Thursday, December 17th, 2015


Karma Bro

I will be off tomorrow for my daughter's show at school. But this edition will keep you busy. It's a good one to forward to a friend.

Christmas came early. Finally some good news. There is a god. That's just a sampling of instant reactions to the news that Martin Shkreli was marched towards the joint wearing a hoodie and handcuffs after being arrested for securities fraud, and for "efforts to conceal the fraud, which led him to operate his companies … as a Ponzi scheme." Pharma Bro raised the ire of just about everyone on planet Earth when he raised the price of a life-extending drug by more than 5,000% (interestingly, that part was legal). Yes, this is the same Martin Shkreli who bought the Wu-Tang Clan album for $2 million and has given a series of offensive interviews -- one in which he even dared to offend Taylor Swift. In other bad news for Pharma Bro, we just raised the price of a Get Out of Jail Free Card to $641 million.

+ The big remaining question: Can we free Wu-Tang's album.


Putting the Cartel Before the Horse

"Javier's arrest would be hailed by officials in the States as a decisive victory in what may have been the longest active case in the DEA's history -- a rare triumph in the War on Drugs. 'We feel like we've taken the head off the snake.'" But as history has shown, this is a snake with a lot of heads. A special report from ProPublica and The Atlantic: Why Chapo Guzman was the biggest winner in the DEA's longest running drug cartel case: Devils, Deals and the DEA.

+ "This is a story from the other side, the tale of a man who kidnaps, tortures and kills for a drug cartel. His story is the mirror image of those recounted by survivors and victims' families, and seems to confirm their worst fears: Many, if not most, of the disappeared likely are never coming home." AP with a killer's story.

+ For an excellent read on the topic of the broken drug war and its impact on Mexico and other countries, check out Don Winslow's excellent novel: The Cartel.


The Gray Area-ing of America

"It just comes down to what's wrong and what's right. You can't squint hard enough to make this gray." The NYT on the story of some highly questionable killings in Afghanistan and the decision to clear those involved: Navy SEALs, a Beating Death and Claims of a Cover-Up.


A La Cart

Spend, spend, spend. Scale, scale, scale. For years, Amazon deployed that strategy, often at the expense of profits. Did the strategy pay off? Consider this stat: 39% of all US money spent at online stores goes to Amazon. Mind boggling. User interface and customer experience is everything. These numbers bring up a pressing question. After two decades of ecommerce, why is it so hard for retail sites to create a decent shopping cart experience?


Drone Alone

"On the afternoon of October 7, 2001, the first day of the war in Afghanistan, an Air Force pilot named Scott Swanson made history while sitting in a captain's chair designed for an RV. His contribution to posterity was to kill someone in a completely novel way." From Wired: How rogue techies armed the Predator, almost stopped 9/11, and accidentally invented remote war.


Swing and a Mistrial

"The result is a serious blow to activists who'd hoped the trial would pave the way for new accountability for police, and it's a huge blow for prosecutors. Still, the result could have been much worse." The Atlantic's David A. Graham on the lessons from the mistrial in the first Freddy Gray case.

+ This year, the number of charges brought against police officers for on-duty killings tripled. One big reason: Video. (Don't underestimate the power of media momentum.)


April School’s Day

The email came in to several school districts. Each one reacted differently. NYC brushed the whole thing off as an elaborate hoax. LA officials, working in the shadows of the San Bernardino shootings, decided to shut down an entire district. What would you do? Here's the email.


From a 3 Hour Cruise to a 12 Hour Binge

"In TV, narrative has always been an outgrowth of the delivery mechanism. Why are there cliffhangers? So you'll tune in next week. Why are shows a half-hour or an hour long? Because real-time viewing required predictable schedules. Why do episodes have a multiple-act structure? To leave room for the commercials." In the NYT, James Poniewozik goes full TV nerd in an examination of why streaming TV isn't just a new
way to watch. It's a new genre

+ The best eleven minutes in sports in 2015.


This is Not the Freud You’re Looking For

Silicon Valley execs and insiders are really into Star Wars. Like really into it. Maybe that's because some of them think they're living it: "This heroic-CEO narrative is not simply a descriptive move -- a fantasy told by and to capitalists in order to bolster their self-image or reputation -- it's also a prescriptive formula." From The Awl: Star Lords.

+ A question for our times: Is it OK to not like Star Wars?


Bottom of the News

"It takes the burden of family planning off women. It's inexpensive, has a short recovery period, and, so far as operations on genitals go, minimally invasive." Meet the organizers of World Vasectomy Day.

+ Putin calls Trump a "very bright and talented man." (Translations can be difficult though...)

+ The NYT goes full dental: "American adults have more missing teeth than their English counterparts, 7.31 compared with 6.97." (It's enough to make on rethink the revolution...)

+ Celebrating the Japanese toilet.

+ And since I will be off tomorrow, here are your weekend reads (and then some) courtesy of Bloomberg: Our editors, writers, designers, and producers choose their favorite articles from outside Bloomberg: The Jealousy List 2015.