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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Behind the Stability in China’s Currency: Beijing’s Hidden Hand by Matthew C. Klein (Barron’s)

While official foreign exchange reserve data has been very stable in recent years, the fact that the yuan has traded in an extremely tight range is evidence of interventions by state banks; those interventions are starting to show up in other data as well. [Link]

Can China’s reported growth be trusted? (The Economist)

Private indicators of economic activity have been much more volatile than official indicators. Which is to be trusted? [Link; registration required]

Concerns Abound

Top Fund’s Blacklist Shows ESG Coming for Emerging Markets by Natasha Doff and Selcuk Gokoluk (Bloomberg)

A top-performing bond fund excludes investments that have low ESG ratings, excluding investments in countries like Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia. [Link; soft paywalls]

Ad Tech Could Be the Next Internet Bubble by Gilad Edelman (Wired)

While there are huge questions about the influence of social media networks and their ads on our behavior, some are concerned that the opposite problem is of greater concern: that highly specific targeting of advertisements doesn’t work at all. [Link; soft paywall]


Which Constitution Is Amy Coney Barrett Talking About? by Jamelle Bouie (NYT)

An excellent history lesson on the massive changes that Reconstruction brought to the Constitution, with the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments fundamentally changing the nature of the basic rules of American society. [Link; soft paywall]

One of the Largest Checks Ever (Morgan Stanley/Twitter)

Mitsubishi UFJ invested $9 billion into the collapsing American broker at the height of the financial crisis, leading to a 10-figure check. Here’s the inside story. [Link]


Dissolving the Fermi Paradox by Anders Sandberg, Eric Drexler, and Toby Ord (arXiv)

The Fermi Paradox (specifically, given some reasonable assumptions, that there are very high odds that intelligent life exists elsewhere in our galaxy, but there’s no evidence for it) was conclusively disproven back in 2018 to little fanfare. An excellent paper discusses why basic probability theory makes the Drake Equation which the Fermi Paradox rests on useless. [Link]

Rule of Law

‘Straight to Gunshots’: How a U.S. Task Force Killed an Antifa Activist by Evan Hill, Mike Baker, Derek Knowles and Stella Cooper (NYT)

A deep investigation into the killing of a murder suspect by US Marshalls, who opened fire with no verbal warning when they located a man accused of killing a right-wing protestor. [Link; soft paywall]


‘Jet fighter’ godwit breaks world record for non-stop bird flight by Daniel Boffey (The Guardian)

An absolutely incredible feat of flying saw a migratory bird fly from southwest Alaska to Auckland, New Zealand in 11 days, passing over 12,000 kilometers without touching down for rest or sleep. [Link]


Solar-plus-storage replaces coal plant in New Mexico, makes carbon-capture retrofit moot by Tim Sylvia (PV Magazine)

A landmark deal in New Mexico shows how cheap solar has gotten, with multiple installations of production and storage (in batteries) at prices that make coal completely uncompetitive. [Link]

Media Matters

An Arrest in Canada Casts a Shadow on a New York Times Star, and The Times by Ben Smith

The high profile New York Times audio project Caliphate has largely unraveled after its central source was arrested in Canada for violations of the country’s hoax law. [Link; soft paywalls]

COVID Business

Covid Recession Spawning Entrepreneurs in U.S. Amid Joblessness by Michael Sasso and Alexandre Tanzi (Bloomberg)

Business formations are exploding in the wake of the COVID recession, a big difference from the post-financial crisis period, and one we also discussed this week on the blog. [Link; soft paywall]

Is this how theater gets saved? Geffen magic show mines virtual box-office gold by Jessica Gelt (LAT)

Theaters are turning to magic shows broadcast via Zoom to keep the lights as the pandemic prevents Americans from gathering for performances. [Link; soft paywall]

Encore at Wynn Las Vegas changes operating hours due to low demand (KLAS)

After re-opening, Wynn’s Encore property will reduce operating hours thanks to low demand for gambling and other amenities. [Link; auto-playing video]

The Bitter End and Other Concert Venues Say They Won’t Survive Without a Bailout by Lucas Shaw (Bloomberg)

Clubs and bars in New York are at the end of their rope as restrictions on patronage and the general lack of demand for crowded indoor spaces put the industry into dire straits. [Link; soft paywall]

Quarantine Blues

It’s been 214 days since Disneyland closed. For these superfans, it’s agony by Lisa Boone (LAT)

Disneyland remains closed, and that’s been a brutal experience for Disney superfans who have spent years making regular visits to the park. [Link; soft paywall]

Goodbye, Sunny Florida. Hello, Frigid Winter. Covid Strands Canadian Snowbirds. by Paul Viera (WSJ)

“Snowbirds” are Canadians who spend the frigid winters of the Great White North in sunnier, warmer American climes. But border closures and the COVID epidemic mean the million Canadians who fly south for the winter won’t be doing so this year. [Link; paywall]

Teens Did Surprisingly Well in Quarantine by Jean M. Twenge (The Atlantic)

Despite concerns that lockdowns would be extremely hard on young people, teenagers appear to have done better or about the same in terms of mental health in 2020 relative to a similar assessment in 2018. [Link; soft paywall]

Rational Pragmatism

Emily Oster’s Pandemic Parenting Guidance Is All About the Data by Esmé E. Deprez (Bloomberg)

A Brown university economist has developed a huge following by boiling down complex risk families face in dealing with COVID-19. [Link, soft paywall]

The real lessons from Sweden’s approach to covid-19 (The Economist)

Sweden is neither a libertarian paradise nor a herd immunity-seeking disaster, but a pragmatic, high-trust example of how strong social cohesion can help fight COVID. [Link]

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Have a great weekend!

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