Wednesday, July 12th, 2017


Ash Backwards

At the end of a scary movie, you'll often see a seemingly defeated villain twitch a finger or open an eye, giving you the heads-up that they'll be back (bigger and badder) in the sequel. As is the case with these left-for-dead villains, rumors of the death of the cigarette industry have been greatly exaggerated. Consider these numbers from the top 5 tobacco companies: "In 2016, they shipped 2.27tn cigarettes, more than 300 for every man, woman and child on the planet, racking up combined sales of $150bn. Their combined profits reached $35bn, allowing investors in those companies to receive dividends of $19bn." Even in the US, where the percentage of folks who smoke has dropped, overall population growth has maintained a steady demand for cigarettes. From The Guardian: How big tobacco has survived death and taxes.

+ As laws (and reality) have set in across the western world, Cigarette sellers are repeating their old tricks in new markets. Threats, bullying, lawsuits: the tobacco industry's dirty war for the African market.

+ "Actors are smoking more in popular movies in the US, with an increase of 72% in appearances of tobacco on screen between 2010 and 2016."


Neutralizing the Net

"We live in an uncompetitive broadband market. That market is dominated by a handful of giant corporations that are being given the keys to shape telecom policy. The big internet companies that might challenge them are doing it half-heartedly. And Ajit Pai seems determined to offer up a massive corporate handout without listening to everyday Americans." In The Verge, Nilay Patel on neutrality, broadband competition, and why the Internet is eff'd (again).

+ Digg has a roundup of how major websites are protesting for net neutrality today. (When a debate comes down to massive tech companies vs massive broadband companies, it's probably not great news for anyone who isn't a massive company.)


The Lyin, the Witch Hunt, and the Warden

"Collusion is not a legal term in this context, nor is it a crime. Neither is listening to outlandish tales, even from foreigners. But Trump, Jr's e-mails do raise questions of possible criminal behavior, starting with violations of campaign-finance laws." The story is dominating the headlines and it's pretty clear that having the meeting was a bad idea. But are Donald Trump Jr's e-mails evidence of a crime? According to his dad, it's all part of the greatest political witch hunt in history. (With all due respect to Salem.)

+ "The Russia story has become the brier patch from which the president seemingly cannot escape. It dominated his trip to Europe last week and, after he leaves on Wednesday night for a couple of days in France, it may dominate that trip as well. Every time Mr. Trump tries to put the furor behind him, more disclosures thrust it back onto the Washington agenda." From the NYT: Rancor at White House. And from WaPo: White House under siege.

+ This lede from McClatchy won't offer much respite for the beleaguered White House: "Investigators at the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the Justice Department are examining whether the Trump campaign's digital operation – overseen by Jared Kushner – helped guide Russia's sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton."

+ The Daily Beast: Inside the Semi-Secret Life of Rob Goldstone, the Playboy Who Could Bring Down Trump. (I'm not sure it's even semi-secret. When Goldstone arrived for the now infamous meeting at Trump Tower, he checked-in on social media.)


You Can Call Me Wray

During his Senate confirmation hearings, FBI director nominee Christopher Wray said no one has asked him for a loyalty oath, "and I sure as heck didn't offer one."

+ And about the Russia investigation: "I do not consider Director Mueller to be on a witch hunt."

+ Newshour: Who is Christopher Wray?


Ruby Tuesday

Mirror mirror on the wall, which is the greatest fake holiday of them all? Is it Black Friday? Is it Cyber Monday? Nope. At least for Amazon, it's Prime Day. The company sold about a billion dollars worth of products on Tuesday. And the top selling item was the Amazon Echo, a talking assistant that lets you buy more stuff from Amazon.

+ "The paths taken by Apple and Google manifest alternative answers to one of the main questions facing capitalism today: What should public companies do with all of the money that they're making?" The Atlantic: Capitalism the Apple Way vs. Capitalism the Google Way.


Life, On the Rocks

"A chunk of floating ice that weighs more than a trillion metric tons broke away from the Antarctic Peninsula, producing one of the largest icebergs ever recorded and providing a glimpse of how the Antarctic ice sheet might ultimately start to fall apart." From the NYT: An Iceberg the Size of Delaware Just Broke Away from Antarctica.

+ NatGeo: The Larsen C Ice Shelf Collapse Is Just the Beginning -- Antarctica is Melting.


Alone at the Water Cooler

My wife will out of town when Game of Thrones returns this Sunday, and she made me promise that I wouldn't watch it until she gets back. This is a rare occurence. It used to be that I found myself watching the same shows as my friends and many of my peers. But these days, it's the exception if I'm even watching the same shows as the other people in my house. The Ringer's Alison Herman on The Very Last Piece of the TV Monoculture (which is on a pay TV service that not everyone even gets): "Thrones is the last vestige of the monoculture, a dying and distinct model with its own advantages and blind spots. In its stead, we'll be left with the fractured, micro-targeted landscape to which Thrones is the glaring, currently only, and possibly final exception." (This is part of the reason Trump is so huge. He's one of the last shows that everyone is watching.)


The Real Sharing Economy

Getting a taxi with an app instead of by sticking out your arm is not really part of any sharing economy. Today's best example of a sharing economy is Netflix. We're all sharing out passwords. "Twenty-one percent of streaming viewers ages 18 to 24 said they had accessed at least one digital video service such as Netflix Inc, HBO Now or Hulu by using log-in credentials from someone outside their household at some time."


A Thread of Decency?

"We had six sewing machines, then 12 machines. It was a nail-biter. It still is a nail-biter. That's part of the chills and thrills of starting up a business. You're always on edge, but I love it. The workers are happy. It's exciting. We want to prove something." Dov Charney was squeezed out of American Apparel and failed in his attempts to get the company back. So the controversial entrepreneur came up with a new plan ... that sounds a whole lot the like the old plan (and has almost the same name). From Bloomberg: Dov Charney Couldn't Keep American Apparel, So He Restarted It.


Bottom of the News

You probably have a picture in mind when you think of Saudi Arabia. But I'm guessing that picture is nothing like the ones featured in Wired's look inside the surreal Saudi suburbia built by an oil giant.

+ Kids, bedtime is a social construct.

+ It's not particularly exciting, but it could be the worst 20 seconds of professional soccer ever played.