February 15, 2017

Bloomberg - Is the Chicken Industry Rigged? 12min

For decades, poultry had been volatile in a frustratingly predictable way: When times started getting good, companies flooded the market with chicken, causing prices to crash. ... At first the transformation puzzled industry watchers. Some speculated that a merger spree during the 1980s and 1990s was responsible—with fewer decision-makers in charge and fewer competitors, the remaining companies could more easily survey and predict the landscape. But Sanderson’s conference call suggested another source for the shift: Agri Stats, a private service that gathers data from poultry processors, produces confidential weekly reports, and disseminates them back to companies that pay for subscriptions. ... Many industries, such as health care and retail, make use of information-sharing services, but Agri Stats provides chicken producers with a rare level of detail, in uncommonly timely fashion. ... Agri Stats has for years maintained that its reports don’t violate antitrust laws, in part because the information provided is historical. A typical report doesn’t say how much a company plans to charge for a cut of meat, only what it charged last month or last week. ... In 2013, according to SEC filings, Eli Lilly purchased Agri Stats for an undisclosed sum and folded it into its farm animal drug division. ... Illegal collusion occurs when companies plan with one another to cut production ahead of time with the specific intent of raising prices.

The Atlantic - The American Climbing the Ranks of ISIS 14min

The figure of Yahya—an English-speaking convert within ISIS with powerful connections and the cojones to challenge Baghdadi to a death match—intrigued me. But Cerantonio didn’t elaborate on his identity and referred to him only by an alias, in the traditional Arabic style, with his first name and the name of his firstborn: Yahya, father of Hassan. He said Yahya was a fellow Dhahiri—a member of an obscure, ultra-literalist legal school that had enjoyed a sort of revival within the Islamic State. He didn’t, or wouldn’t, say more. I wrote down the name and committed to investigating Yahya later. ... Soon enough, I began collecting clues to his identity.

The New York Times - Will Obamacare Really Go Under the Knife? 24min

The building that houses the Heritage Foundation, on Massachusetts Avenue near the Capitol, stands as an eight-story monument to plain-faced perversity. It was here, in 1989, that the intellectual framework was first developed for what would become the Affordable Care Act. And it is here where Needham has spent the last six years trying to exterminate what he sees as the Frankenstein’s Monster that Heritage inadvertently set loose upon the land. ... premiums have been rising because of a variety of structural reasons, and because federal assistance to recipients to offset the costs has been in many cases inadequate. ... it is also because unit costs have continued to soar — like the price of prescription drugs, thanks to the sweetheart deal that the pharmaceutical industry cut with the Democrats in exchange for being an early supporter of the law. Some rural states like Alaska have seen very little competition among insurers — something that a public option might have addressed, had the insurance lobby not spent a fortune to defeat that provision. ... To make Obamacare economically feasible for insurers, the program needed to attract a large pool of young and healthy recipients to offset the costs of providing care for the older and less healthy. That ratio has yet to prove satisfactory for many insurance companies ... Collectively, those groups spent close to $273 million on lobbying during the height of the Obamacare debate. They will surely spend a similar sum haranguing Congress to pass a replacement that favors them.

Motherboard - The Man Who Broke Ticketmaster 22min

For more than a decade, Wiseguy was the biggest name in ticket scalping. The company fundamentally broke Ticketmaster, using one of the first ever automated "ticket bots" to buy and flip millions of tickets between 1999 and Lowson's eventual arrest on wire fraud charges in 2010. ... The scourge of ticket bots and the immorality of the shady ticket scalpers using them is conventional wisdom that's so ingrained in the public consciousness and so politically safe that a law to ban ticket bots passed both houses of Congress unanimously late last year, in part thanks to a high-profile public relations campaign spearheaded by Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. ... But no one actually involved in the ticket scalping industry thinks that banning bots will do much to slow down the secondary market. ... Between 2001 and 2010, the company bought and resold roughly 1.5 million tickets, amassing more than $25 million in profits overall