July 27, 2017
In Cuba, where Wi-Fi is both slow and terrible, you will be an emissary from the future, a hint of the degeneracy to come. You’re a full-on mainlining internet junkie with the world’s uproar piped into your head 24/7, your emotional landscape terraformed and buffeted by whatever some narcissist just posted on Instagram or some windbag on Twitter. But like the “not even once” warnings around drugs like meth, you know that after the internet is in Cubans’ pockets, it’s over. Even backward, bitter-ender communist Cuba will become part of the vast data Borg ... The real irony is that if the internet does topple the government and bring democracy to this democracy-starved island, it’ll happen just as democracy itself is being undone by Facebook and every other filter-bubble-creating, political-polarization-amplifying, algorithm-optimized feed. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves, and also oversimplifying, because the Cubans—the very resourceful Cubans—haven’t exactly been sitting around sipping mojitos as the digital revolución passed them by. They have workarounds. Oh, do they have workarounds. ... the first workaround. Every week, more than a terabyte of data is packaged into external hard drives known as el paquete semanal (“the weekly package”). It is the internet distilled down to its purest, most consumable, and least interactive form: its content.
HNA Group, headquartered in Hainan in southern China, still lacks the brand-name status it eagerly seeks. That’s despite the fact that it has plowed tens of billions of dollars into buying up foreign assets since 2015, on every continent—including $5.66 billion in just the past six months, according to the tracking firm Dealogic. By the company’s estimation, its investments in the U.S. alone have reached $35 billion. ... Over the past two years, about $1 trillion has flowed out of China, as Chinese individuals and companies, having made fortunes at home and with state-owned banks willing to lend, invested elsewhere. ... In the case of HNA, its executives have crisscrossed the globe in a frenetic buying spree, making deals through a labyrinth of subsidiaries in China and abroad. The purchases have included household names for Americans and Europeans. Among them are Minnesota-based Carlson Hotels—owner of the Radisson and Park Plaza hotels—which HNA bought outright last December for an undisclosed sum. In March of this year, it bought 25% of Hilton Worldwide Holdings, the hotel group, from Blackstone for $6.5 billion. And in May it increased its stake in Deutsche Bank to become its biggest shareholder, with its stake worth about $3.7 billion. ... When he began, HNA’s sole operation was Hainan Airlines, a startup carrier which had exactly two airplanes. (HNA is a rough acronym for Hainan Airlines.) It was funded by the province’s government in an effort to lure tourists. One crucial early backer was hedge fund legend George Soros, who took a 25% stake for $25 million, which he later raised to $50 million.
Neutrinos are fundamental to the construction of the Universe. They are tremendously abundant, outnumbering atoms by about a billion to one. They modulate the reactions that cause massive stars to explode as supernovas. Their properties provide clues about the laws governing particle physics. And yet neutrinos are among the most enigmatic particles, largely due to their reticent nature: they have no electric charge and practically no mass, so they interact only extremely weakly with ordinary matter. Some 65 billion of them stream through every square centimetre of your body – an area the size of a thumbnail – every second, without your ever noticing them. ... The discovery of the neutrino dates back to the 1930s, when the famed Italian physicist Enrico Fermi helped to hammer out the first workable theory of nuclear phenomena such as radioactive decay. ... Neither Fermi nor anyone else at the time thought that such tiny wisps of matter could ever be detected directly. Before long, the spread of fascism in Europe overshadowed any such lofty thoughts. ... In 1938, he managed a Sound-of-Music-like escape, exploiting a trip to Stockholm to accept the Nobel Prize in order to slip out of Europe and head for the United States, where he became one of the early scientific leaders of the Manhattan Project.
It’s tempting to imagine a future in which Ghosn’s itinerary is considered a valuable artifact: a window into what globalization was really like in 2017, when it was spreading further than ever and, at the same time, getting slammed by waves of populist discontent. ... If the politics of the past year have left any sort of mark on him, it’s imperceptible as he strides onto the stage for the Q&A. These are his people—students of business, not politics—and most of the questions they lob his way are as familiar as old friends: What drives you to take over struggling companies, and how do you always seem to turn them around? How were you able to become the first foreigner to run a major Japanese company? What’s your secret for winning the trust and loyalty of employees throughout so many diverse cultures? ... “I keep my eyes on the scorecard,” Ghosn tells them. Production, profit, growth—the bottom line. Diversions constantly arise, but he’s learned to manage the distractions, which he says assume different forms in different parts of the world.
A former Jalisco state policeman who once served three years in a U.S. prison for selling heroin, Mencho heads what many experts call Mexico's fastest-growing, deadliest and, according to some, richest drug cartel – the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación, or CJNG. Although he's basically unknown in the U.S., Mencho has been indicted in a D.C. federal court on charges of drug trafficking, corruption and murder, and currently has a $5 million bounty on his head. Aside from perhaps Rafael Caro Quintero – the aging drug lord still wanted for the 1985 torture and killing of a DEA agent – he is probably America's top cartel target. "It was Chapo," says a DEA source. "Now it's Mencho." ... CJNG have been around for only about half a decade, but with their dizzyingly swift rise, they have already achieved what took Sinaloa a generation. The cartel has established trafficking routes in dozens of countries on six continents and controls territory spanning half of Mexico, including along both coasts and both borders. ... CJNG specialize in methamphetamine, which has higher profit margins than cocaine or heroin. By focusing on lucrative foreign markets in Europe and Asia, the cartel has simultaneously maintained a low profile in the U.S. and built up a massive war chest, which some experts estimate is worth $20 billion.