual peacemaking, with US president Barack Obama and Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos. And prejudice complicates the entire picking process; science Nobels overwhelmingly go to white men (women have won 18 of 593 prizes), while the literature Nobel has been criticized for excluding worthy contenders—such as Leo Tolstoy—that don’t fit the Swedish Academy’s political world view.

But as our attention careens between disasters, massive sporting spectacles, and overhyped entertainment awards, there’s still something valuable in setting aside a week to celebrate knowledge itself. Other disciplines have their “Nobels” too, like the Fields Medal in mathematics or the Turing Award in computer science. But it is only the Nobel Prize that manages to draw attention from beyond the ivory tower, turning even the man and woman in the street to marvel at our ever-growing pyramid of human invention and ingenuity—in a vital counterbalance to calls from politicians to reject “experts.”

Arbitrary and subjective as they may be, prizes and competitions seize the public’s attention precisely because they give us heroes. They make people care about abstract subjects through the story of an individual, even if our desire for role models is flawed to begin with. Critics of the Nobel Prize, often journalists or academics, tend to take a zero-sum approach when they decry the Prize’s selection flaws. But perhaps a better approach would be to shed light on even more prizes and deserving individuals on the frontiers of human knowledge, instead. After all, Nobel week doesn’t have to be the only week each year when we celebrate what it means to be an advanced species.—Akshat Rathi

FIVE THINGS ON QUARTZ WE ESPECIALLY LIKED

China’s blockchain ambitions—politics be damned. In a journey from Inner Mongolia’s bitcoin mines to a palatial villa for the Beijing’s bitcoin elite, Joon Ian Wong parses the reason why China has become dominant in the stateless cryptocurrency, and why its corporate establishment is now taking aim at the underlying technology.

Snapchat has become the perfect tool for understanding tragedy. The social network makes a surprisingly effective window into real-time news events—especially when disaster strikes. Mike Murphy reveals the deeply intimate perspective of Snap Maps, surfacing user views from Las Vegas, Catalonia and Mexico City, even after the news trucks leave.

The progressive case for Doctor Seuss. US publishers are trying to increase diversity among children’s books authors and characters. But Thu-Huong Ha argues that there’s also a progressive reason to seek out stories about characters who are country-less, gender-less, occasionally even face-less. Make room on the bookshelf, she says, for the absurd as well as the ultra-woke.

An ex-“healer” sees the light. Information bubbles don’t just block political discourse, they filter out scientific evidence—and can end up endangering people’s health. Akshat Rathi profiles a formernaturopath turned skeptic for a look at how even thoughtful people can end up blinded by false belief.

The breakout star of “Blade Runner 2049” is a faux-shearling coat. The gorgeous new sci-fi film stars Ryan Gosling, clad in a dashing shearling coat. But as Marc Bain reports, costume designer Renee April stayed true to the plot’s vision of a future in which most animals are extinct: Just like the film’s “replicant” androids, Gosling’s outerwear isn’t what it seems.

FIVE THINGS ELSEWHERE THAT MADE US SMARTER

Germans are increasingly obsessed with “Heimat.” Anxiety over globalization, digitization, and migration has spurred a nationwide soul-search about the concept of “homeland.” At Reuters, Andrea Shalal explores Germany’s surging demand for dirndls, cuckoo clocks and detective novels.

The appeal of Chinese-language schools. Malaysia’s system of vernacular schools—those that teach in Mandarin and Tamil—alongside national schools that teach in Malay, has long been a source of tension in the country. But Chinese schools are increasingly popular among the country’s non-Chinese students. Kate Ng describes the situation for the South China Morning Post.

An open global economy needs strong nations. Globalization advocates think nation-states are obsolete, unable to meet sprawling international challenges like climate change. But in Aeon, economist Dani Rodrik argues that the nation remains the most powerful meansof creating successful market economies.

How Breitbart took white nationalism mainstream. BuzzFeed reporter Joseph Bernstein takes a damning behind-the-scenes look at the right-wing US website, its editor Steve Bannon, and the billionaire Mercer family that funds it, based on a cache of emails exchanged within the site’s inner circle.

WANTED: Two piglets named Lucy and Ethel. Why is the FBI is hunting down escaped baby pigs from Smithfield Foods, the world’s biggest pork producer? At the Intercept, Glenn Greenwald examines the ties between the US government and Big Food, and explores animal rights activists’ powerful new tool: virtual reality experiences of factory farming.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, replicant coats, and spare Seuss books 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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CWS Market Review – October 6, 2017

CWS Market Review

October 6, 2017

 
“A bull market is like sex. It feels best just before it ends.” – Barton Biggs

It feels like I’m running out of ways to describe how calm and steady this market has been. This is truly one of the most remarkable markets in history.

Consider just a few stats. Since the election, the Dow has made 83 record closes. The S&P 500 has now risen for eight days in a row, and 16 times in the last 19 sessions. The index has gone 22 straight days without a daily fall of more than 0.3%. Historically, those days happen about 30% of the time, and we haven’t seen one in 22 days. The S&P has also run 17 straight days of closing, up or down, by no more than 0.5%. Thursday was the index’s sixth straight all-time high.

Not only are we at all-time highs, but volatility has nearly melted away. On Thursday, the Volatility Index, otherwise known as the VIX, closed at an all-time low of 9.19. It’s been lower on an intra-day basis, but Thursday was the lowest close ever. This is just amazing.

In this week’s CWS Market Review, we’ll take a closer look at the baby-step rally and what it means for us. I’ll also cover the recent earnings report from RPM International. They beat expectations and gave investors their 44th consecutive annual dividend increase. Not many stocks have done that. I’ll also have some updates on our Buy List stocks. But first, let’s look at the calm, cool and record-high stock market.

Doing Nothing Is the Smartest Thing to Do

I was invited on CNBC on Thursday. We usually do three segments, one of which is live on the air, the other two go up on the Internet. In one of the taped segments, the host, Eric Chemi, asked me about the market’s volatility and what investors ought to do about it.

I was stumped for a moment, because you’re expected to give some insightful perspective on whatever the subject is. In this instance, the answer is simple—keep doing what you’re doing. Just stay with your stocks and don’t get scared out of anything. I told the host that investors shouldn’t “overthink” this market. Just lie back and think of capital gains.

I apologize if this advice isn´t terribly interesting or earth-shattering, but nothing is what you should be doing right now. Go do it. Luckily, we have many good positions on our Buy List, and the market has definitely swung our way in recent weeks. Since August 24, our Buy List is up 5.98%, while the S&P 500 is up 4.64%. As I said, this won’t last forever.

This is a broad generality, but awful markets don’t spring directly on the heels of good markets. Rather, the market’s biggest plunges have typically come when stocks are already sliding. The market performs much better than average when it’s already at an all-time high. Also, volatility tends to be much lower. Bad markets create volatility, not the other way around.

I want to highlight a few currents running just beneath the surface of this market. For example, financial stocks have done quite well over the last month (we also talked about this on CNBC). For example, Bank of America just touched its highest price since 2008 (it’s still less than half its 2007 high).

Obviously, the changing perception of what the Fed will do in December is a major factor helping bank stocks. Also, a lot of the big banks haven’t done so well since the start of the year, so they’re playing catch up. This week we saw cycle-high yields for both the one- and two-year Treasuries. This is typically the area of the yield curve that’s most sensitive to interest rates. The one-year yield is up to 1.35%. Three years ago, it was at 0.10%.

Even better than the big banks are the regional banks. My favorite in this area continues to be Signature Bank (SBNY). The New York-based institution got a modest rebound recently, but it’s still below $130 per share. I think it’s possible for SBNY to earn $10 per share next year.

For the most part, this has been a balanced rally lately. Of course, many big energy stocks are a long way from their new highs. The key sectors in recent weeks have been materials, tech, industrials and financials. Healthcare has also been well.

The big standout has been the small-cap arena. The Russell 2000 has roared to life over the last several weeks. This rally is part of a trend that started last year. In less than 20 months, the Russell 2000 is up close to 60%. The even smaller small-caps, the micro-caps, have been en fuego. Charlie Bilello points out that the Micro-cap ETF (IWC) has been down only three times in the last 33 days. At one point, IWC was up 18 days in a row.

One of the weak areas of this market has been consumer staples. In fact, staples have lagged since early 2016, right at the same time small-caps started to soar. Part of this is clearly a shunning of defensive areas in favor of a little more risk. Defensive names usually shine when things are rough. After all, when the economy drops, folks don’t really cut back on their purchases of Campbell Soup. Instead, they don’t buy cars or homes, or go on vacations.

I like consumer staples for the steadiness of their business, but I have to concede that this is a bad part of the cycle for them. Stocks like Hormel Foods (HRL) and Smucker (SJM) are near the bottom of our Buy List this year. It’s tough to do well when you’re a quality player but your sector is not in favor. I still like these stocks, but we won’t see any improvement until the cycle turns, and that’s usually when things start looking bad for the economy.

Some Buy List stocks that look particularly good right now include Signature Bank (SBNY), Danaher (DHR), Alliance Data Systems (ADS) and Stryker (SYK). Remember to pay attention to our Buy Below prices. Now let’s look at our first Buy List earnings report in several weeks.

RPM International Raises Dividend for the 44th Year in a Row

On Wednesday, RPM International (RPM) reported fiscal Q1 earnings of 86 cents per share. That was two cents above expectations.

“We derived significant benefits from the nine acquisitions made in fiscal 2017, along with our selling, general and administrative (SG&A) cost-reduction actions taken last year. Rising raw-material costs negatively impacted gross profit margins. As a result, we instituted price increases, which began to take effect late in the quarter. After three years of foreign-currency headwinds attributable to the strengthening U.S. dollar, currency translation was essentially neutral this quarter,” stated Frank C. Sullivan, RPM chairman and chief executive officer.

This was for their fiscal Q1, which ended in July. Previously, RPM said they were expecting Q1 earnings ranging between 83 and 85 cents per share, so the company is doing a bit better than expectations.

When RPM originally made that forecast, it disappointed investors. Wall Street had been expecting 89 cents per share for Q1. So in retrospect, the company wasn’t only three cents short of the original forecast.

In July, RPM said they expected earnings for the fiscal year between $2.85 and $2.95 per share. That was below Wall Street’s expectation of $3 per share. RPM reiterated their $2.8- to-$2.95 range this week.

On Thursday, RPM announced a 6.7% dividend increase. In last week’s issue, I said I was expecting a modest increase, but this one is pretty decent. The quarterly dividend will rise from 30 to 32 cents per share. This is RPM’s 44th annual dividend in a row. That’s quite a streak.

Shares of RPM pulled back a bit after the earnings report. At one point on Friday, RPM got to $50.29 per share, although it recovered some lost ground. Going by Thursday’s close, the new dividend yields 2.48%. Using the mid-point of the company’s earnings forecast, the shares are going for 17.8 times this fiscal year’s earnings.

I’m keeping my Buy Below at $55 per share. RPM is a good stock, but it will take some time to shine.

Buy List Updates

There hasn’t been much news on Buy List, but I wanted to make a few adjustments. In last week’s issue, I mentioned the recent rally in shares of Ross Stores (ROST). The deep discounter usually reports fiscal Q3 earnings just before Thanksgiving. This week, I’m going to raise my Buy Below on Ross to $68 per share. I expect to see good numbers from Ross this holiday season.

One of our surprising winners lately has been Cinemark (CNK). I say surprising because the stock collapsed during August, but has roared back lately. Cinemark got a boost this week when an analyst at Morgan Stanley upgraded the movie chain. He said that fears of a box-office slowdown are overblown. I’m lifting my Buy Below on Cinemark to $41 per share.

I also want to raise my Buy Below on Moody’s (MCO). In July, Moody’s crushed expectations by 17 cents per share. They also raised their full-year guidance range to $5.35 to $5.50 per share. That was an increase of 20 cents per share at both ends. MCO is now a 50% winner for us this year.

When the last earnings report came out, I raised my Buy Below to $141 per share. Moody’s just broke that this week. I’m now lifting my Buy Below on Moody’s to $151 per share.

That’s all for now. The stock market will be closed on Monday in honor of Columbus Day. Some of the early earnings reports will be coming next week as well. On Wednesday, we’ll get a look at the minutes from the last Fed meeting. On Friday, we’ll get a look at the retail-sales report and consumer inflation last month. I’ll be curious to see if we’re anywhere close to the Fed’s 2% target. Be sure to keep checking the blog for daily updates. I’ll have more market analysis for you in the next issue of CWS Market Review!

– Eddy

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Named by CNN/Money as the best buy-and-hold blogger, Eddy Elfenbein is the editor of Crossing Wall Street. His free Buy List has beaten the S&P 500 eight times in the last ten years. This email was sent by Eddy Elfenbein through Crossing Wall Street.

#Catalonia crisis, “Yurinomics,” Saudi entourage

Good morning, Quartz readers!

WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY AND OVER THE WEEKEND

Madrid grapples with the crisis in Catalonia. Prime minister Mariano Rajoy’s cabinet will convene today to discuss the fallout from last weekend’s Catalan independence referendum. A Spanish court suspended the Catalonian regional parliament’s session scheduled for Monday, while anti-independence groups are planning protests in Madrid and Barcelona this weekend.

Donald Trump announces a rollback on birth control coverage. The US president is expected to issue (paywall) new rules on a federal requirement that employers include coverage for birth control on their insurance plans. A company could be exempt from the rule “based on its sincerely held religious beliefs” or “moral convictions.”

The US releases labor data. Analysts forecast the economy to have added about 77,000 jobs in September (paywall), a significant drop from previous months, in the wake of several severe hurricanes. The unemployment rate is expected to remain at 4.4%.

Japan delivers a verdict in the case of an overwork death. A Tokyo court on Saturday will decide the fate of advertising giant Dentsu, which has been accused of labor practice violations after a young employee committed suicide in 2015. The verdict follows the recent news that a reporter at broadcaster NHK also may have diedfrom overworking.

Tropical storm Nate hits Mexico. It’s expected to undergo “rapid intensification” in the Caribbean that could turn it into a hurricane by Sunday, when it could reach the US Gulf Coast between Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING

Trump plans to decertify the US-Iran nuclear deal. The president is expected to announce next week that the landmark deal is not in the national interest (paywall). That would force a reluctant US Congress to resolve the issue of sanctions within 60 days.

Abenomics will face Yurinomics. Yuriko Koike, the Tokyo governor who recently announced the formation of a new party to go up against prime minister Shinzo Abe in this month’s elections, announced that her economic plan will be called “Yurinomics,” which could include a tax on corporate cash reserves and a freeze on Abe’s proposed consumption tax increase.

The US vowed to block imports made by North Korea workers.The customs department made the announcement following an investigation by the Associated Press into seafood processed by North Korean laborers in China that is then exported abroad—meaning Americans who consume the seafood could be inadvertently contributing to Kim Jong-un’s coffers.

Facebook omitted all mentions of Russia in a report on the election. In an April report titled “Information Operations and Facebook” detailing the social network’s influence on the US presidential election, Facebook removed mentions of Russian meddling on the platform because some felt its understanding of Russian activity was too speculative, the Wall Street Journal reported(paywall).

Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin was cleared of wrongdoing for his jet use. The US treasury said that Mnuchin didn’t violate any laws in his use of government-funded planes, which racked up a total cost of $811,797.81 across seven trips. The department’s inspector general, however, recommended more rigorous oversight of the use of government planes in the future.

QUARTZ OBSESSION INTERLUDE

Thu-Huong Ha on the reason Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel literature prize. “Throughout his works Ishiguro manages a deft creep—slowly, yet precisely and painfully, making your stomach turn—through a ‘mist of forgetfulness,’ as he might say. His fiction gives readers a pervasive sense of something felt but not known, or something once known, but lost.” Read more here.

MARKETS HAIKU

When finance firms flee / Separatists get cold feet / Freedom has its costs

MATTERS OF DEBATE

Google’s headphone jack-less phone proved Apple right. A year after the launch of the iPhone 7, it turns out we’ll have to live with dongles.

The Nobel Peace Prize should only be given to dead people.That would avoid the problem (paywall) of recipients betraying their principles—as many accuse Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi of doing.

Germany’s answer to Hugh Hefner was a woman. But whereas Hefner “liberated” men to live out their sexual fantasies by all means, Beate Uhse urged mutual pleasure built on communication and sexual education.

SURPRISING DISCOVERIES

Russia may ban selfies by soldiers. The defense ministry is tired of social media posts that disclose sensitive military information.

Blame Neanderthals for your sunburn. Genes of our ancestors from 30,000 years ago still have an impact on how we tan, our hair color, and our circadian rhythms.

Hippos are dying out because of demand for their teeth. Thedemand for hippo teeth sharply escalated after a 1989 ban on the international trade of elephant ivory.

The Saudi king brought his own golden escalator to Russia.On his four-day visit to Moscow, king Salman bin Abdulaziz’s entourage includes 1,500 people, as well as a golden escalator and his own furniture and carpets.

There’s now a robot you can eat. It’s made out of entirely edible gelatin and glycerin materials.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, Neanderthal genomes, and Ishiguro novels tohi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day or download our apps for iPhone and Android.

#Trump goes to Vegas, #Uber-#SoftBank deal, kawaii cocktails

Good morning, Quartz readers!

WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY

Donald Trump heads to Las Vegas. After the deadliest shooting in US history, the president will pay his respects to the 59 people killed and more than 500 wounded. He is likely to avoid any discussion of gun control.

The winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry is announced. Thecontenders include researchers who developed lithium-ion batteries, who invented click chemistry, and those who kickstarted the field of biological chemistry.

Google hypes its latest smartphone. The Pixel 2 will be announced, along with smart speakers, a new laptop, a VR headset, and other gadgets.

Monsanto announces earnings. The agrochemical giant reports its fourth-quarter results as it awaits the completion of its $66 billion acquisition of Germany’s Bayer, which is under intense scrutiny by the European Union’s antitrust body. The deal is not expected to close until the beginning of 2018.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING

The Spanish king censured Catalonians. Two days after Catalonia held an independence referendum in favor of breaking away from Spain, King Felipe VI said in a rare televised speech that Catalan independence supporters were undermining Spain’s unity and democracy, as well as the region’s social and economic stability. Catalonia’s president said the region would declare independence in the next few days.

A Russia-linked election ad targeted Michigan and Wisconsin on Facebook. The ads, shown last year ahead of the presidential election, included anti-Muslim messages, CNN reported. Trump won by a margin of less than 1% in both states.

The Las Vegas shooter planned his attack meticulously. Police said that gunman Stephen Paddock set up cameras inside his hotel suite and in the hallway, and also had nearly 50 guns spread over three locations. Investigators also said that Paddock’s girlfriend, whojust returned from the Philippines to the US, is a person of interest in the investigation; Paddock had wired $100,000 to the country shortly before the attack.

Uber approved SoftBank’s investment. After a board meeting, the company decided to go ahead with an investment of at least $1 billion from the Japanese tech giant. Uber also decided to increase the number of board seats to 17, including seats for SoftBank representatives, while a new voting policy will curtail founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick’s power.

QUARTZ OBSESSION INTERLUDE

Benjamin Smarr on the Nobel prize winners who researched circadian rhythms. “This re-examination of other scientific fields through the lens of circadian rhythms has heralded the construction of ‘chronotherapy’ in the medicine industry. If a drug is most toxic at a certain time of day, but most effective at another time of day, then timing the dose means you can use a smaller amount of the drug, get more bang for your buck, and have fewer side effects. This has made a big impact in cancer treatment and sleep therapy, for example, but its full potential is still in its early days.” Read more here.

MARKETS HAIKU

Tesla production / Misses the mark by a mile / Markets: Buy that stock!

MATTERS OF DEBATE

There are too many college majors. Specialized degrees seem like a good thing, but they’re highly restrictive in the labor market.

Google and Facebook need to stop hiding behind their algorithms. When fake news spreads during a crisis, their excuses get old.

Nobel prizes help us know what makes fruit flies tick.Celebrating basic scientific research is crucial, particularly in today’s political climate—groundbreaking discoveries often come from unexpected places.

SURPRISING DISCOVERIES

A Danish oil company is renaming itself after the father of electromagnetism. “Ørsted” is a nod to Dong Energy’s transformation into the world’s largest offshore wind farm.

Nature sometimes creates perfectly spherical boulders.“Concretion” turns sediment into spheres over millions or billions of years.

Germany’s far-right party used an ad agency in Texas. Harris Media, a digital advertising firm based in Austin, also worked on campaigns for Ted Cruz and Trump.

Japanese alcohol companies want women to drink more. But efforts to sell pink-themed drinks to women haven’t had much success.

Eating peanuts while breastfeeding can prevent childhood allergies. Exposure can help young immune systems develop a tolerance for certain foods.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, peanut butter, and exceptionally round rocks tohi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day or download our apps for iPhone and Android.

#Barça on strike, RIP Tom Petty, more Merlot

Good morning, Quartz readers!

WHAT TO WATCH FOR TODAY

Barça goes on strike. None of the soccer team’s professional or youth teams will train amid a Catalonia-wide strike in protest of the government’s attempts to stop the Catalan independence referendum on Sunday. Barcelona defender Gerard Pique was jeered by fans while training with the national team on Monday, and has said he would leave the team if his support for Catalan independence was a problem.

Uber’s board meets. The ride-hailing company will discuss board reforms that could bring Uber closer to an IPO and also limit the power of founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick—who named two allies to the board Friday—as a shareholder and board member. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will also meet with transportation regulators in London.

Donald Trump visits Puerto Rico. The president plans to tour the stricken US territory, despite his attacks on San Juan’s mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz, after she accused the federal government of poor disaster relief efforts. Trump will also visit the US Virgin Islands, where he owns a home that was destroyed by Hurricane Irma.

Equifax’s former CEO is called before Congress. In a prepared testimony to a congressional committee on the credit bureau’s massive data leak, Richard Smith blamed the incident on the credit bureau’s IT department. The company also said that 2.5 million more people than initially thought had their data exposed, taking the total number of people in the US affected to 145.5 million people.

The US Supreme Court hears arguments on partisan gerrymandering. Democrats are challenging the practice (paywall), following a redistricting in Wisconsin by Republicans in 2011 that led to a huge win for the party in 2012 elections despite receiving less than 50% of the popular vote. The Supreme Court has previously ruled that gerrymandering on race lines is unconstitutional, but has not ruled on political lines.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING

The death toll rose to 59 in the Las Vegas shooting with over 500 injured. A 64-year-old gunman, identified by police as Stephen Paddock, opened fire at a concert from a window in the Mandalay Casino and was later found dead in his hotel room. Police found hundreds of rounds of ammunition and at least 23 firearms in his room, which they believe were purchased legally, and are investigating whether the guns were capable of firing automatically.

Facebook said 10 million Americans saw Russia-linked US election ads. The social network revealed the number shortly after it said it plans to hire 1,000 more people to review ads in order to avoid Russia and other actors using ads on the platform to interfere in elections.

The US plans to kick out most of Cuba’s diplomats. The move tothrow out some two-thirds of Cuba’s embassy staff out of the US comes after a number of employees in the US embassy in Havana suffered mysterious illnesses allegedly linked to sonic attacks.

Militants attacked a military camp in Indian-administered Kashmir. Indian media said three soldiers were injured in an attackat a base near Srinagar airport. The incident is being treated as a terrorist attack, and one of the attackers has been reportedly killed.

Tom Petty died at 66. The American rocker died in California after suffering a heart attack, his family confirmed in a statement. “It’s shocking, crushing news. I thought the world of Tom. He was great performer, full of the light, a friend, and I’ll never forget him,” Bob Dylan said of Petty’s death.

QUARTZ OBSESSION INTERLUDE

Thu-Huong Ha on a new book teaches kids all the “lost words” from nature and outdoor play. “In 2007, Oxford released a new edition of its ‘Junior’ dictionary, aimed at kids aged seven and older. A handful of parents and pedants were critical of which words had been dropped from and added to the edition. Words about nature—’moss,’ ‘blackberry’ and ‘bluebell’—were gone, and in their place, ‘blog,’ ‘chatroom,’ and ‘database.’” Read more here.

MARKETS HAIKU

When horror happens / it’s all too predictable / which stocks will go up.

MATTERS OF DEBATE

Country-music artists need to speak up about America’s gun culture. Country music is a key part of the National Rifle Association’s lobbying efforts to sell its “lifestyle” (paywall).

Amazon is “too basic” for the fashion industry. Poor photography and a reputation for being utilitarian may quash its style ambitions.

Hollywood is relying more and more on blockbuster reboots.Sequels that mark the major anniversaries of films to pump up the nostalgia factor are particularly reliable box-office boosters.

SURPRISING DISCOVERIES

MRI machines could soon be wearable. Sensors could come in the form of a skullcap to image the head or a shirt to peek inside the torso.

Merlot is bouncing back. Sales have spiked for the first time sinceSideways ruined its reputation.

A delivery startup is helping Nigerians have safe sex. Slide Safe discreetly delivers on-demand STD kits, condoms, and lubricants.

Pride and Prejudice is getting the virtual-reality treatment. A game inspired by Jane Austen novels takes players back to the Regency era, where gossip is the weapon of choice.

Russia is North Korea’s new internet provider. TransTeleCom will bolster the broadband connection provided by China.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, wearable MRI devices, and Mr. Darcy avatars tohi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day or download our apps for iPhone and Android.

Bespoke Brunch Reads: 10/1/17

Good Morning!

Below is our “Bespoke Brunch Reads” linkfest featuring some of our favorite articles over the past week.

Investing

Meet Wall Street’s New King Makers: the ETF Strategists by Asjylyn Loder (WSJ)

With centrally managed portfolios of ETFs becoming more common, cross-market impacts can often be tied back to single decisions makers allocating huge volumes of cash. [Link; paywall]

Clean Energy

London summit 2017: Breaking Clean by Michael Liebreich (Bloomberg New Energy Finance)

Don’t be scared off by the daunting page count – many of these slides have only a few words and it’s a much quick read than you might expect at 170+ pages. Liebreich gives an excellent recap of where non-carbon energy has come from, and where it’s going, including some downright hilarious pessimism about the growth of installed capacity from forecasters. [Link; 171 page PDF]

What’s Old Is New Again

The History of Sears Predicts Nearly Everything Amazon Is Doing by Derek Thompson (The Atlantic)

While Amazon’s ethos seethes disruption and innovation, it’s taking a truly remarkable number of pages from the playbook of Sears, the first American company to offer ubiquitous home delivery. [Link]

The Oil Ghost Towns of Texas by Dan Murtaugh (Bloomberg)

West Texas has been home to booms and busts in the oil industry since oil was first discovered in the region and the current crop of busts is part of that long heritage. [Link]

Economics

Labor Market Outcomes in Metropolitan and Non-Metropolitan Areas: Signs of Growing Disparities by Alison Weingarden (FEDS Notes)

Part of a growing focus on distributional growth analysis, this paper does an excellent job analyzing the disparities between large metros and rural metros in terms of employment and wages. [Link]

Demographic Transition and Low U.S. Interest Rates by Carlos Carvalho, Andrea Ferrero, and Fernanda Nechio (FRBSF Economic Letter)

An econometric analysis of the impact of low population rates and an aging population on the real neutral rate of interest. [Link]

An Inflation Expectations Experiment by Carola Binder (Quantitative Ease)

Do consumers’ unrealistically high inflation expectations respond to priming by seeing charts of actual inflation rates or learning about the Fed’s 2% target? Indisputably, yes. [Link]

Asia

The IMF’s China Problem by Brad W. Setser (Council On Foreign Relations)

The macro imbalances of China (excessive credit growth, a huge fiscal deficit) should result in a very high current account deficit, but the absurd savings rate in China (~46% of GDP) means that the 1% current account surplus would be roughly 4-5x as high without imprudent domestic policies. The real problem is not China’s current account surplus: it’s the savings rate. [Link]

The Lamps are Going Out in Asia by Joseph Dethomas (38 North)

We acknowledge this column is somewhat alarmist, but still think the logic it uses is worth considering and should be read: the current North Korean situation really does look like the summer of 1914 in Europe in many ways. [Link]

Productivity

Study: Women with more children are more productive at work by Ylan Q. Mui (WaPo)

St. Louis Fed researchers show in a recent paper that working economists with children are much more productive than their peers (as measured by output of papers). [Link; soft paywall]

Politics

Trump’s State-Tax Plan Could Cause Headaches for 52 Republican Lawmakers by Sahil Kapur (Bloomberg)

With Senate rules limiting the scale of budget impact for tax cuts wanted by GOP lawmakers, they’re forced to find pay-fors and have targeted the state and local tax deduction. Only problem? That deduction splits the Republican caucus badly in the House, where a unified front is needed to pass the package without Democrats. [Link]

Have a great Sunday!

Weekend edition—#Germany’s culture, #Vietnam’s content farms, humanity’s demise

Good morning, Quartz readers!

“Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.” That’s Oscar Wilde in his 1889 essay, “The Decay of Lying.” Considering the most dominant cultural expression of our time seems to be the endless stream of movies set in the Marvel Comics universe, it’s no wonder Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are morphing into real-life superheroes before our eyes. This week, Bezos’s Amazon unveiled a slew of products that bring affordable Alexa AI technology even deeper into our homes—right onto nightstands, even. Musk, our non-fictional Tony Stark, has come up with Mark 2 of his plan to colonize Mars. While he’s at it, he’s promising rocket-ship rides between cities right here on Earth.

As I write this, I’m excited to go to my nearest Whole Foods and buy some steak for dinner. I wonder whether Bezos’s price cuts since acquiring the high-end grocery chain (known as “Whole Paycheck,” even by its CEO) have extended to animal protein, and when lab-grown meat will make the butcher counter obsolete. As I mull ribeye v. porterhouse, Musk is coming to Puerto Rico’s rescue, sendingTesla battery packs to the hurricane-stricken island. He leapt into action as Donald Trump’s White House had to be poked and prodded into grudgingly waiving outdated regulations to extend desperately needed aid.

But, superheroes can’t fix all our problems, especially if they’re more interested in celestial bodies. “It’s 2017, we should have a lunar base by now,” Musk says. What would be even nicer to have in 2017 is an Earth free of another horrific refugee crisis born of religious persecution, which is what’s happening as the Rohingya flee Myanmar. While we beg Jeff Bezos to throw Amazon’s clout behindfixing the health-care industry, it’s also worth remembering superheroes tend to attract supervillains. So, maybe the future of the human race shouldn’t be left solely in the hands of our friendly neighborhood billionaires.—Paul Smalera

FIVE THINGS ON QUARTZ WE ESPECIALLY LIKED

The old origins of new meat. After hotshot food startup Hampton Creek revamped its board, it started gobbling up patents and IP for lab-grown meat, including an original patent that the Indonesian-born Dutch soldier Willem van Eelen dreamed up in a 1930s prisoner-of-war camp. Chase Purdy dives into the unlikely history of the man known as the “godfather” of meat growing technology, bringing readers to the moment of its, uh, conception.

Germany’s cultural values are the opposite of Silicon Valley’s.The Free Democrats, or FDP, won 10% of the vote in Germany’s election with a platform that boasts a distinctly startup-style, tech-friendly ethos. But Rebecca Schuman writes that the vast majority of Germans aren’t eager to emulate Silicon Valley culture, with its emphasis on careerism and individual success. “To most of Germany, the hagiography of bootstrap capitalism is not just morally wrong,” she writes, “it’s incomprehensible.”

What the world’s financial bigwigs think about bitcoin, in emojis. If you’re a business titan, you’d better be prepared with a considered view on bitcoin. Joon Ian Wong and John Detrixhe break down the opinions of the likes of Warren Buffett, Ray Dalio, and Jamie Dimon on a scale of 🤑, 🤔, or 😰.

A shoplifting solution was ruled “textbook extortion.”Corrective Education Company, which contracts with big retailers like Walmart, offers the accused a choice—get turned into the police, or pay hundreds of dollars for a “restorative justice” course. Hanna Kozlowska reports that critics, including a California judge, say the approach can too easily strip people of their rights.

Tough times in AMERICA! America in 2017 is a divisive, messy, baffling place. So is AMERICA!, a chain of USA-themed airport and casino gift shops whose merchandise has become starkly political since 2016. Corinne Purtill traveled to Las Vegas, the headquarters of AMERICA!, to see how the story of a divided nation plays out in tchotchkes and t-shirts.

FIVE THINGS ELSEWHERE THAT MADE US SMARTER

“Made in Vietnam” now applies to your information as well as your t-shirt. Facebook and Google have powered the rise ofEnglish-language content farms around the world. The sites churn out articles on seemingly random topics—Native American subjects are unusually popular—and are often plagiarized, or just plain fake. That’s worrisome, explains Buzzfeed’s Craig Silverman, for content that focuses on health, for instance, or, say, politics.

Why environmental activists shouldn’t talk about overpopulation. More people use more resources, but Vox’s David Roberts explains why it’s dumb to make a big deal about it: “Talking about population growth is morally and politically fraught…the best ways of tackling it (like, say, educating girls) don’t necessitate talking about it at all.”

Humanity’s demise may be lurking in complex software. Our way of thinking about engineering failures no longer works. Software, unlike mechanical systems of the past, confers infinite flexibility—and just as many ways to fail, from crashed 911-call systems to uncontrolled acceleration in Toyota cars. As we build systems beyond our ability to fully test and understand, James Somers at The Atlantic explores how software engineers may have to give up codingto regain control over their world—and ours.

How I learned to worry about the Bomb. Perhaps because the leaders of two of the world’s nuclear powers are exchanging playground insults with each other, Nickolas Roth at Belfer Center’s Project on Managing the Atom and Matthew Bunn of the Harvard Kennedy School felt now would be a good a time to remind us what happens at ground zero of a nuclear attack. In an article published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Roth and Bunn describe inhorrifyingly captivating detail the sheer destructive power of even the smallest, most elementary of nuclear devices, and what the effects would be if one were set off in a major urban center.

The emotional labor that women do at home. In the 21st century most enlightened men understand that they’re expected to contribute to raising the kids and doing household chores. But as Gemma Hartley writes in Harper’s Bazaar, a lot of men still rely on their wives and girlfriends to tell them what to do, leaving women stuck in the thankless, exhausting position of household manager. “I don’t want to micromanage housework,” Hartley writes, explaining her frustration when her husband says he’s happy to clean up after himself—if she asks. “I want a partner with equal initiative.” The stakes of the issue go to the heart of gender equality, and whether we want a new generation to grow up believing that it’s a woman’s job to silently, sweetly clean up.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, meat patents, and restorative justice tohi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day, or download our apps for iPhone and Android.