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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Pandemic Stories

‘Vodka in Your Coffee Cup’: When Pandemic Drinking Goes Too Far by Alix Strauss (NYT)

The rise in alcohol consumption during the pandemic – driven by boredom, isolation, and a need to self-medicate – is leading to concerns over a new rise in alcohol abuse among demographics that don’t traditionally get a lot of attention for substance issues. [Link; soft paywall]

Dogs ease pandemic isolation for nursing home residents by Mary Esch (AP)

Nursing home residents who are isolated from family and the rest of the outside world thanks to COVID are finding relief in the form of four-legged friends who can offer companionship. [Link]

Only the world wars have rivalled covid-19 for news coverage (The Economist)

Almost half of the stories published in the New York Times and The Economist mention coronavirus in 2020, a share only rivalled by “war” during the periods of the First and Second World Wars. [Link; registration required]

In pandemic America’s tent cities, a grim future grows darker by Michelle Conlin (Reuters)

The surge in houselessness and difficulty providing relief through traditional programs means that tent cities are spreading and growing rapidly across the entire country. [Link]

Culture Wars

Why British Kids Went Back to School, and American Kids Did Not by Chris Cook (The Atlantic)

Strong unions and decentralized decision making have kept American teachers from being subject to the same risks as European teachers, while students in the UK and EU have missed little in-person instruction unlike the US. Despite objection from teachers, Europe also reached a consensus on schools…unlike the US, where policy became deeply politicized. [Link; soft paywall]

Does Affective Polarization Undermine Democratic Norms or Accountability? Maybe Not by David Broockman, Joshua Kella, and Sean Westwood (OSF Pre-Prints)

A new paper argues that polarization does not celebrate norm violations, lower political candidate quality, reduce compromise, and lead to misperception of actual conditions. Instead, “affective polarization” are generally limited to everyday life, not the political realm. [Link]

Gold Rushes

Agriculture Industry Bets on Carbon as a New Cash Crop by Jacob Bunge (WSJ)

Farmers are being paid to use their fields as carbon sinks, but there are questions about the practice that a desire to offset carbon emissions incentivizes. [Link; paywall]

Betting companies defined the year in sports business by Daniel Roberts (Yahoo!)

While sports themselves were badly impacted by COVID, sports betting businesses had an unprecedented boom that may be here for a long time to come. [Link; auto-playing video]

Covid-19 Propelled Businesses Into the Future. Ready or Not. by Greg Ip (WSJ)

E-commerce has been given a massive boost by COVID-19 in a boon to companies that moved quickly to offer a digital version of traditionally physical or in-person transactions. [Link; paywall]


Exclusive: Apple targets car production by 2024 and eyes ‘next level’ battery technology – sources by Stephen Nellis, Norihiko Shirouzu, and Paul Lienert (Reuters)

Apple’s long-rumored Project Titan continues in the dark, with the company aiming for a 2024 production date. The company is looking to build a passenger vehicle that might include “breakthrough” battery tech that would reduce cost and increase range. [Link; auto-playing video]

How Amazon Wins: By Steamrolling Rivals and Partners by Dana Mattioli (WSJ)

As the online retailer has expanded in scale, it has repeatedly entered relatively small markets and smashed competitors with its efficiency. [Link; paywall]

Taiwan’s TSMC begins hiring blitz for $12bn US plant by Cheng Ting-Fang and Lauly Li (Nikkei Asia)

The world’s largest chipmaker is building a large fabrication facility for its 5 nanometer chips in Arizona and is set to start hiring hundreds of engineers and other plant staff as it nears the start of operations. [Link]


Flash Surge in World’s Biggest ETF Linked to ‘Outlandish’ Trades (Bloomberg)

A fat finger trade in SPY led to more than 150,000 trades totaling over $50mm took less than 1 second to play out, driven by an order that ignored potentially lower prices in order to quickly fill demand. Either the choice of order or its high price are likely the result of human order. [Link; soft paywall]

A Speculative Frenzy Is Sweeping Wall Street and World Markets (Bloomberg/Yahoo!)

Stimulative policy, enormous optimism about the outlook, and the easiest financial conditions in history are fueling staggering speculative activity in the US equity markets. [Link]

SEC Adopts New Ad Rule, Allows Client Testimonials by Melanie Waddell (ThinkAdvisor)

Changes to regulations related to advertising and marketing will allow advisors to start using testimonials and endorsements from clients. [Link]


George Lucas sues family and town over Marin County property rights by Andrew Chamings (SFGate)

After anti-development forces prevented George Lucas from expanding his studio, he decided to build low-income housing on the plot. The result is an eight year battle between Lucas and neighbors who don’t want lower income people living in their community. [Link]

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