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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Gazprom calls complete stop on gas deliveries to France’s Engie by Sarah White and David Sheppard (FT)

A dispute over payments is being blamed for halted deliveries from Russia’s Gazprom to France’s Engie, part of a broader decline in gas supplies from Russia to the rest of Europe. [Link; paywall]

Wheat Harvest Rebounds in Canada to Bolster Shaky World Supplies by Jen Skerritt (Bloomberg)

Canada’s wheat crop is up an eye-popping 55% this year to the third-largest on record as wetter soil and moderate temperatures fuel yield gains badly needed in a world missing Ukrainian and Russian supplies. [Link; soft paywall]

Pandemic Effects

‘Largest score decline’ in reading for nation’s 9-year-olds, first-ever drop in math by Kayla Jimenez (USA Today)

As was widely expected, remote learning during the pandemic carried a cost for students that saw their reading and math scores drop from 2020 to 2022. [Link; auto-playing video]

U.S. life expectancy drops again, marking worst 2-year decline in a century by Alexander Tin (CBS)

More than a million deaths have cut short life expectancy in the US, which is calculated based on current demographics, for two consecutive years. [Link; auto-playing video]

Americans have ‘tip fatigue’ — post-pandemic, diners are less inclined to tip generously for takeout by Jessica Dickler (CNBC)

Tips proliferated during the pandemic, with all manner of service jobs getting a bump from their customers. But as society goes back to normal, fewer people are willing to shell out a dollar-denominated thank you. [Link]


Nuclear Power’s Rebound Causes Rift Among Environmentalists by Paul Vieira (WSJ)

Younger environmentalists are tightly focused on reducing carbon emissions as fast as possible, while older green activists have spent decades opposing radiation-fueled electricity at nuclear plants. [Link; paywall]

California’s Lithium Rush For EV Batteries Hinges On Taming Toxic, Volcanic Brine by Alan Ohnsman (Forbes)

One of the largest reserves of lithium in the world is found in California, enough to power tens of millions of EVs. But getting the lithium out of a toxic brine is not an easy task and has never been attempted at scale. [Link; soft paywall]

Honda, LG Energy Plan $4.4 Billion EV Battery Factory in U.S. by River Davis and Dasl Yoon (WSJ)

As part of its effort to scale up EVs with a full EV lineup targeted by 2040, Honda and its supply chain partner are plough billions into an Ohio factory that will produce cells as soon as 2025. [Link; paywall]


Positive Views of Supreme Court Decline Sharply Following Abortion Ruling (Pew)

For the first time on record, more Americans have an unfavorable view of the Supreme Court than a favorable one. Favorability is currently highly partisan but fell sharply in recent years on both sides of the aisle. [Link]


The metaverse is as dead as Zuckerberg’s cartoon eyes by Jesus Diaz (Fast Company)

Facebook has ploughed more than $10bn into the Metaverse and so far the only thing to show for it is a very creepy looking knock-up of CEO Mark Zuckerberg, just the latest in a seemingly never-ending series of gaffs related to the company’s pivot. [Link]

Panera Bread tests artificial intelligence technology in drive-thru lanes by Amelia Lucas (CNBC)

Fast food restaurants are trying to automate order-taking with artificial intelligence systems as two upstate New York Panera Bread locations are the latest in the effort to cut down labor costs. [Link]

Weird News

How ‘the Most Vicious, Horrible Animal Alive’ Became a YouTube Star by Oliver Whang (NYT)

If you’re looking for a way to get rid of a pesky muskrat, the Mink Man might be your answer. Rats, raccoons, beavers, and groundhogs are also easy prey for the “untamable, untrainable” mink. [Link; soft paywall]

Marijuana use is outpacing cigarette use for the first time on record by Ayana Archie (NPR)

Gallup data suggests that only 11% of Americans smoke cigarettes, a record low, while 16% report smoking marijuana, a huge reversal from the middle of the 20th century when almost half of adults smoked and less than 5% reported smoking weed. [Link]

Real Estate

Chinese borrowers pile pressure on banks with early mortgage payments by Cheng Leng (FT)

The perverse structure of China’s real estate markets is leading to deleveraging amidst stress as residential property owners prepay mortgages as a way to deleverage under stress. [Link; paywall]

Apartment List National Rent Report (Apartment List)

Asking rent growth are slowing sharply, with less than 80% of cities seeing rental growth in the month. Year-to-date asking rents are up 7.2%, but those numbers have slowed quite dramatically. [Link]

Wealth Distribution

The Bottom 50% of Americans Are Building Wealth Even as Inflation Bites by Paulina Cachero (Bloomberg)

The bottom half of the US wealth distribution is seeing their net worth outperform the top of the distribution despite inflation and stress from the turbulent post-COVID economic backdrop. [Link]


Mickey Mantle card breaks record, as sports memorabilia soar by Bobby Caina Calvan (AP News)

A mint condition Mantle card set a new record for sports trinkets, selling for more than $12mm last weekend as the sports collectibles boom continues. [Link]


Water companies are considering system to turn sewage into drinking water to avert shortages by Thomas Kingsley (Independent)

Sewage and other wastewater can be repurposed for drinking water rather than being cleaned and released into rivers and other water systems. [Link; auto-playing video, registration required]

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Have a great weekend!

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