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Got Crystals? Gem Mining Could Be Your Full-Time Job

The New York Times (NYT) (10/19/2020)
  • During the coronavirus pandemic, more Americans are visiting “finders, keepers” pay-to-dig mines to search for crystals and gemstones.
  • Mining sites in NY, North Carolina and elsewhere charge visitors $10-14 for all-day access.
  • Rookie miners have reported discovering $2-5K worth of crystals, with some leaving full-time jobs to camp out and mine.
  • Crystals and gemstones have become increasingly popular (and more valuable) as celebrities such as Kim Kardashian have shared their collections.
  • It isn’t unrealistic for full-time miners to earn up to $10K per month.

Why Airbnb Is Canceling Its D.C. Reservations for Inauguration Week

Bloomberg (01/13/2021)
  • After local pressure and FBI warnings, Airbnb announced that it’s cancelling all DC-area reservations during inauguration week.
  • The aggressive decision was made after discovering many of the Capitol Invasion rioters stayed in nearby Airbnbs.
  • DC residents nearby these Airbnbs recount being horrified seeing rioters wearing Proud Boys gear, celebrating after the invasion and harassing them for wearing masks.
  • Ironically, Airbnb’s platform adjustments hiding the identity of potential guests to prevent racial discrimination has made it harder to identify hate-group members.

Lost Passwords Lock Millionaires Out of Their Bitcoin Fortunes

The New York Times (NYT) (01/12/2021)
  • Of the 18.5 million outstanding Bitcoin, almost 20% (currently worth $140B) is lost or stranded in digital wallets.
  • Many owners of these wallets invested in Bitcoin when it was nearly worthless a decade ago but forgot their passwords.
  • To access digital Bitcoin wallets, a password is needed to unlock a small hard drive (IronKey) containing private keys.
  • Programmer Stefan Thomas forgot the password to his wallet with $220M in Bitcoin.
  • 10 login attempts are allowed until wallets permanently lock; Thomas has 2 attempts left.

Pricier Vehicles Seen Driving Rebound in U.S. Auto Market

Bloomberg (01/04/2021)
  • 2020 US auto sales totaled an estimated 15.9 million vehicles, down (-4.7%) from 2019.
  • Overall vehicle sales hit 40-year lows in April (2020), dragged down by a sharp decline in fleet sales to car rental services.
  • SUVs and pick-up trucks increased to 79% of total sales; sedans have declined from 50% (2010) to 20% of total sales.
  • Industry declines were partially offset by higher demand for premium brands (eg Tesla, Audi, Mercedes), which benefitted from many higher-income Americans being economically sheltered from coronavirus.

China Sentences Ex-Finance Chief to Death on Corruption

Bloomberg (01/05/2021)
  • The Chinese government sentenced Lai Xiaomin, the former chairman of Huarong Asset Management, to death for accepting 1.79 billion yuan ($277M) in bribes from 2008-2018.
  • Lai was also convicted for bigamy (getting married while still married); all of his assets were confiscated.
  • While its rare for China to impose the death penalty for corruption (usually 16-18 year worst-case prison sentences), the reported bribes have sparked public outrage.
  • The crackdown shows China is willing to impose maximum punishment for corruption.

Here’s what we know about the Google union so far

The Verge (01/05/2021)
  • 230 Google employees announced they’re forming a minority union open to all Alphabet (parent company) employees and contractors.
  • As a minority (solidarity) union, the Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) won’t face legal regulatory (majority union) hurdles such as holding mandatory votes to recruit most employees.
  • Also, contractors can be included in minority unions.
  • While the AWU hasn’t published demands, it’s probably motivated by Google employees protesting Pentagon contracts, executive sexual harassment and censorship.
  • Google currently has 123,000 full-time employees and 130,000 contractors.

A Covid-19 Relief Fund Was Only for Black Residents. Then Came the Lawsuits.

The New York Times (NYT) (01/03/2021)
  • In July (2020), Oregon earmarked $62M (4.5%) of the $1.4B in COVID-19 federal relief funds it received specifically for Black residents and businesses.
  • The Oregon Cares Fund was created due to the disproportionate health and economic impact of COVID-19 on Black people.
  • However, $8.8M of the remaining funds are frozen after one Mexican American and two white business owners filed lawsuits, claiming the fund discriminates against them.
  • Oregon relief funds specifically for undocumented immigrants and Asian business owners have not faced lawsuits.

How Amazon Destroys the Intellectual Justifications for Capitalism

Current Affairs (12/27/2020)
  • Small manufacturers that used Amazon to sell their products online have been undermined by Amazon-brand clones.
  • Amazon has copied the design and functionality of small-brand products such as tripods, diapers and shoes.
  • It then used its financial largesse to sell the Amazon brand clones temporarily at a loss to capture market share.
  • Some small manufacturers claim they were kicked off the platform after the Amazon clone was released.
  • Amazon’s rise at the expense of small companies undermines capitalism rewarding innovation and fostering competition.

What Happens to Your Body on No Sleep?

Outside (04/02/2019)
  • Scientists have found that the effects of acute sleep deprivation, or all-nighters, kicks in after being awake for 16-18 hours straight.
  • The first sign is a sluggish mind, with reaction times lagging to the equivalent of being legally drunk by the 24th hour awake.
  • After 24 hours, your brain starts forcing you into 10-20 second periods of “micro-sleep”.
  • After 35 hours, the brain’s emotion-emitting amygdala becomes 60% more reactive and the ability to regulate emotions declines.
  • Hallucinations are common after 48 hours awake.