By Walt Hickey
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America thinks it’s an “All I Want For Christmas Is You” kind of country, but when you look at the receipts we’re actually a “Santa Baby” kind of nation. A research firm projects this will be the first trillion-dollar holiday season, with a total $1.002 trillion in retail sales between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31. That’s 5.8 percent higher than last year’s $947.55 billion season. Hollywood can make as many movies about How The Grinch Stole Christmas it wants (but stop please), but at the end of the day commercialism is going to win this round. You heard it here first, if we miss by $0.003 trillion, it’s because that dude from the “Christmas Shoes” song got cheap on us.
Euromonitor International projects that revenue from the global tourism industry will rise 11 percent in 2018 thanks to 1.4 billion trips. The research firm forecasts 2.4 billion international trips by 2030 and that by 2030, China will overtake France as the world’s number one tourist destination. In fairness, people have been predicting the decline of tourism to France since Vercingetorix invented “being rude to visitors” in response to the Romans.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has spent $200 million funding sanitation research, in doing so creating around 20 innovative toilets. The goal is to find a way to sterilize human waste, a massive contributor to infant mortality and human disease worldwide. Every year, costs linked to cholera, diarrhea and diseases caused by poor water and sanitation are some $233 billion. The up-front infrastructure investment for a waste treatment system is hard to implement, but savvier individual commodes that mitigate the billions of bacteria that live in poo could offset the costs of diseases significantly. This — using computer riches to solve sewage problems — is a distinct reversal of the latest trend for Silicon Valley social media billionaires, which is to buy cutting-edge technology using a fortune amassed force-feeding users bullshit.
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We’ve Been Bamboozled
Amazon played America’s cities like a fiddle, gathering the largest corporate site location database on earth — information about tax incentives, transit systems, talent pools, local tolerance for construction and the amount cities will pay companies for jobs — by saying they might develop a second headquarters in them. All said and done, Amazon now has information worth hundreds of millions of dollars that was given to them for free from 238 municipalities. That mythical second headquarters will actually be split into two, likely one just across the river from America’s political capital and the other just across the river from America’s financial capital.
I know it probably flew under everyone’s radar, but yesterday was some kind of election day. Elections being held on a Tuesday is an antiquated idea codified in the mid-1800s, and most other high-income countries realize it’s pretty hard to encourage people to vote when it’s a workday and to not do that. Looking at a group of 36 “advanced democracies,” generously including us, Pew tracked that 27 OECD countries held their most recent national election on a weekend and of the nine who held them on a weekday, only two make election day a national holiday.
Sports Were Supposed To Be Fun
Here’s something odd: while the share of children who played a regular sport fell from 41 percent to 37 percent between 2011 and 2017, the business of youth sports is bigger than ever, a $17 billion industry. What gives? Stratification in youth sports — pricey travel teams sucking up wealthier players and leaving traditional youth sport leagues barren — is worsening. In 2011, 42 percent of kids from families earning less than $25,000 per year played a team sport, compared to 66 percent of kids from homes earning $100,000 or more. In 2017, that gap became a chasm: 34 percent of poorer kids versus 69 percent of affluent kids played sports. We don’t want a country where children quit sports because their parents can’t afford it, we want a country where children quit sports for normal reasons, like musical theater or pot.
Poke — a Hawaiian raw fish dish that has ballooned in popularity, starting in 2015 — may have hit its peak as a food trend, with several small poke chains folding in the past several months. Still, major chains are thriving and the dish has become more popular overall, with mentions on menus up 21 percent in the past year. Restaurants serving poke doubled between 2014 and 2016, presumably thanks to all that real estate opening up after the closure of the crêpe shops that filled the space of the defunct cupcake shops.
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