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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Technology

What the Metaverse is and why it matters to you by Andy Serwer with Max Zahn (Yahoo! Finance)

The hottest trend in Silicon Valley is an immersive series of platforms, experiences, and spaces that deepen the human experience beyond the physical world into untold layers of code. [Link]

The Silent Partner Cleaning Up Facebook for $500 Million a Year by Adam Satariano and Mike Isaac (NYT)

Accenture is widely known as a stodgy and quotidian consulting firm. It also sits at the center of a massive effort to make Facebook a tolerable place to spend time, at an equally massive human cost. [Link; paywall]

Leveraging Brands against Disinformation by Steph Hill (SSRC)

Social media and intensification of brands into value statements have created a two-way dialogue and placed non-political actors right into the middle of major efforts to shift society. [Link]

Afghanistan

Taliban Move to Ban Opium Production in Afghanistan by Sune Engel Rasmussen, Zamir Saar and James Marson (WSJ)

The lynchpin of the Afghan economy is being removed by its new rulers, which given the massive balance of payments crisis the company is going through may prove totally unsustainable. [Link; paywall]

Studies

J&J’s HIV Vaccine fails phase 2b, extending long wait for an effective jab by Nick Paul Taylor (Fierce Biotech)

Johnson & Johnson announced that its Stage 2 trial of an HIV vaccine did not demonstrate sufficient efficacy to continue trials in a setback for vaccines after a banner year. [Link]

The Impact of Mask Distribution and Promotion on Mask Uptake and COVID-19 in Bangladesh by Jason Abaluck et al (Innovations for Poverty Action)

A massive randomized control trial gives concrete and scientific evidence what had been strongly suggested by lower-level analysis: that masks, especially surgical masks, make a large difference in slowing transmission of COVID. [Link]

Regulation

McDonald’s McFlurry Machine Is Broken (Again). Now the FTC Is On It. By Heather Haddon (WSJ)

The Federal Trade Commission has reached out to McDonald’s franchisees in an inquiry related to the constant state of disrepair franchisees and the chain keep their machines in resulting in frequent breakdowns. [Link; paywall]

China Sets New Rules for Youth: No More Videogames During the School Week by Keith Zhai (WSJ)

After cracking down on for-profit education companies earlier this summer, Chinese authorities are now coming after students, setting rules for videogame time. [Link; paywall]

James Simons, Robert Mercer, Others at Renaissance to Pay Up to $7 Billion to Settle Tax Probe by Gregory Zuckerman and Richard Rubin (WSJ)

An inquiry into the treatment of investments as long-term capital gains as opposed to short-term capital gains (and therefore a massively reduced tax burden) has led to a massive $7bn settlement between investors in one of the . [Link; paywall]

Labor Markets

Need to Call and Airline? Your Hold Time Will Be Approximately One Zillion Hours by Allison Pohle and Krystal Hur (WSJ)

With massive demand and complex local regulations, airlines are struggling to accommodate high call volumes that are being further hindered by under-staffed call centers. [Link; paywall]

Amazon’s Answer to Delivery Driver Shortage: Recruit Pot Smokers by Spencer Soper (Yahoo! Finance)

With a complete lack of available labor for delivery trucks, Amazon is experimenting by featuring a lack of marijuana testing in its recruiting materials, part of an effort to reach into every crack of the workforce for potential candidates. [Link]

Ben Dugan Works for CVS. His Job Is Battling a $45 Billion Crime Spree by Rebecca Ballhaus and Shalini Ramachandran (WSJ)

Physical retail is facing a different kind of online competition: thieves are ripping off stores in order to sell goods online via platforms like Amazon or EBay. [Link; paywall]

Weird News

This company sold a copy of ‘Super Mario Bros.’ for $2 million. NFTs and a Triceratops skull could be next by Tom Huddleston Jr. (CNBC)

Video games are collectors items just like baseball cards: their rarity is the source of much of their value, and the values can get extraordinarily high when prestige buyers step up to the plate. [Link]

Coronal Ejections

A bad solar storm could cause an “Internet apocalypse” by Lily Hay Newman (ARS Technica)

A coronal mass ejection or solar storm could wreck havoc on electrical and electronic infrastructure that serves as the backbone of local and global commerce and industry, as well as badly damaging electrical grids. [Link]

Duration and extent of the great auroral storm of 1859 by James L. Green and Scott Boardsen (NCBI)

Just before the Civil War, a massive ejection of material from the sun drove an electromagnetic storm of epic proportions which knocked out massive swathes of telegraph infrastructure; a similar event today would have much further-reaching implications. [Link]

Indices

GameStop Stock’s Possible Return to S&P 500 in Hands of Anonymous Committee by Akane Otani (WSJ)

While the S&P 500 is widely used as a “passive” index, inclusion is largely dictated by human judgement rather than strict quantitative criteria that other indices tend to use. [Link; paywall]

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Have a great weekend!

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