Summary of “The Saudi Arabia-Russia oil war sparked by coronavirus, explained”

A long-standing deal between Saudi Arabia and Russia – two of the world’s oil-producing powerhouses – fell through over the weekend, sending global markets into a spiral and dashing future economic prospects in the US. And it has almost everything to do with the coronavirus – or, more specifically, the drop in Asia’s oil consumption that’s being driven by the coronavirus outbreak there.
At last week’s meeting, Saudi Arabia, the cartel’s leader, suggested the participants collectively cut their oil production by about 1 million barrels per day, with Russia making the most dramatic cut of around 500,000 barrels a day.
Some say Russia wants prices to stay low to hurt the American shale oil industry or is gearing up to seize a bigger sliver of Asian and global oil demand for itself.
Instead of paying Saudi Arabia and Russia for their oil, America was now a serious competitor.
Between America’s growing exports and Saudi Arabia’s overproduction, there was a glut of oil for sale and the price continued to plummet.
Saudi Arabia and Russia survived their change in fortunes by selling cheaper oil to China, which desperately needed priced-down crude during its economic slowdown of 2015 and 2016.
In 2016, Saudi Arabia and Russia agreed to cooperate in the world oil market by coordinating their production.
Unlike in 2015-2016 during which China bought up a lot of oil during a period of low prices, there aren’t really any buyers like that to pick up the slack right now, as demand is dropping worldwide, Ellen Wald, an oil market expert at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington, told me.

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Summary of “America’s monopoly and antitrust problem, explained by your internet bill”

If two pharmaceutical companies make a patent-protected drug and then raise their prices in tandem, what does that mean for patients? When two cellphone companies talk about efficiencies in their merger, what does that mean for their workers, and how long does their subsequent promise not to raise prices for consumers actually last? And honestly, wouldn’t it be a lot easier to delete Facebook if there was another, equally attractive social media platform out there besides Facebook-owned Instagram?
To a certain extent, telecommunications companies and internet service providers are a sort of natural monopoly, meaning high infrastructure costs and other barriers to entry give early entrants a significant advantage.
On top of that, telecom companies paid what were often super-low fees – maybe enough to create a public access studio – to wire up cities and towns in exchange for, essentially, getting a monopoly.
In 2017, the average monthly cost of broadband in America was $66.17; in France, it was $38.10, and in South Korea, $29.90 In the US just a few big companies, often without overlap, control much of the telecom industry, and the result is high prices and uneven connectivity.
Incumbents have gotten good at keeping out competitors – and they’ve been allowed to do it The government is supposed to use antitrust law to ensure competition and stop companies from becoming so big that they push everyone else out.
In the US in recent decades, regulators, enforcers, and the courts have taken a more lax attitude toward antitrust, which has resulted in more mergers, or companies growing to the point that it’s hard for rivals to stay in the game.
The Justice Department has also probed Live Nation on its practices after its 2010 merger with Ticketmaster and alleged that the combined company pushed venues into using Ticketmaster over other ticketing companies.
Antitrust enforcers and regulators, when examining a potential merger or acquisition, or considering if a company is engaging in anticompetitive behavior, are supposed to apply a consumer welfare standard.

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Summary of “The Decoy Effect: How You Are Influenced to Choose Without Really Knowing It”

The decoy effect is the phenomenon where consumers swap their preference between two options when presented with a third option.
Asymmetric Dominance The decoy effect is defined as the phenomenon whereby consumers change their preference between two options when presented with a third option – the “Decoy” – that is “Asymmetrically dominated”.
What asymmetric domination means is the decoy is priced to make one of the other options much more attractive.
The decoy is not intended to sell, just to nudge consumers away from the “Competitor” and towards the “Target” – usually the more expensive or profitable option.
In each product scenario participants first had to choose between two options.
The decoy effect is thus a form of “Nudging” – defined by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein as “Any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behaviour in a predictable way without forbidding any options”.
A decade ago behavioural economist Dan Ariely spoke about his fascination with the pricing structure of The Economist and how he tested the options on 100 of his students.
In this second scenario the print-only option had become the decoy and the combined option the target.

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Summary of “Why Luxury Units in Manhattan Are Vacant”

From any rational perspective, what New York needs isn’t glistening three-bedroom units, but more simple one- and two-bedroom apartments for New York’s many singles, roommates, and small families.
In the past decade, New York City real-estate prices have gone from merely obscene to downright macabre.
For middle-class families, particularly for the immigrants who give New York City so much of its dynamism, it has made living in Manhattan or gentrified Brooklyn practically impossible.
It adds up to what Michael Greenberg, writing for The New York Review of Books, called a new shameful form of housing discrimination-“Bluelining.”
First, the typical new American single-family home has become surprisingly luxurious, if not quite so swank as Manhattan’s glassy spires.
In the early ’70s, 40 percent of new single-family houses had 1.5 bathrooms or fewer; today, just 4 percent do.
The mansions of the ’70s would be the typical new homes of the 2020s.
Second, as the new houses have become more luxurious, homeownership itself has become a luxury.

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Summary of “The 2010s were supposed to bring the ebook revolution. It never quite came.”

At the beginning of the 2010s, the world seemed to be poised for an ebook revolution.
Analysts confidently predicted that millennials would embrace ebooks with open arms and abandon print books, that ebook sales would keep rising to take up more and more market share, that the price of ebooks would continue to fall, and that publishing would be forever changed.
So what happened? How did the apparently inevitable ebook revolution fail to come to pass?
What happened to the ebook in the 2010s is the story of the contraction of American publishing.
So the ebook for a $20 hardcover book should cost no less than $18. And according to publishers, by setting the price of an ebook at $9.99, Amazon was training readers to undervalue books.
So if Simon & Schuster was publishing a $20 hardcover, they could choose to set a suggested list price of $18 for the ebook – two dollars less than the hardcover – and then sell that ebook to Amazon at a 40 percent discount for $10.80.
On the ebook side Amazon now lists publisher-mandated prices, often with the petulant italic addition “Price set by seller.” “So the market is very weird, and often the ebook costs more than the print,” Friedman says.
For Sagers, the solution to the ebooks problem was not to let publishers fix prices to prevent an Amazon ebook monopoly.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The falling price of a TV set is the story of the American economy”

The last TV I bought was a 43-inch smart TV that cost me roughly $500 in 2016; it’s no longer in my possession, but my old roommate is still using it to his great joy.
It’s not like they started out particularly expensive – a 2011 New York Times story noted that TV prices had been trending downward in the previous few years, “a result of a huge increase in manufacturing capacity that has led to an oversupply and continued downward pressure on prices from low-cost manufacturers and online retailers.” But the pace of price decline has stayed consistent since then: The price of a 50-inch 4K HD television, the major new picture quality standard introduced in the last decade, declined by roughly 80 percent to $467 between 2012 and 2017, according to the market research firm Statista.
Conservative think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute have said that these price declines mean that we should reevaluate what poverty means.
Though this argument holds no water when you consider that plenty of more essential things such as health care have gotten more expensive, the falling price of TVs speaks to evolutions in both how people buy and use TVs – and how TV makers themselves actually make money.
You don’t actually need a TV to watch TV anymore; Nielsen data pretty consistently shows that people are watching more stuff on their phones and less stuff on their actual TV sets.
With less demand for actual TVs, there’s less reason for manufacturers to price them even more highly.
If you buy a new TV today, you’re most likely buying a “Smart” TV with software from either the manufacturer itself or a third-party company like Roku.
The story of the cheap HD television in the last decade is, in many ways, the story of the American economy writ large.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How to stop looking at your phone”

She ended up writing a book called How to Break Up With Your Phone.
“Changing your relationship with your phone can have effects that are surprisingly profound,” Price says.
How much time? According to screen-time tracking app Moment, the average user of the app picks up his or her phone 52 times a day and spends 3 hours, 57 minutes using it.
With all the time spent in the real world after learning how to put down your phone, you might even need a new hobby.
Put the phone physically out of reach “What we know is our phones will distract us even if they’re in sight but we’re not using them,” says James Roberts, a consumer behavior expert and author of Too Much of a Good Thing: Are You Addicted to Your Smartphone?
As for the phone itself, some people go back to using a so-called “Dumb phone,” or one that has limited internet capabilities.
You might reach for your phone like a phantom limb and feel cranky when it’s not there.
Reconnect with your smartphone gradually To consistently be able to stop looking at your phone, your phone will have to become a tool again instead of a temptation.

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Summary of “Total Recall: The People Who Never Forget”

The HSAM subjects turned out to be far better than people with average memories at recalling long-past autobiographical data; in memories that could be verified, they were correct 87% of the time.
Significantly, research shows that people with average memories are bad at temporally placing remembered events – we don’t have a sense of whether that thing happened two weeks ago or two months ago.
Plenty of people rehearse their memories and don’t have HSAM, and plenty of people with OCD don’t have incredible recall of their autobiographical memories.
Despite their amazing recall there is one way that HSAM subjects are just like everyone else – they are just as prone to memory “Distortions”, the editing, assumptions, conflation of time, and other discrepancies that are part and parcel of making memories.
In a study published in 2013, Dr Lawrence Patihis, a memory researcher at the University of Southern Mississippi working with scientists at UCI, asked 20 HSAM subjects and 38 people with standard memories to participate in a series of tests designed to assess their susceptibility to false memories.
When people with average memory recall an experience, it is formed not only by what they think happened and how they felt at the time, but by what they know and feel now.
First, the initial process of encoding memories – that is, when the brain makes an experience into a memory, translating elements of that experience into a network of neurons and synaptic connections – seems no different for people with HSAM than for the rest of us.
For all the terrible things that people with HSAM can never forget, there are also wonderful memories.

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Summary of “Why is airport food so expensive?”

“In terms of dollars, airport parking is #1 but concessions run a close second,” says Blaise Waguespack, a professor of airport marketing at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
“A [big] issue with street pricing is that the airport must commit to enforcement, or the pricing controls will simply be ignored,” says Alan Gluck, a senior aviation management consultant with ICF. “It’s kind of a snake pit.”
According to financial data on 9 eateries in San Francisco International Airport obtained by The Hustle, sales figures can range as high as $7.7k per square foot – more than 10x the national average outside of airports.
The airport might specify that it wants 10% of all sales up to $1m, and 12% on anything over $1m. If you estimate your sales at $1m, your MAG would be $100k per year; if you end up doing $1.5m in sales, you’ll pay $160k.
“Turnover is super expensive.” Many airport jobs are also unionized and pay as much as $2/hr more than similar jobs outside of the airport.
According to a recent report, airport retail is a $40B per year business globally, and is projected to grow to $60B by 2022.
While brick-and-mortar retail continues to decline in the face of e-commerce, airport sales are up 7% over the past 2 years.
There’s more to come: In the 2018 white paper, The Airport Retail Revolution, IFC consultants lay out a future ripe with digital disruption, automated kiosks, and immersive shopping experiences.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How the 2019 coffee crisis might affect you”

Here’s how the crisis is playing out at each link in the coffee chain.
To simply break even, most farmers must sell a pound of coffee for over $1. In October, a number of Central American farmers travelling with the migrant caravan to the US told BBC journalists that the coffee crisis had forced them to abandon their farms and to try to seek asylum in the US. In the last 10 years, over 60% of coffee farmers in Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Mexico have reported food insecurity during the harvest cycle, according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America.
José Sette, executive director of the International Coffee Organization – which was founded in 1963 with the support of the United Nations to address sustainability in the coffee commodity market – told the BBC this current low cycle was so concerning to the entire industry precisely because of its “Dramatic” effect on growers.
“In Africa we are likely to see a lot more suffering than elsewhere because our yields are quite low,” Fred Kawuma, Secretary General of the Inter-African Coffee Organisation, told the BBC. “The amount of coffee that a farmer gets out of his farm is so limited compared to an Indian or Vietnamese coffee farmer.”
Mr Jones broke down the price of retail coffee at his Pasadena cafés, and for a $4 latte, only the cost of coffee – 10% – is within Mr Jones’ control.
Across the country in New York City, the Think Coffee café chain’s Coffee Director Enrique Hernandez told the BBC making a small latte costs the company $0.28, and is sold for $4.25 in order to pay for non-coffee costs.
Higher end coffee companies like Think Coffee and Intelligentsia are examples of that partnership.
Speaking at the World Coffee Producers Forum’s 2019 conference in Brazil this week, Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs called for the establishment of an annual, United Nations-level, $10bn global coffee fund.

The orginal article.