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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Remote Work

When Workers Can Live Anywhere, Many Ask: Why Do I Live Here? by Rachel Feintzeig and Ben Eisen (WSJ)

With COVID work-from-home responses untethering workers from their offices, they’re coming to the realization that they don’t actually need to be where they currently live. [Link; paywall]

Highest Salaries For Software Developer Remote Work (Metro Areas) by Wendell Cox (New Geography)

Adjusted for the cost of living, metros in North Carolina, Texas, Washington, and Colorado stand out as offering the best standard of living per dollar of pay for software developers. [Link]


China Is Collecting DNA From Tens of Millions of Men and Boys, Using U.S. Equipment by Sui-Lee Wee (NYT)

Chinese authorities are working to develop a national genetic database that will be used to augment surveillance and control capacity for the state. Massachusetts-based Thermo Fisher is helping in the effort. [Link; soft paywall]

China halts European salmon imports over suspected link to virus outbreak by Nerijus Adomaitis and Kate Kelland (Yahoo!/Reuters)

While salmon itself is unlikely to play host to the coronavirus, China is shutting down imports from northern Europe over concerns it drove an outbreak at a Beijing market. [Link; auto-playing video]


America’s retreat to comfort food during the pandemic isn’t pure nostalgia — it’s a survival tactic by Kate Taylor (Business Insider)

“Junk” food isn’t just being purchased as a feel-good callback to more stable times but is also a strategy to reduce trips to the store and cut costs. [Link]

“One country’s joke is another country’s breakfast”: The story of Spam by Aimee Levitt (The Takeout)

An oral history of the canned meat that fed GIs in World War 2, became a critical lynchpin of a number of national cuisines, and is now being rediscovered as a rich and salty addition to avant-guard cuisine. [Link]

Why Is the McFlurry Machine Down Again? by Julie Jargon (WSJ)

Frustrating cleaning processes, frequent breakdowns, and social media frustration: why you can never get the ice cream cone or McFlurry you crave at McDonald’s. [Link; paywall]

Spending Patterns

Boats, Pools and Home Furnishings: How the Lockdown Transformed Our Spending Habits by Matthew Dalton and Suzanne Kapner (WSJ)

Stimulus payments and unemployment insurance are being pumped into home renovations and upgrades that provide a rare bright spot amidst broader economic decline. [Link; paywall]

The coronavirus pandemic can’t stop Americans from buying pickups by Nathan Bomey (USA Today)

Americans’ love affair with pickups is helping to keep the auto market afloat as the category remains much stronger than the sales of all light autos. [Link]

Parents are dropping $150K on luxury summer camps for their kids by Melkork Licea (New York Post)

Desperate to get their kids out of the house, parents are laying out six figure sums for summer sleepaway camps that will give parents a break from constant childminding. [Link]

COVID & The Elderly

Nobody Knows Exactly How Hard The Coronavirus Is Hitting America’s Assisted Living Facilities by Rosalind Adams and Ken Bensinger (BuzzFeed)

Assisted living facilities around the country have been hit hard by the virus, but New York state’s many care homes have been about as badly hit as it gets. [Link]

“Fire Through Dry Grass”: Andrew Cuomo Saw COVID-19’s Threat to Nursing Homes. Then He Risked Adding to It. by Joaquin Sapien and Joe Sexton (ProPublica)

Policy decisions by Governor Cuomo created a much worse outcome for New York nursing homes than those in other states, with roughly 6% of residents killed by the virus. [Link]

COVID Stories

Coronavirus: Dexamethasone proves first life-saving drug by Michelle Roberts (BBC)

While initial data from studies of dexamethasone is limited, it indicates a substantial positive impact on patients, reducing risk of death by one-third for patients on ventilators. [Link]

Rural Alabama County Fights Virus Outbreak With Just One Doctor by Margaret Newkirk and Danielle Bochove (Bloomberg)

Alabama’s Lowndes County has no hospital and just one doctor, relies on tightly packed mobile homes for housing, and an infection rate similar to New York City during the peak of its pandemic. [Link; soft paywall]

Fauci said US government held off promoting face masks because it knew shortages were so bad that even doctors couldn’t get enough by Mia Jankowicz (Business Insider)

CDC infectious disease head Dr. Anthony Fauci revealed that initial guidance for the public to wear masks was withheld because the government wanted to retain supplies of masks for health care workers, even though homemade masks and non-medical grade masks can still substantially reduce transmission with widespread use. [Link]


Covid-detecting ‘smart rings’ to be trialled by staff at Las Vegas resort by Patrick McGee (FT)

Casino staff will start using Oura smart rings to detect pre-symptomatic staff members that might be coming down with COVID but are not yet showing visible symptoms. [Link]

Inside the NBA’s plan to use smart technology and big data to keep players safe from coronavirus by Jessica Golden (CNBC)

The NBA will also use the Oura rings to help detect signs of infection among players who are living in Disney World in July as part of the NBA season’s restart. [Link]


US dollar funding: an international perspective (BIS Committee on the Global Financial System)

A detailed review of why the dollar is such a critical piece of the global financial landscape, and how its movements and availability can have complicated effects on markets and economies around the world. [Link; 87 page PDF]

How Did COVID-19 and Stabilization Policies Affect Spending and Employment? A New Real-Time Economic Tracker Based on Private Sector Data by Raj Chetty, John N. Friedman, Nathaniel Hendren, Michael Stepner, and the Opportunity Insights Team (Opportunity Insights)

High frequency data suggests reopenings are not helpful for boosting local employment, while stimulus checks boost lower income household spending. Paycheck Protection Program loans had little effect on employment. The authors conclude that social insurance which protects incomes are more effective than other macroeconomic stabilization tools. [Link; 85 page PDF]

Structuring Federal Aid To States As An Automatic (and Autonomous) Stabilizer by Alex Williams (Employ America)

One social insurance policy option is the introduction of automatic block grants to states that insure lower levels of government against sudden revenue declines during a macroeconomic shock. [Link]

Social Media

TikTok Finally Explains How the ‘For You’ Algorithm Works by Louise Matsakis (Wired)

Algorithmically-driven Tik Tok serves up an endless feed of videos to each user, uniquely tailored to that user. This week the company published a blog post detailing the basics, which are weighted by everything from hashtags to the type of device being used. [Link; soft paywall]

Does Tweeting Improve Citations? One-Year Results From the TSSMN Prospective Randomized Trial by Jessica G Y Luc, Michael A Archer, Rakesh C Arora, Edward M Bender, Arie Blitz, David T Cooke, Tamara Ni Hlci, Biniam Kidane, Maral Ouzounian, Thomas K Varghese Jr, and  Mara B Antonoff (PubMed)

Tweeting academic articles leads to a citation rate more than 4 times higher than un-tweeted articles, revealing the critical role Twitter plays in disseminating and highlighting new information. [Link]

Civil Liberties

After Barr Ordered FBI To “Identify Criminal Organizers,” Activists Were Intimidated At Home And At Work by Chris Brooks (The Intercept)

In response to massive protests over recent weeks, the FBI and DoJ more generally have singled out first-time activists for benign organizing activity. [Link]


Top composers used to head to Hollywood. Now they’re into games by Will Bedingfield (Wired)

Hollywood blockbusters used to be a gravy train for composers, but in recent years the expansion of video games as their own category of prestige media have lured composing talent into their arena. [Link; soft paywall]


Investors Approaching Retirement Face Painful Decisions by Akane Otani (WSJ)

Large numbers of older investors were forced to sell at the worst possible time back in the first quarter as stocks plunged. Please note that this story features a correction at its end. [Link; paywall]

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