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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China

Member Survey: August 2019 (US-China Business Council)

This very long survey of US businesses on the subject of China is a bit much to summarize in a pithy sentence, but some of the specific responses are surprising. [Link; 20 page PDF]

Trump’s New Trade War Tool Might Just Be Antique China Debt by Tracy Alloway (Bloomberg)

Long-since defaulted bonds issued before Mao turned China into the People’s Republic are a source of speculation, making collectible pieces of paper seem like they’re an actual investment. [Link; soft paywall]

Costco just opened its first store in China and the response is insane by Brian Sozzi (Yahoo! Finance)

While American companies don’t always find success in the tilted playing field of the Chinese economy but the initial reaction to Costco from consumers in China is a big thumbs up. [Link; auto-playing video]

Taxes

Huge hoard of Norman coins reveals medieval tax scam by Mark Brown (The Guardian)

Coins discovered recently show evidence that Norman era coinage in Britain was victim to counterfeiting that debased currency and reduced tax liability for the moneyed classes. [Link]

Addicted to Fines (Governing)

How the combination of concentrating economic activity and poor governance have left large chunks of the country dependent on revenue generated by issuing tickets and other forms of police activity. [Link]

The Minimum Wage Is a Sales Tax on the Middle Class by Matthew C. Klein (Barron’s)

Studies of very large minimum wage hikes in Eastern Europe suggest that businesses respond to the higher labor costs by raising prices. In effect, consumers pay the higher wage costs, meaning the whole minimum wage hike functions a bit like a sales tax. [Link; paywall]

Real Estate

Your Next Home Might Be Appraised by a Robot by Ryan Dezember (WSJ)

New rules are raising the price cap on homes that are exempt from valuation by an actual human being, meaning millions of sales will now have no third-party evaluation of the house attached to them at all. [Link; paywall]

Restaurants

Chicken sandwich mania at Popeye’s: big crowds, long waits and our critic’s take by Michael Mayo (South Florida Sun Sentinel)

August saw a frenzy for chicken sandwiches at Popeye’s across the country, with customers drawn in by the new $4 chicken sandwich. [Link]

Hiring Is Very Hard for Restaurants These Days. Now They May Have to Fire. by David Yaffer-Bellany (NYT)

On top of higher wages demanded by workers in a tight labor market, the Social Security Administration is stepping up enforcement of fake numbers, cracking down on labor provided by undocumented immigrants which have long been the backbone of the restaurant industry. [Link; soft paywall]

Values

Historic Asset Boom Passes by Half of Families by David Harrison (WSJ)

While households with large amounts of wealth have seen their assets surge, those in the bottom half of the wealth distribution are lagging far behind despite a booming stock market and strong equity market rally over the past decade. [Link; paywall]

Incoming Harvard Freshman Deported After Visa Revoked by Shera S. Avi-Yonah and Delano R. Franklin (Harvard Crimson)

In a ridiculous abuse of power, an immigration official revoked an incoming freshman’s visa because some of his social media contacts had posted political views that the officer disagreed with. [Link]

Americans Have Shifted Dramatically on What Values Matter Most by Chad Day (WSJ)

A national poll show younger Americans are much less invested in patriotism, religion, and childrearing, but similarly inclined towards hard work, community involvement, and tolerance. [Link; paywall]

Evolving Tech

Older people are embracing video games. For some, that means stardom. by Kalhan Rosenblatt (NBC)

For older Americans who are often isolated, video games are offering a unique way to connect with other people and even stardom in a world of game streaming that eats up almost as many hours as games themselves. [Link]

Uh-oh: Silicon Valley is building a Chinese-style social credit system by Mike Elgan (Fast Company)

Concerns have grown over the authoritarian social credit system, which ties criticism of the government as well as other activity to all sorts of negative outcomes. Now, companies in the insurance, hospitality, transportation, and technology industries are all introducing similar if less comprehensive systems of social control. [Link]

Google Tries to Corral Its Staff After Ugly Internal Debates by Jack Nicas (NYT)

After years of keeping the stage open for debate among employees, Google has issued new workplace guidelines designed to keep debates from destroying productivity and the company’s entire culture. [Link; soft paywall]

I Visited 47 Sites. Hundreds of Trackers Followed Me. by Farhad Manjoo (NYT)

An illustration of how detailed tracking of our digital footprints have become as tracking software from across the internet follows users around. [Link; soft paywall]

Drugs

Cocaine has been found in some European shrimp, and it’s part of a disturbing trend of drug-filled shellfish by Aylin Woodward (Business Insider)

Drugs excreted by humans after consumption are piling up in river ecosystems, including some small freshwater shrimp in one study. [Link]

Bonds

Three U.S. bond kings wield same strategy, get same result: lag their peers by Jennifer Ablan (Reuters)

Star fixed income position pickers have fallen behind as bond prices have surged this year, with Gundlach, Ivascyn, and Minerd all lagging behind historic outperformance. [Link]

5G

Cities Are Saying No to 5G, Citing Health, Aesthetics—and FCC Bullying by Christopher Mims (WSJ)

Powerful radio antennas designed to help the rollout of 5G broadband wireless are sparking local resistance over concerns for health and property values. [Link; paywall]

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Have a great weekend!

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