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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Lives Lived

John C. Bogle, Founder of Vanguard Group, Dies at 89 by Jason Zweig and Sarah Krouse (WSJ)

Near-zero cost access to index investing was a revolutionary idea in the 1970s when Vanguard’s first products were launched. Today, the ability to access equity markets and gain exposure to the market with no active selection is virtually free, mostly thanks to Bogle’s vision. [Link; paywall]

Weird News

Why every ski trail map looks the same by Katharine Schwab (Fast Company)

More than 250 trail maps for 175 mountains around the world have all been painted by the steady hands of James Neihues, the subject of a new coffee table book funded on Kickstarter. [Link]

100 years ago in Boston: The day molasses was deadly fast by William J. Kole (AP)

A century ago a giant storage tank in the bustling heart of New England burst, with more than 2.3mm gallons of molasses flowing through the streets at 35mph, killing more than 20. [Link]

Friends Don’t Let Friends Become Chinese Billionaires by Ray Kwong (Forbes)

In 2011 there were 115 billionaires in China. Since, 72 have died, with 15 murders, 17 suicides, 7 accidental deaths, and 19 from illness. Another 14 were executed. [Link]

Canadian air traffic controllers send pizzas to U.S. counterparts working without pay by Sarah Smellie (CBC)

Since 9/11, there’s been a special link between air traffic controllers monitoring the eastern approaches to North America from Europe and the busiest airport hub in the country (New York’s three airports). Amidst the US government shutdown, controllers in Atlantic Canada sent their counterparts a batch of pizzas to alleviate some of the pain of furloughs. [Link]

Attention Economy

Is having the most popular photo on Instagram worth anything? We’re about to find out. by Kurt Wagner (recode)

This week a single picture of a brown egg on Instagram became the service’s most-liked picture. While the effort to make the egg the most-liked picture is interesting, is it worth anything? [Link]

Investors Are Singing Along to ‘Baby Shark’ by Jacky Wong (WSJ)

For those not familiar, Baby Shark is an earworm nursery rhyme originating in Korea (link in case you’re not familiar) that has gotten a huge amount of play and the accompanying merchandising attention as well. [Link; paywall]

Tech Hardware

Taking the smarts out of smart TVs would make them more expensive by Nilay Patel (The Verge)

While it may sound counter-intuitive, smart TVs allow their manufacturers to also run content, advertising, and data businesses which lower the sticker price of their hardware. [Link]

As Carmakers Change Business Models, This Chip Firm Is Perfectly Positioned by Jon Markman (The Street)

Hyundai has introduced a new walking car, just one example of rapidly proliferating vehicle form factors with a range of attributes that Monolithic Power Systems (MPWR) can help enable, fueling the chipmakers’ business. [Link]

Recession Chatter

Yellen Warns Anecdotal Signs Show Businesses Putting a Pause on Spending by Anne Riley Moffat (Bloomberg)

In a somewhat unusual move for a recent Fed Chair, Yellen worried publicly about the path of Fed policy under Chair Powell, citing less synchronized global growth as a major risk. [Link; soft paywall]

Markets Take the Lead When It Comes to Factoring in Recession by Liz McCormick, Sarah Ponczek, and Molly Smith (Bloomberg)

Market moves into the end of last year (falling yields, flattening curve, falling equities, widening credit spreads) suggest a roughly 50% chance of a recession in the next year, though of course much of that rise in risk premiums have since reversed. [Link; soft paywall]

Shady Dealings

WeWork’s CEO Makes Millions as Landlord to WeWork by Eliot Brown (WSJ)

In what can’t be described as anything approaching arms’ length transactions, a series of building leases by WeWork came on buildings the CEO had an ownership stake in. [Link; paywall]

Sacklers Directed Efforts to Mislead Public About OxyContin, New Documents Indicate by Barry Meier (NYT)

New details in a court filing against the maker of OxyContin show that the Sackler family directed efforts to mislead the public about dangers of opiods. [Link; soft paywall]


A Must-See Gymnast, and the Meaning of Joy by Jason Gay (WSJ)

The floor routine of UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi inspired, thrilled, and delighted the internet this week; the reason may be as simple as the pure joy of the routine. [Link; paywall]

ESPN’s Ex-President Wants to Build the Netflix of Sports by Ira Boudway (Bloomberg)

After resigning in the wake of a scandal involving substance abuse and the possibility of a sexual harassment allegation, John Skipper wants to bring on-demand streaming sports to the masses. [Link; soft paywall]


Four former Fed chairs call for US carbon tax by Leslie Hook (FT)

27 Novel Laureates, 15 former CEA chairs, and 4 different former Fed Chairs have signed a letter urging the implementation of a carbon tax. Just as remarkable, the broad agreement across the economics profession has the support of companies like Shell, BP, and ConocoPhillips. [Link; paywall]

Middle-Class Growth Sparks Latest Surge in CT Tax Receipts by Keith M. Phaneuf (WestportNow)

Connecticut’s fiscal picture has improved rapidly of late as income tax receipts (typically driven by middle class households) have surged much more than estimated. [Link]

South Florida Mansion Sales Surge as Tax Exiles Seek Savings by Prashant Gopal & Jonathan Levin (Bloomberg Quint)

In response to state and local tax deduction caps in 2017’s tax reform bill, high income households are moving to Florida and bidding up real estate. [Link; soft paywall]

Policy Lab

Microsoft pledges $500 million to tackle housing crisis in Seattle, Eastside by Vernal Coleman and Mike Rosenberg (Seattle Times)

In an effort to combat the collapsing affordability of Seattle housing that Amazon and Microsoft have themselves contributed to, Microsoft unveiled a huge chunk of funding for new projects to ensure access to affordable housing. [Link]

A Failure to Adjust by Scott Lincicome (The Bulwark)

The argument against a so-called “China shock” being responsible for manufacturing job losses in the United States. [Link]


The Super-Secure Quantum Cable Hiding in the Holland Tunnel by Jeremy Kahn (Bloomberg Quint)

Light’s combined wave and particle properties are used in a technology that insures taps on fiber optic cables can’t be run. [Link; soft paywall]


BNP Loses $80 Million on S&P 500-Linked Derivative Trades by Donal Griffin, Harry Wilson, and Alastair Marsh (Bloomberg)

The US equity market plunge in Q4 led to an $80mm loss in index derivatives for BNP Paribas’s New York-based trading unit. [Link; soft paywall, auto-playing video]


Is a Serial-Killer Gang Murdering Young Men Across the U.S.? by Nicole Weisensee Egan (The Daily Beast)

A group of retired detectives claims evidence exists linking 100-350 deaths. Per their investigations, they are murders conducted by an organized group of serial killers with cells in dozens of US cities. [Link]

Personal Data

The 773 Million Record “Collection #1” Data Breach (Troy Hunt)

A trove of email addresses and passwords with more than 2.6bn rows has hit the internet, assembled from a range of sources and posted for download on a file sharing site. [Link]

Judge unseals trove of internal Facebook documents following our legal action by Nathan Halverson (Reveal)

Children make for easy targets, and while in Facebook’s case the harm caused is only monetary, the social media company’s conduct resulted in huge credit card bills. New documents detailing the company’s policies are being unsealed. [Link]

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