What are we reading? August 29, 2019


Each week, BIV staff will share with you some of the interesting stories we have found from around the web.


Kirk LaPointe, editor-in-chief:

General James “Mad Dog” Mattis opens up on why he had to leave as Donald Trump’s defence secretary. The story has a confirming quality. – The Atlantic



The cultural war of Remains and Leaves is explored with lovely twists of phrase in this essay from Jonathan Freedland, the editorial page editor of The Guardian, given more space to tell the tale in a publication across the ocean. – The New York Review of Books



The Canadian writer, Adam Gopnik, examines the role of spies and wonder if in this age they are really worth the trouble. – The New Yorker



Timothy Renshaw, managing editor:

Inc. This Morning’s list of 2019’s 5,000 fastest growing companies in the United States offers an interesting cross-section of which sectors are hot and which are not. – Inc. This Morning



The latest stats on U.S. retail-sector e-commerce sales: onward and upward. – U.S. Census Bureau



Insurance market taking a massive hit from wildfires, cyclones and other global disasters. This is not good for anyone's pocketbook in the long run. – Aon



Glen Korstrom, reporter:

With City of Vancouver staff analyzing feedback on the city’s potential future ban on carry-out plastic bags from retail stores, it was interesting to read this study that showed that in California, where such a ban has gone into effect, there has been a bump in retail sales for plastic garbage bags. – Journal of Environmental Economics and Management



I remember writing about the rise of food-delivery apps a few years ago and a restaurant owner told me that the apps were “making out like bandits,” because of commissions from restaurants, their own delivery fees and tips. Things are even worse in India, where restaurant owners are banding together to get off these apps, as well as ones that try to lure customers with two-for-one meals – New York Times



Curious to see this evolution where Google is courting celebrities to post YouTube videos as a way to gain traffic to that platform. YouTube was once the domain of video producers who aimed to become famous not those who already are. It appears that this evolution is good not only for the platform but also for branding for established performers. – Vice



Nelson Bennett, reporter:

Muslim scholars rule Ethereum cryptocurrency to be shariah compliant. Financing in the Muslim world can be tricky, due to the fact usury – charging interest – is considered haram (i.e. not compliant with shariah law.) Cryptocurrencies have been a particularly troublesome issue for them. But in a new whitepaper, Muslim scholars have determined at least one cryptocurrency, Ethereum, to be halal, depending on how it issued. – Decrypt



Why renewables can never replace fossil fuels. Green New Deal proponents cavalierly speak of phasing out fossil fuels and replacing them entirely with renewable energy within a generation, but without understanding the physical limitations of renewables. In a new paper for the Manhattan Institute, Mark Mills explains why it is physically impossible. Mills paper – The New Energy Economy: An Exercise in Magical Thinking – contains some sobering statistics, including this one: “The annual output of Tesla’s Gigafactory, the world’s largest battery factory, could store three minutes’ worth of annual U.S. electricity demand. It would require 1,000 years of production to make enough batteries for two days’ worth of U.S. electricity demand.” – Manhattan Institute


Mark Falkenberg, deputy managing editor: 

Parties to an international agreement on the trade of endangered species have agreed to place new limits on the sale of elephants caught in Zimbabwe and Botswana. – Agence France-Presse



The demise of U.S. billionaire David Koch is an occasion for columnist Nathan Robinson to speak ill, compellingly, of the dead:

“It’s hard to describe just what a negative force the Koch brothers have been in United States politics over the past several decades. They have used every means at their disposal to subvert democracy.” – Guardian



Tyler Orton, reporter:

"How China Uses LinkedIn to Recruit Spies Abroad." – The New York Times



"Which countries dominate the world’s dinner tables?” – The Economist



Hayley Woodin, reporter:

"China's Corporate Social Credit System is the most concerted attempt by any government to impose a self-regulating marketplace, and it could spell life or death for individual companies," says the president of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China. – Nikkei Asian Review



But wait, there’s more. Scoring citizens’ behaviour isn’t just for China or Black Mirror. Silicon Valley is also experimenting with social credit to make business and user decisions. – Fast Company