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.

International Affairs

Martin Schulz puts fire in the heart of Germany’s centre-left by Guy Chazan (FT)

A chronicle of the unlikely face of a rise in the moderate left in Germany, which has a chance to become the senior partner in the country’s grand coalition government. [Link; paywall]

North Korea Executes Five Senior Officials With Antiaircraft Guns by Joanthan Cheng and Kwanwoo Jun (WSJ)

Purges have been undertaken in the wake of the assassination of the dictator’s younger brother in Malaysia. Some of the details are spectacular and horrifying to say the very least. [Link; paywall]

Mystery deepens over Chinese forces in Afghanistan by Charles Clover (FT)

As China continues to expand its role as a global geopolitical force, there have been confusing reports of Chinese troops in Afghanistan. [Link; paywall]


How Snapchat’s first investor — whose stake is now worth $2 billion — found Snapchat when it had less than 100,000 users by Alyson Shontell (Business Insider)

When Snap was spreading entirely by word of mouth, Lightspeed Venture’s Jeremy Liew found out about it through his daughter. [Link]

Loeb Embraces Trump ‘Paradigm Shift,’ Says Stocks Not Overvalued by Sonali Basak, Simone Foxman, and Lisa Du (Bloomberg)

Third Point’s Loeb thinks broad policy change including tax reform justify the post-election rally and the S&P’s valuation; he added to Industrials and Financials after the elections while trimming TMT exposure. [Link]

Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Letter 2016 by Warren E. Buffett

While it’s overwhelmingly likely you’ve already come across the annual missive from Buffett elsewhere, we’re suckers for a Berkshire letter and they’re always worth at least a cursory read. [Link; 28 page PDF]


Dying woolly mammoths were in ‘genetic meltdown’ by Brian Switek (Nature)

An interesting summary of new research which suggests woolly mammoths’ rapid extinction process was the result of bad genetics becoming dominant in the population. [Link]

What’s Stored in DNA? An Old French Movie and a $50 Gift Card by Robert Lee Hotz (WSJ)

Nature is mind-bendingly efficient, so it shouldn’t be all that great of a surprise that the oldest form of information storage (DNA) is so efficient that it could store the entire internet’s data in a single test tube. [Link; paywall]

Air Force doctor wins NASA “Space Poop Challenge” by Phillip Swarts (Space News)

More than 5,000 submissions resulted in a single choice from NASA in the enormous challenge of making astronaut waste disposal more efficient. [Link]


Reinventing construction through a productivity revolution by Filipe Barbosa, Jonathan Woetzel, Jan Mischke, Maria Joao Ribeirinho, Mukund Sridhar, Matthew Parsons, Nick Bertram, and Stephanie Brow (McKinsey)

Construction is famed for its abysmal productivity, but McKinsey believes that the sector can deliver a $1.6 trillion boost to global output through changes in regulation and transparency, contracts, new design and engineering practices, better procurement and supply chain management, improved on-site execution, more technology, new materials, and advanced automation, and a reskilled workforce. [Link]

Wendy’s to install ordering kiosks in 1,000 stores this year by JD Malone (Columbus Dispatch)

Could services companies finally be moving towards the sort of productivity enhancements long-enjoyed by the manufacturing industry? New kiosks promise reduced staffing costs and a 3 year payback on investment for Wendy’s franchisees. [Link]

JPMorgan Software Does in Seconds What Took Lawyers 360,000 Hours by Hugh Son (Bloomberg)

Commercial loan agreements are now getting scrutiny from a new program at JPM which can save huge amounts of time for lawyers and huge amounts of money for the bank. [Link]

Strange News

An American man has taken out a huge ad in The Times claiming to be the rightful King of England by Alison Millington (Business Insider)

A Colorado man claims to be a descendent of the Welsh line of the British monarchy dating back to the third century. We aren’t too enthused with his chances. [Link]

Saudi king packs more than 500 tons of luggage for nine-day trip by Natalie Musumeci (NYPost)

What most people would be able to do with a carry-on and at most one checked bag resulted in a Herculean logistical effort for the leader of the House of Saud. [Link]

White Sox’s Jose Abreu to jury: I ate fake passport on way to U.S. by Paula McMahon (Chicago Tribune)

A very strange anecdote about the process Cuban baseball prospects go through to get to the United States. [Link]

This Week In Brands

Why Platinum Can’t Beat Sapphire by Aaron Back (WSJ)

The card wars continue as American Express loses ground to the wildly popular Sapphire offering from JP Morgan. [Link; paywall]

Pizza Hut made shoes that let you order pizza with a push of the tongue by James Dator (SB Nation)

Dominos boasts a feature that will deliver a specific order based on tweeting an emoji, but Pizza Hut couldn’t let that stand as the high bar in the “weird ways to order food” fight. [Link]

Dispatches From The Valley

How Uber Deceives the Authorities Worldwide by Mike Isaac (NYT)

Ridesharing app Uber developed a data tool to make it impossible for possible sting operations or other Terms of Service violators to actually order a ride. [link; soft paywall, auto-playing video]

How a classic math problem gave Reed Hastings the idea for Netflix by Arjun Kharpal (CNBC)

Last week we linked to an xkcd post discussing the bandwidth of a physical network; it turns out that a related math problem was the source of inspiration for the original DVD-by-mail service Netflix. [Link; auto-playing video]

Our Latest Update on Safety by Ed Ho (Twitter)

This week Twitter announced a series of common-sense features to reduce abuse and improve the user experience of Twitter. As avid users of the service, we think these are positive steps. [Link]

Not Great

FBI Lawyer Sting Rattles Billion-Dollar Whistle-Blower Unit by Kef Feeley, David Voreacos, and Neil Weinberg (Bloomberg)

A former Justice Department attorney is under investigation by the FBI for selling secrets around whistleblower lawsuits. [Link]

Data from connected CloudPets teddy bears leaked and ransomed, exposing kids’ voice messages by Troy Hunt (troyhunt.com)

An exhaustive catalogue of events related to the exposure of millions of messages from children to cloud-enable stuffed animals. Due to frankly terrible security practices, account data and therefore access to recordings made by the stuffed animals was wide open to anyone with internet access. [Link]

Broker Business

The Brokerage Firm CLSA Shuts Part of Its U.S. Business by Liz Moyer (NYT)

90 employees were shown the door as US equity research was shuttered earlier this week; included in the ranks was brash banks analyst Mike Mayo. [Link; soft paywall]


Another warning sign is popping up in the stock market by Jonathan Garber (Business Insider)

Equity bulls are keeping an eye on the long end of the curve, which has even famed equity bull Tom Lee of Fundstrat cautious. [Link]

Changing Demographics and State Tax Collections by Don Boyd (Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government)

A review of the changes in revenue by source that will likely take place as populations age. [Link; 27 page PDF]

Have a great Sunday!

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