The Interesting Business Of Fertility

October 23, 2017 in Daily Bulletin

Ariana Eunjung Cha wrote about the fertility business:

  • Prospective parents looking to get pregnant through donor eggs or sperm can filter and select from an extensive catalogue.
  • One company offers a face match service – clients can look for donors that resemble famous celebrities.
  • Others allow future parents to hear the voice of the donor and see photos of them as children.
  • While athletes and, surprisingly, musicians are popular donors, the most expensive genetic material comes from those who have signs of being highly intelligent.
  • Yet other parents prefer to leave it to the stars – sometimes literally – they can filter for donors by astrological sign.
  • One concern is that overly popular donors could lead to half siblings unknowingly finding and falling in love with one another.

Read more about this fascinating world on The Washington Post.

Via: Marginal Revolution

Whither The Presidential Yacht?

October 20, 2017 in Daily Bulletin

Oliver Sharpe wrote about the Presidential Yacht:

  • Before the era of jumbo jets and Air Force One, ocean ships were mobile White Houses symbolizing the prestige of the office.
  • Unlike a trip to Camp David or Florida – which requires advanced planning and logistics, Presidents could easily ask to spend a quiet day of reflection in privacy on their boat.
  • Various ships have been commissioned to carry the President since 1880. In 1933 the USS Sequoia become the official Yacht of the President of the United States, and faithfully served eight of them.
  • During World War Two diplomacy was conducted on the boat. Roosevelt would officially decommission the ship whenever Churchill came onboard since he refused to drink on a Navy vessel, but needed “Churchill Martinis”.
  • Each President modified the yacht. Wheelchair bound Roosevelt installed a lift. LBJ lowered the floor of the shower so it’d fit his lumbering frame. JFK installed a King sized bed, and is said to have entertained Marilyn Monroe on it.
  • Nixon was an avid user of the craft and racked up 88 trips. He made his decision to resign while on the yacht and announced it to his family on its deck.
  • The yacht cost $800,000 a year to maintain and when Carter entered office, elected on a platform of bringing an end to the Imperial Presidency, he had the boat auctioned.
  • It was bought for just $236,000 – a sweet deal since its prestige meant that rental fees of $10,000 a day would go on to become the market rate.
  • But a legal dispute meant that it was taken out of the water. It sits in a boatyard today and is infested with racoons.
  • A Judge approved its sale for $0 by a consortium willing to pay millions to restore the yacht. The group is open to making it available to American Presidents once again.

Read more, and see some incredible pictures on Town & Country.

North Korea Uses Art To Evade Sanctions

October 19, 2017 in Daily Bulletin

Sue-Lin Wong, Giselda Vagnoni, and Fanny Potkin wrote about North Korea’s booming art market:

  • UN sanctions on North Korea typically targeted trade in natural resources and services like finance.
  • Art was seen as something that could build peace through mutual understanding and so was left untouched.
  • North Korea saw an opportunity and built massive art studios employing thousands of people to sell art abroad.
  • Foreign ambassadors were expected to promote North Korean art in global galleries.
  • Sales of paintings and other work provided a source of hard, sanction-free cash, estimated to be worth tens of millions of dollars to the North Korean regime.
  • Much of the demand came from China where a rising middle class is looking to purchase art – and was lured by the low cost of North Korean work.
  • The UN wizened up and is now targeting North Korea’s art market with its sanctions too.
  • But there are ways around the ban – and it’s a difficult one to enforce. Who knows for sure if a particular piece of work came from North Korea.

Read more on Reuters.

In Hollywood Actors Are Allowed To Age But Actresses Aren’t

October 18, 2017 in Daily Bulletin

Nate Jones wrote about ageing in Hollywood.

  • Both Star Wars Rogue One, and Blade Runner 2049 end with an iconic female sci-fi lead (Leia and Rachael respectively) making a cameo appearance as digitally re-created versions of their younger selves.
  • Male stars are often de-aged too. Think of Johnny Depp in the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie. But when they are, their older selves typically play a major role in the movie.
  • Moreover male actors play their own young selves and have wrinkles removed through CGI. In the case of Leia and Rachael, younger actresses played the role and had digital faces of the original actresses grafted onto them.
  • Leia did return for The Force Awakens – but she had a pretty small role compared to Harrison Ford who is still allowed to be the handsome action star well into his seventies.
  • Hollywood seems more comfortable freezing its female leads in amber and reviving them as needed, rather than creating decent roles for older women.

Read more on Vulture.

American Politicians Were More Likely To Vote For War If They Didn’t Have Draft Age Sons

October 17, 2017 in Daily Bulletin

Zaid Jilani covered a study on voting patterns in Congress:

  • The United States employed a draft in four conflicts: World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam war.
  • A study found that if members of Congress had draft-age sons they were up to 17% less likely to vote as “hawks” – those more willing to risk war.
  • Legislators that only had daughters of a similar age were more likely to be hawkish.
  • The observed relationship was robust – as strong as 70% of the “party line” effect – where legislators are more likely to vote for a policy if it comes from a President from their own party.
  • There are benefits to suing for peace – legislators that had draft-age sons were more likely to get re-elected.

Read more on The Intercept.

Most Countries Are Named After One Of Four Things

October 16, 2017 in Daily Bulletin

Thu-Huong Ha wrote about country names.

A third of the world’s countries are named based on a tribe or group of people. Examples include:

  • France being named for the Franks.
  • Italy for the Vitalis.
  • Switzerland for the Schwyz.
  • In Korean, South Korea is called “Daehan” – for the Hans.

A quarter are named after geographical features:

  • India for the Indus river.
  • Montenegro is known as “Crna Gora” in Montenegrin – which translates to “black mountain” – for the Lovćen mountain in the south.
  • Barbados means “bearded ones” and may be a reference to the long aerial roots of the banyan trees there.
  • Sierra Leone “lion mountains” is probably a reference to the earth shaking thunder that reverberates through its hills.

Some are named based on their location:

  • Japan is called Nippon in Japanese – it means “land of the rising sun”. Japan is east of China and so people in China would see the sun rise from the direction of Japan.
  • Norway is named for “Northern way”.
  • The Greeks theorized the existence of “Terra Australis Incognita” – unknown southern land – a name that Australia adopted.

And some are based on people.

  • The Philippines are named after Spain’s King Phillip.
  • Bolivia for Simón Bolívar.
  • Columbia for Columbus.
  • One country adopted a female’s name as their own – St. Lucia.

And then there’s Naurau, an island close to Australia. Its name comes from an indigenous word that means “I go to the beach”.

Read more on Quartz.

There Are Iceberg Cowboys

October 13, 2017 in Daily Bulletin

Iceberg hunting is serious work wrote the Economist:

  • The number of icebergs has doubled this year – posing a threat to man’s attempts to rule the oceans.
  • Satellites are the first line of defense. They look for icebergs and feed images through an algorithm that tries to separate whales and waves from icebergs.
  • Planes are then dispatched to get a closer look at the floating mega-blocks.
  • If they look like they may pose a threat, ships with lasers and sonar could be deployed to get finer readings of projected trajectories.
  • That’s where the cowboys come in. If the icebergs are small then a water cannon is enough to change the trajectory or melt them entirely.
  • But for the large ones ships will literally get a polypropylene rope, circle it around the iceberg, and slowly pull the iceberg out of harm’s way.
  • It’s sobering work – especially since it’s done in a part of the Atlantic close to where the Titanic went down.
  • But the sophisticated iceberg defense mechanism isn’t there to protect ships. It’s to look after floating oil platforms – a collision could lead to a catastrophic oil spill.
  • The iceberg hunters are only going to get busier. Oil companies are interested in more drilling opportunities around the area known as “Iceberg Alley”.

Read more on The Economist.

The Government Bans Chefs From Putting Love In Their Food

October 12, 2017 in Daily Bulletin

Anna Edney wrote about the American government’s attempt to regulate love:

  • Nashoba Brook Bakery mentions “love” as one of the ingredients in its granola.
  • The government researched love and could not find any evidence that it was “a common or usual name of an ingredient”.
  • Instead it is classified as an “intervening material” that has no place on an ingredient lists.
  • The Bakery’s chief executive dismisses the government’s complaint about its $5 million a year product as something from “George Orwell”.
  • More prosaically the government also called out the “insanitary conditions” used to prepare the product and the risk of “filth”. The chief executive said those observations were “helpful”.

Read more on Bloomberg.

Samsung Would Love To See The iPhone X Succeed

October 11, 2017 in Daily Bulletin

Apple’s arch-rival in the mobile world, Samsung, is hoping Apple’s $1,000 offering will succeed wrote Timothy W. Martin and Tripp Mickle:

  • Samsung supplies several components – such as screens and memory chips – for Apple’s devices.
  • In fact, Samsung makes more money from Apple’s iPhones than it does from Samsung’s own flagship, the Galaxy S8.
  • Half of Samsung’s operating profit – which totals $25.6 billion a year – is thought to be driven by Apple’s business.
  • Samsung has put safeguards in place to avoid conflicts of interest. It has three CEOs which helps create a firewall between the component and Galaxy business. The latter buys parts from the former as if they were separate entities.
  • Apple is looking to reduce its reliance on its rival by diversifying its suppliers.

Read more on The Wall Street Journal.

Airports Are Outsourcing Their Control Towers

October 10, 2017 in Daily Bulletin

The Economist wrote about the control tower outsourcing business:

  • Instead of having an elevated air traffic control tower some airports are opting to install cameras that transmit video to a low-rise office building several hundreds of kilometers away.
  • The system can boost safety. Cameras including infrared ones allow operators to see what typical control towers can’t. And remote centers can do things like zoom on video or project augmented reality displays with distance approach counters.
  • The system cuts costs. Airports no longer need to build elevated tower structures. And a single remote center could control multiple airfields.
  • Some regional airfields don’t have any kind of landing control. Instead pilots keep a sharp eye and state their landing plans to other planes in the area on an open radio line. Such airfields could now afford to have air traffic control.
  • Nordic populations scattered across isolated settlements have been the primary benefactors of the system.
  • But other, larger airports are being targeted. Operators initially make inroads by selling it as a contingency tower in case of emergency.
  • There are fail safes if the remote towers ever go offline. In the future a network of them could act as each others’ fail safes.

Read more on The Economist.