Monday, July 11th, 2022


Bookmarked for Death?

It turns out that printed books are more than just Kindle-ing for a digital age that torches everything in its path. Independent bookstores, left for dead in an Amazon world, are not only surviving, they're thriving. There are more of them. They're doing pretty well. And people like the community factor as well. (If only you could use your thumb and index finger to enlarge the font on a printed book!) NYT (Gift Article): Some Surprising Good News: Bookstores Are Booming and Becoming More Diverse. "Two years ago, the future of independent book selling looked bleak. As the coronavirus forced retailers to shut down, hundreds of small booksellers around the United States seemed doomed. Bookstore sales fell nearly 30 percent in 2020, U.S. Census Bureau data showed. The publishing industry was braced for a blow to its retail ecosystem, one that could permanently reshape the way readers discover and buy books. Instead, something unexpected happened." To find out what, just turn the page...


Taking the Low Road

Lately, there has been a lot of pressure on corporations to protect employees and rescue society from unpopular policies and minority court opinions. But ultimately, most corporations are focused on expanding marketshare, and there are unofficial government systems in place to welcome those expansion efforts with open palms. This brings us to the Uber files, wherein we learn how a particularly aggressive corporation pushed the pedal to the meddle around the world. Uber broke laws, duped police and secretly lobbied governments.

+ "According to the documents and interviews with former employees, the company used a program called Greyball to keep authorities from hailing cars — and potentially impounding them and arresting their drivers. It used a technology called 'geofencing' that, based on location data, blocked ordinary use of the app near police stations and other places where authorities might be working. And it used corporate networking management software to remotely cut computers' access to network files after they had been seized by authorities." WaPo: 'Hit the kill switch': Uber used covert tech to thwart government raids.

+ Uber hired oligarch-linked Russian lobbyist despite bribery fears. ("Despite?")


Flynn Through the Out Door

"He has baffled old comrades with his transformation since being fired as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014. He led chants to lock up Hillary Clinton in 2016. In 2020, he posted a video of himself taking an oath associated with QAnon. He has endorsed crackpot fabrications of the extreme right: that Italy used military satellites to switch votes from Trump to Biden in 2020, that COVID-19 was a hoax perpetrated by a malevolent global elite, that the vaccine infused recipients with microchips designed for mind control. Has Flynn always been susceptible to paranoid conspiracies? Or did something happen along the way that fundamentally shifted his relationship to reality?" The always excellent Barton Gellman in The Atlantic: What Happened to Michael Flynn? (The question would remain similarly perplexing if you replaced "Michael Flynn" with countless other names...)


Turkey Trot

Alex Hawkins in GQ: How Istanbul Became the Global Capital of the Hair Transplant. "I'm lying on a table in Istanbul and a doctor I've never met is about to cut 4,250 holes in my head. He might be a doctor. I think he's a doctor? The procedure will take six hours. I have no friends or family within 5,000 miles. But in other ways I'm not alone. Thousands have joined me. We're from the U.S. and the U.K. and the rest of Europe and we've flown to Turkey, which is now the hair transplant capital of the world. Surgeries that cost $20,000 in New York can be found for $2,000 on the shores of the Bosporus." (Surgery on the head is one area where I tend not to bargain shop.)


Extra, Extra

Elon Pulls Out (For Once): You undoubtedly heard that Elon Musk pulled out of the Twitter deal. The market never really believed the deal would happen and now we move on to the legal battles. CNBC: 8 ways the Elon Musk-Twitter saga could end. And Axios: The biggest losers from Elon Musk's Twitter chaos. I boycotted Twitter the day they accepted Musk's deal. Now that I'm back, I shared my thoughts on the deal folly and why I think Twitter users were betrayed. (And then I got hundreds of comments and I was sort of sorry I was back on Twitter...)

+ No Such Thing as a Sri Lunch: Sri Lanka's president has stepped down leaving a power vacuum after months of protests. What's the issue? More like what's not, from power cuts to medicine shortages to 50% inflation. BBC: Sri Lanka: Why is the country in an economic crisis? And NPR: Sri Lanka is in a political vacuum as angry protesters occupy leaders' homes.

+ Variant Farm: America has decided the pandemic is over. The coronavirus has other ideas. And now there's a new variant that may spread even faster. Meanwhile, according to the NYT: The U.S. May Be Losing the Fight Against Monkeypox.

+ Dominance: "The Big Three — Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer — have now won 62 of the past 75 men's Grand Slam titles, and 20 of the past 22. They've also won 17 of the past 19 Wimbledons. It's madness." Novak Djokovic beat Nick Kyrgios, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3), on Sunday to win his seventh Wimbledon title. (It's the first time I've ever rooted for Djokovic in a final. It does have its benefits.)

+ Betrayed: "I don't know what part of Ms. Hutchinson's testimony enraged me most: that Mr. Trump wanted to be driven to the Capitol to lead the vicious riot, that he'd spurred his supporters on knowing they were armed, or that he ignored some of his advisers and even his daughter who told him to call it off, allegedly fighting with his own Secret Service agent after he refused to let the president be driven there. Or maybe it was the fact that Mr. Trump eventually told the rioters who'd criminally assaulted my colleagues and me while trying to bring down the U.S. government: 'Go home. We love you. You are very special.'" A veteran and a member of the Capitol Police speaks out in the NYT: I Was Betrayed by President Trump. (Join the club.)

+ As the Joe Flies: "President Joe Biden is facing an alarming level of doubt from inside his own party, with 64% of Democratic voters saying they would prefer a new standard-bearer in the 2024 presidential campaign."


Bottom of the News

"It took Ball 10 minutes to produce his famous solution: A bright yellow circle with black oval eyes and a creased smile. For his work, he was paid a one-time fee of $45." The money trail didn't end there. The $500m smiley face business.

+ Police in India have arrested a group of conmen who set up a fake version of cricket's Indian Premier League and fooled gamblers in Russia. Fake teams, fake refs, fake everything.

+ And 11 Facts About 7-Eleven on 7/11.