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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Crime

Chicago sees decline in murders, other violent crimes for second straight year by Tim Stelloh (NBC)

While the number of shooting deaths in Chicago remains appallingly high, over the last two years murders have fallen by over a quarter in a remarkable turnaround. That turnaround may prove temporary but for shattered communities it’s welcome regardless. [Link]

The Fed

Powell Says Fed Prepared to ‘Shift’ Path as Economic Data Warrant by Jim Tankersley (NYT)

After a worrying set of declines in stock prices and interest rate collapses, the Federal Reserve Chair took to the stage at the annual American Economic Association conference in Atlanta to walk back hawkish rhetoric and signal a risk to the 2-hike forecast from the FOMC for 2019. [Link; soft paywall]

Real Estate

Wall Street’s Big Landlords Are So Hungry for Houses They’re Building Them by Ryan Dezember (WSJ)

Demand for new homes isn’t just coming from households who want to buy; investors are desperate to gobble up new units for rent as part of a broader shift to rentals from ownership in the single family housing market. [Link; paywall]

College Football

He runs one amateur football game per year. He makes more than $1 million. by Will Hobson (WaPo)

The paycheck hauled in by the Outback Bowl chair is a truly gaudy sum given the paltry revenues, negligible charitable giving, and athletes’ amateur status, and is part of a broader pattern of excessive administrator salaries across the college sports world. [Link; soft paywall]

Taxes

In a Shutdown, IRS Will Take Your Money, but Give No Refunds by Richard Rubin (WSJ)

As appropriations have run out and the government shutdown continues, the IRS won’t be paying refunds until funding is restored. That puts a huge chunk of disposable income for a large, likely-to-spend segment of the population at risk. [Link; paywall]

Renewables

India cancels plans for huge coal power stations as solar energy prices hit record low by Ian Johnston (The Independent)

14 gigawatts of coal fired power plants have been cancelled as Indian solar projects come in at radically lower prices than were thought possible a few years ago. [Link]

Mathematics

First Big Steps Toward Proving the Unique Games Conjecture by Kevin Hong (Quanta)

A conjecture which in practical terms asks the question “can you efficiently color networks in a certain way?” has huge implications and is close to being solved. [Link]

Religion

Mormon church issued money substitute scrip by Neil Shafer (Numismatic News)

During the height of the Great Depression, a bishop in Salt Lake City authorized the issuance of scrip, a novel solution to the problem of providing ample supplies of liquidity during a financial crisis. [Link]

Faith on the Hill (Pew Research Center)

The official numbers on the stated religious affiliation of Congress, which has a religious make-up substantially different from that of the population overall. [Link]

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Have a happy New Year!

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