Welcome to Bespoke Brunch Reads — a linkfest of the favorite things we read over the past week. The links are mostly market related, but there are some other interesting subjects covered as well. We hope you enjoy the food for thought as a supplement to the research we provide you during the week.

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COVID Country

America’s Mixed Response to the Omicron Variant Comes Down to Geography by Jennifer Levitz, Jimmy Vielkind, and Nicole Friedman (WSJ)

Whether you’re cancelling plans and bunkering down or forging ahead as usual amidst a national surge in Omicron cases largely depends on which part of the country you’re living in. Northern urban areas that contain a very large share of the US population are being much more careful than Southern and more rural locales. [Link; paywall]

Beleaguered by Omicron, New York Operates at Half Speed by Andy Newmann and Dana Rubinstein (NYT)

While the latest COVID variant hasn’t led to a huge increase in deaths or even hospitalizations, that hasn’t stopped it from wrecking havoc on New York City’s rhythm, as infected workers are forced to stay home and the health care system struggles to digest the huge number of tests and new cases that are popping up. [Link; soft paywall]

COVInnovations

US Army Creates Single Vaccine Against All COVID & SARS Variants, Researchers Say by Tara Copp (Defense One)

Army researchers at Walter Reed have designed a novel vaccine which would allow recipients to be exposed to up to 24 different discrete pathogens, which could each be a distinct variant. Trials are very early, so this is a long way from being a usable inoculation. [Link]

To Track Covid-19 Surges, Scientists Are Studying Sewage by Josh Ulick (WSJ)

COVID patients excrete a steady stream of the virus when they’re infected, and changes in the background viral load from sewage can indicate the number of people in a population that are infected. The data is a useful real-time tracker for keeping an eye on the severity of outbreaks. [Link; paywall]

New Tech, Old Problems

Walmart drew one in four dollars spent on click and collect — with room to grow in 2022 by Melissa Repko (CNBC)

“Click and collect” or curbside pickup is a space dominated by Wal-Mart, with one of four dollars spent online for collection at stores captured by retail giant and equivalent to $20.4bn in total sales. [Link]

San Francisco-based DoorDash is requiring engineers to deliver food — and they’re furious by Joshua Bote (SFGate)

DoorDash employees are being told they have to use the tools they work on by stepping in to the driver’s seat and dropping off customer orders once per month. The practice is a return to the company’s roots, and was paused earlier in the COVID pandemic. [Link]

EV Industry

How Elon Musk’s Software Focus Helped Tesla Navigate Chip Shortage by Rebecca Elliott (WSJ)

Despite brutal semiconductor shortages that have wrecked havoc on the rest of the industry, Tesla has increased production by 80% this year. Software flexibility that allowed the use of alternative chips to fill supply gaps were a huge factor that allowed the company to keep factories rolling. [Link]

Rio Tinto Buys $825 Million Lithium Project in Battery Push by Thomas Biesheuvel and Yvonne Yue Li (Bloomberg)

Mining companies are scooping up supplies of lithium, copper, and other metal inputs that will help fuel the energy transition. The latest major transaction saw global giant Rio Tinto purchase an Argentinian lithium mine. [Link; paywall, auto-playing video]

Foreign Affairs

The Olympics Are Coming to China. So Is Omicron. by Louise Radnofsky, Rachel Bachman, and Ben Cohen (WSJ)

As Omicron floods across the world, the Winter Olympics in Beijing are facing an enormous public health challenge as they try to balance athletics with contained spread of COVID. [Link; paywall]

Turkey’s Currency Crisis Slams the Nutella Global Supply Chain by Jared Malsin (WSJ)

About 70% of the global hazelnut crop comes from Turkey, and the collapse of the lira is making it impossible for the country’s exporters to cover their costs of fertilizer, seeds, pesticides, and other inputs despite access to foreign currency revenues. [Link; paywall]

Bribery Doesn’t Pay

Minority Retort by Elsa Walsh (The NYer)

A 2005 profile of Nevadan Harry Reid, a giant of the state’s politics that passed this week. It includes a hilarious anecdote involving a sting operation against a casino man trying to bribe a much younger Reid. [Link]

Crypto

Crypto assets inspire new brand of collectivism beyond finance by Miles Kruppa and Hannah Murphy (FT)

Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, or DAOs, are a blockchain-powered form of social organization that goes beyond cryptocurrency in an attempt to improve on traditional forms of governance. [Link; paywall]

Demographics

2021 on track to surpass last year as nation’s deadliest by Mike Stobbe (AP)

The COVID pandemic sent the number of deaths in the US soaring and as a result life expectancy fell dramatically. As COVID has continued to rage, 2020 is likely to be surpassed by 2021 in terms of record deaths. [Link]

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Have a great weekend!

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