Sunday Reading – 10/23/16

The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.

Blame the Internet of Things for today’s web blackout – Today’s nation-wide internet outage was enabled thanks to a Mirai botnet that hacked into connected home devices, according to security intelligence company Flashpoint. The distributed denial of service attack targeted Dyn, a large domain name server, and took down Twitter, Spotify, Reddit, The New York Times, Pinterest, PayPal and other major websites.

“Flashpoint has observed Mirai attack commands issued against Dyn infrastructure,” Flashpoint writes. “Analysts are still investigating the potential impact of this activity and it is not yet clear if other botnets are involved.”

Mirai is not a new hacking tool. A massive Mirai attack took down the site of popular security researcher Brian Krebs in late September, peaking at a nearly unprecedented 620 Gbps. Mirai takes advantage of weak security protocols on IoT devices — in the Krebs case, 145,000 devices were infiltrated, including security cameras and DVRs in homes and offices around the world. Read More > at Engadget

Trace The Remarkable History Of The Humble Pencil – Here’s the legend: In the mid-16th century, a storm uprooted a tree in England’s Lake District. Clinging to the tree’s roots was a shiny black substance — graphite! We don’t know how much truth there is to that story, but we do know that just a few decades later, the site had been transformed into the first commercial graphite mine.

At first, local shepherds were the only ones making use of graphite — it was perfect for marking their sheep.

The stuff looked and acted a lot like lead, so some called it plumbago (from the latin word for lead, plumbus) and sometimes “black lead.” That name stuck.

To make the graphite a bit easier to use, surveyors and artists wrapped sticks of plumbago in string or sheepskin. In 1565, Swiss naturalist Conrad Gessner published a drawing of a strip of graphite inside a tube of wood — the first depiction of a wood pencil. The invention swiftly spread through Europe.

In 1794, Revolutionary France was at war with Britain and completely cut off from high-quality English graphite. The minister of war asked engineer Nicolas-Jacques Conté to find a solution. Conté ground up impure, low-quality graphite, mixed it with wet clay, shaped the mixture into rods and then baked them. The result: passable pencil lead. “Crayons Conté” (from the French craie meaning chalk) proved that continental pencil-makers no longer needed to rely on the graphite deposits of their British enemies. Read More > at NPR

Readers overwhelmingly respond: Yes, end zone celebrations should be penalized – When I ranted about the NFL’s crackdown on celebrations earlier this week, I assumed that virtually every football fan would agree with me.

My impetus, of course, was the 15-yard call against Vernon Davis for shooting a celebratory basket with the football over the goal post. I figured no Redskins fans would be mad at Davis for being happy, and no Eagles fan could be offended by Davis pretending to play basketball, and no unaligned fan could possibly care enough to be angry about this.

Which led me to conclude that there must be virtually no constituency demanding the NFL penalize celebrations, other than the sort of folks who call parking enforcement if they spot an expired meter.

But I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong. I was, apparently, wrong about this one. My e-mails since Monday have been overwhelmingly opposed to on-field celebrations, with many readers supporting the NFL’s policy, and criticizing players for their me-first attitudes. As a rebuttal, I figured I should include some in this space.

“Big deal, a guy caught a pass, or ran one in. How may lives did he save? How many did he improve (bettors and fantasy players aside)? Let’s stop acting like this is any sort of great accomplishment. This is what these guys are paid to do. It’s like a guy who makes widgets saying “Who da man!” to every widget the rolls off his assembly line. It’d get old quick.”

“I can’t watch a game without someone getting a first down and then see them jump up, demonstratively point downfield like an umpire and stomp around for 5-to-10 seconds. What’s worse is when they execute this dance move while down by 20-to-30 points. The behavior is boorish and all too common in today’s game.” Read More > in The Washington Post

Airbus offers a peek at its flying taxi – European aerospace giant Airbus has quietly lifted the curtain on an ambitious Silicon Valley project called Vahana. It’s a pilotless passenger aircraft that aims to someday add a vertical component to your commute.

Think of Uber-like air taxis that can beat the traffic on Highway 101 by flying over it.

Airbus has shared few details about the aircraft, but recently posted its first conceptual renderings on a Medium blog.

The drawings depict a craft that can take off and land vertically. It has helicopter-like struts, and two sets of tilting wings each with four electric motors. There’s room for a passenger under a canopy that retracts like a motorcycle helmet visor. Read More > at CNN Money

Here’s What is Left to Make Las Vegas Raiders a Reality – Back in January, Mark Davis had just watched his plan to move the Raiders down the I-5 to Carson, Calif., go up in smoke, and he had every reason to hang his head as the Rams’ Inglewood project was voted through, and the Chargers got the first shot to join them. As it turns out, the circumstance set the stage for a different kind of defining moment from the one the Oakland owner wanted at that meeting.

“The Raiders will be OK,” he told the other owners, standing before them. “We’re going to figure this out.”

And that’s just what he’s done. With a swiftness that has league scrambling to catch up, Davis has driven a deal with Las Vegas—grounded in a record-setting $750 million in public money—towards the goal line. Davis made a short presentation on Vegas to the other NFL owners Wednesday morning at their meetings in a Houston hotel, and while the Raiders-to-Nevada deal he outlined to them won’t get done tomorrow, it’s far closer now than anyone would’ve imagined 10 months ago.

Here’s what else he showed them: This is a different Davis. He’s more gracious than his father, to be sure, and he’s a better deal-maker than anyone at this time last year believed he could be.

…We start with the increasing possibility, even probability, that Vegas could become an NFL reality at the turn of the next decade, and the most unlikely story behind it: The ascending status in league circles of Al Davis’ much-maligned son is a big reason why the rest of the owners haven’t slammed on the brakes as the process has picked up steam.

“He’s earned a great deal of respect amongst the owners,” said Chargers owner Dean Spanos, who was Davis’s partner in the failed Carson project. “He’s a committed owner. He loves the business. He’s in this for the long haul. And I think he’s gonna be successful in Las Vegas if he gets there, which I think he will. It remains to be seen obviously, but that’s my opinion—he’ll get there.” Read More > at MMQB

Your Driverless Ride Is Arriving – Outside a large warehouse in Pittsburgh, in an area along the Allegheny River that was once home to dozens of factories and foundries but now has shops and restaurants, I’m waiting for a different kind of technological revolution to arrive. I check my phone, look up, and notice it’s already here. A white Ford Fusion, its roof bedazzled with futuristic–looking sensors, is idling nearby. Two people sit up front—one monitoring a computer, the other behind the wheel—but the car is in control. I hop in, press a button on a touch screen, and sit back as the self-driving Uber takes me for a ride.

As we zip out onto the road toward downtown, the car stays neatly in its lane, threading deftly between an oncoming car and parked trucks that stick out into the street. I’ve been in a self-driving car before, but it’s still eerie to watch from the back seat as the steering wheel and pedals move themselves in response to events unfolding on the road around us.

To date, most automated vehicles have been tested on highways in places like California, Nevada, and Texas. Pittsburgh, in contrast, features crooked roads, countless bridges, confusing intersections, and more than its fair share of snow, sleet, and rain. As one Uber executive said, if self-driving cars can handle Pittsburgh, then they should work anywhere. As if to test this theory, as we turn onto a bustling market street, two pedestrians dart onto the road ahead. The car comes to a gentle stop some distance from them, waiting and then continuing on its way.

…My ride is part of the highest-profile test of self-driving vehicles to date, after Uber began letting handpicked customers book rides around Pittsburgh in a fleet of automated taxis. The company, which has already upended the taxi industry with a smartphone app that lets you summon a car, aims to make a significant portion of its fleet self-driving within a matter of years. It’s a bold bet that the technology is ready to transform the way millions of people get around. But in some ways, it is a bet that Uber has to make. In the first half of this year it lost a staggering $1.27 billion, mostly because of payments to drivers. Autonomous cars offer “a great opportunity for Uber,” says David Keith, an assistant professor at MIT who studies innovation in the automotive industry, “but there’s also a threat that someone else beats them to market.” Read More > at MIT Technology Review

Fans watching fewer NFL games cite protests as primary reason – Ratings in the NFL, while still stronger than any other challenger on the television landscape, continue to decline, and a new survey by Yahoo Sports and YouGov discerns several reasons why.

In a survey of 1,136 Americans who identified themselves as NFL fans, 29 percent said they are watching fewer NFL games. (Interestingly, 27 percent said they were watching more, though that does not necessarily correlate only a 2 percent net loss.) The fans claiming they watch less of the NFL cited the following reasons:

• Protests by Colin Kaepernick and others
• Lack of opportunity to watch the NFL
• Lost interest in the NFL
• Presidential election

Worth noting: the 40 percent of the “watching less NFL” group claiming protests as the reason represents 12 percent of all NFL fans. This is a sharp, though very much expected, decline from the 44 percent who claimed in a similar Yahoo study in early September that they would stop watching if protests continued. Read More > at Yahoo! Sports

2 San Francisco-area earthquake faults found to be connected – The most dangerous earthquake fault in the San Francisco Bay Area is connected to another, which means both could rupture simultaneously and unleash major devastation, a new study finds.

The Hayward Fault has long been considered a threat because it runs under densely populated neighborhoods east of San Francisco. The new work found that beneath San Pablo Bay, it joins with a second, less active underground fracture to the north.

Scientists had already considered the possibility of both faults rupturing at once, whether they are connected or not. So the discovery doesn’t change the estimated earthquake hazard much, although it confirms suspicions that the stage is set for what could be a massive quake.

If the Hayward and Rodgers Creek faults broke simultaneously along their combined 118 miles, they could produce a magnitude 7.4 quake, said scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey. Read More > from the Associated Press

Walgreens profit beats, Rite Aid deal seen closing in 2017 Drugstore operator Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc (WBA.O) reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit, helped by cost cutting, and said it now expected its acquisition of Rite Aid Corp (RAD.N) to close on Jan. 27, three months later than planned.

Walgreens said in September it would likely have to divest between 500 and 1,000 stores to get regulatory clearance for the $9.4 billion deal.

Walgreens, the No. 1 U.S. drugstore operator by store count, had previously said it expected it would need to divest not more than 500 stores and that the deal would close on Oct. 27.

The company said it expected to divest stores to win approval for the deal by the end of 2016.

Supermarket chain Kroger Co (KR.N) is questioning whether to proceed with buying divested stores from Walgreens, a source familiar with the situation said on Wednesday, casting doubts on the future of the Walgreens-Rite Aid deal.

Kroger and Walgreens representatives declined to comment. Read More > in Reuters

3 sex-spread diseases hit another record high, CDC says – Infections from three sexually spread diseases have hit another record high.

Chlamydia (kluh-MID’-ee-uh) was the most common. More than 1.5 million cases were reported in the U.S. last year, up 6 percent from the year before.

Nearly 400,000 gonorrhea (gah-nuh-REE’-uh) cases were reported, up 13 percent. And there were about 24,000 cases of the most contagious forms of syphilis, up 19 percent.

The three infections are treatable with antibiotics. Read More > at Yahoo! News

Automakers are beating Silicon Valley at its own game – When Google unveiled its self-driving car and rumors surfaced that Apple was also working on a car, it looked like the future of driving belonged to Silicon Valley. Turns out, automakers were up to the challenge, and the “hobbies” of tech giants are going to be left behind.

While Apple reportedly scales back its EV/autonomous car project, called Titan, and Google continues to send out monthly updates about how many times other drivers run into their vehicles, companies like Ford, GM, Audi, Mercedes, Honda, BMW and Tesla (the closest thing to a tech company that makes cars) have already introduced vehicles with semi-autonomous features. Research is great, but shipping a product is the end goal. Automakers are shipping.

Not only are the automakers actually putting vehicles on the road; they’re iterating faster than they used to. The accepted timetable from design to showroom for a new car has traditionally been five years. GM’s upcoming long-range EV, the Bolt, will go from concept to retail within about three years.

Meanwhile, Google has noted that it wants to partner with an automaker, while Apple is reportedly hoping to do the same thing. The big question is: Do the car companies need them? Read More > at Engadget

Could Calaveras County Become the State’s Marijuana Hub? – The pot industry in Calaveras County is on fire right now. 740 marijuana farms call Calaveras home, and that may only be the beginning. With legalization potentially just around the corner, some industry insiders think Calaveras could end up becoming the Napa Valley of weed.

“Cannabis is the backbone of the economy right now, and I think that it can take Calaveras County from what has historically been one of the poorest counties in our state into one of, if not the most prosperous county,” said marijuana farmer Tom Liberty. “We could be growing cannabis for the rest of the nation at some point.”

Earlier this year, the county was faced with a choice: ban the stuff outright or allow and regulate it. It opted for the latter. Soon, hoards of growers moved in to get a piece of the pie.

“What we got totally overwhelmed us and surprised us all,” county Planning Director Peter Maurer recently told supervisors. Read More > at California County News

Uber’s Ad-Toting Drones Are Heckling Drivers Stuck in Traffic – Drivers stuck in traffic in Mexico City lately have found themselves being buzzed by a fleet of sign-toting drones. “Driving by yourself?” some scolded in Spanish. “This is why you can never see the volcanoes”—a reference to the smog that often hovers over the mega-city and obscures two nearby peaks.

It wasn’t exactly a plea for environmentalism, though—it was an ad for UberPOOL, part of Uber’s big push into markets across Latin America. As Bloomberg points out, Uber already does more business in Mexico City than any other city it operates in, and Brazil is its third-largest market after the U.S. and India. Uber sees Latin American countries as generally easier targets for expansion than either of its top two markets.

In the wake of a costly war with Didi Chuxing in China that finally forced Uber to wave a white flag, the company is going back on the offensive. And that, apparently, involves accosting drivers in gridlock with a swarm of drones. Read More > at MIT Technology Review

The future: where borrowing is the norm and ownership is luxury – Imagine life without ownership. You own nothing. You rent everything. You do this because it’s cheaper: you pay pennies or fractions of pennies per day to have a bed to sleep in, or a winter coat to keep you warm. You scale up or down as needed: maybe your partner moves in, so you swap your single bed for a queen, or winter ends, so you return your coat. You are always optimizing. You pay for precisely what you use, when you use it – and nothing more.

This is the consummate “sharing economy”, and it might be closer than you think.

By now, the sharing economy is nearly a decade old. The term first surfaced sometime after 2007, the year that brought us both the iPhone and the Great Recession. The iPhone helped put the internet and GPS in people’s pockets. The Great Recession helped make them desperate and broke. These two developments dovetailed to sow the seeds of the sharing economy: consumers were looking for new ways to save, workers were looking for new ways to earn, and smartphones gave them both new ways to transact.

These days, however, the sharing economy feels a bit past its prime. After an initial wave of investor enthusiasm, a few “sharing” startups such as Uber and Airbnb have hit it big, but many more have fallen flat. It turns out, people are happy to pay for rooms or rides but are less thrilled about renting PlayStations or power tools. “The ‘Sharing Economy’ is Dead,” Fast Company declared last year, summarizing a general sense of fatigue with what now feels like a wildly oversold idea.

But what if the postmortems are premature? New paradigms usually don’t arrive all at once, but by fits and starts. The first phase of the sharing economy might have fizzled out, but new technologies may soon resurrect it in a far more radical form. And if they do, the result won’t just be a new app for renting power tools. It’ll be the biggest revolution in property ownership since the birth of capitalism. Read More > in The Guardian

Big 12 Expansion Failure Could Reignite Texas and Oklahoma To Pac 12 – The Big 12, after public hoopla, chose not to expand. It was a poor gambit to get more TV money, if the conference had that coordination. The conference owes a large number of schools an apology.

The Longhorn Network is too advantageous for Texas to give up. The Longhorn Network is keeping the smaller Big 12 schools from forming what, at least in least in rose-colored perception, would be a lucrative new conference network. Expansion to renegotiate the TV deal was the only way to generate more revenue. But, given the program quality available, expansion was a nonstarter.

Texas and Oklahoma will have better options when the Big 12 grant of rights deal expires (or sooner if the deal does not hold up in court). They have shown zero inclination to sacrifice to keep this conference together. The most rational conclusion is the conference now has an expiration date. The next logical question: what happens when the Big 12 breaks apart?

…The Big Ten may be the best option for Texas and Oklahoma in isolation. It would be great for the Big Ten bottom line. But, political constraints stop those large public schools from acting alone and screwing their large public rivals. That precludes a move to the SEC or the Big Ten. Talks reignite over a long rumored move: Texas/Oklahoma and two other programs, likely Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, move to the Pac 12. Read More > at The Big Lead

The Quest for Solar Batteries, the Holy Grail of Clean Energy – The sun beams down enough energy to supply all the electricity the Earth needs, but for all our advances with renewable energy, one of the most frustrating barriers to a zero-emissions world is the lack of a great solar battery.

Solar panels are hailed as an easy, affordable step toward reducing cities’ reliance on fossil fuels for electricity, but at the moment most solar panels can only produce electricity on-demand. They can store energy, but not for long enough to keep the lights on during cloudy days and long winter nights, said Nate Lewis, head of a solar fuels initiative at the California Institute of Technology.

Even though scientists and engineers are building cheaper and more efficient solar panels, one major bottleneck is the ability to store that energy for times when the sun is not shining, said University of Wisconsin, Madison, professor Song Jin, whose team is trying to develop a better battery.

Lewis said the best battery developed so far stores 200 watt hours per liter, roughly enough energy to power a water heater for maybe two weeks, whereas one liter of gasoline has about 12,000 watt hours (enough to power that same water heater for two-and-a-half years). In terms of potential, it’s like comparing a tricycle to a motorcycle—you’re not even in the same ballpark. Read More > at Motherboard

Newsom says Steyer is already ‘spending a fortune’ on 2018 – Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Monday that billionaire activist Tom Steyer is already “spending a fortune” on the 2018 race for governor of California, despite not having declared his candidacy.

“He’s running. He’s been running,” said Newsom, who has announced he plans to run, adding, “It’s going to be a very crowded field. While I may have announced my candidacy formally, others have clearly announced their intentions.”

Newsom’s comments come after POLITICO reported on Steyer’s $13 million voter registration drive that the former hedge fund manager hopes will add 500,000 voters to the rolls, along with his increased donations to local political causes across the state.

Newsom said he’s known Steyer, who would be making his first run for office, for many years, “and I personally like him.”

“We just worship at the altar of money a lot,” said Newsom. “It’s not an indictment of Tom, I want to make that very clear … but it just plays such an outsized role in politics.” Read More > at Politico

California election: Jerry Brown, allies spend millions to kill measure that could doom high speed rail, Delta tunnels projects – With less than three weeks until Election Day, Gov. Jerry Brown and his political allies are suddenly pumping money into the campaign to defeat Proposition 53, a previously low-profile measure that could be the death knell of Brown’s high-speed rail and Delta tunnels projects.

In the past week, Brown, labor unions, Indian tribes and Silicon Valley venture capitalists have contributed $7 million to kill the measure, tripling the size of the opposition’s treasury. If passed, Proposition 53 would require a statewide vote to approve any state project costing more than $2 billion that is financed with revenue bonds, which are the likely method of paying many of the costs for high-speed rail and the Delta tunnels.

On Oct. 6, Brown contributed $1.7 million in unspent money from his 2014 re-election campaign to No on 53. On Friday, he donated another $2.4 million, boosting the No campaign’s total war chest to $10.9 million, more than twice what the Yes campaign has raised. Read More > in The Mercury News

La Niña may be back this winter – Forecasts are already showing a possibility of La Niña in our future, with the Climate Prediction Center for the National Weather Service rating our chances at about 70 percent.

The system is predicted to be weak and short-lived, possibly arriving early next month. La Niña is not expected to make it through the winter, and forecasters gave it about a 55 percent chance of it lasting past December.

Why the uncertainty? La Niña depends on different factors, including ocean water temperature along the central Pacific. La Niña happens when those waters cool down as much as 7 degrees Fahrenheit below normal, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. El Niño, on the other hand, is what happens when those waters warm up past 80 degrees Fahrenheit (with the average staying in the 60s to 70s). Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

Australia Is Not as Down Under as Everyone Thinks It Is – That map of Australia you have? It’s wrong. And the whole country is going to officially relocate to correct the error.

The trouble is caused by plate tectonics, the shifting of big chunks of the earth’s surface. Australia happens to be on one of the fastest-moving pieces of all, and by geological standards it’s practically flying: about 2.7 inches northward a year, with a slight clockwise rotation as well.

People on the ground may not notice, but the Global Positioning System does. So Australia needs to adjust its longitudes and latitudes so they line up with GPS coordinates.

Four times in the last 50 years, Australia has reset the official coordinates of everything in the country to make them more accurate, correcting for other sources of error as well as continental drift. The last adjustment, in 1994, was a doozy: about 656 feet, enough to give the delivery driver an alibi for ringing your neighbor’s doorbell instead of yours. Read More > in The New York Times

The Cashless Society Is a Creepy Fantasy – It’s fun to imagine a world without cash.

Liberated from the burden of physical currency, consumers could make purchases from the convenience of a mobile device. Every transaction would come equipped with fraud protection, reward points and a digital record of its time and location. Comprehensive tracking could help the Internal Revenue Service reclaim billions of tax dollars lost to unreported income, like the $80 I made selling a used refrigerator on Craigslist. Drug dealers, helpless without an anonymous medium of exchange, would acquire wholesome professions. El Chapo might become a claims adjuster.

Such is the utopia recently described by Nathan Heller in the New Yorker and by a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, Kenneth Rogoff, in a new book, “The Curse of Cash.” But this universe is missing one of the fundamental aspects of human civilization. A world without cash is a world without money.

Money belongs to its current holder.1 It doesn’t matter if a banknote was lost or stolen at some point in the past. Money is current; that’s why it’s called currency! A bank deposit, however, grants custody of money to the bank. An account balance is not actually money, but a claim on money.

This is an important distinction. A claim is only as good as its enforceability, and in a cashless society every transaction must pass through a financial gatekeeper. Banks, being private institutions, have the right to refuse transactions at their discretion. We can’t expect every payment to be given due process. Read More > in Bloomberg

Walking on sunshine: Could the future of energy be in solar sidewalks? – Scott Brusaw has a vision for the nation’s roads.

He believes the solar-powered glass pavers his company makes could transform thousands of miles of pavement into a new energy source.

His business, Solar Roadways, recently unveiled its first public installation, in a downtown plaza in this northern Idaho resort town. It’s 150 square feet of hexagon-shaped solar panels that people can walk and bicycle on.

The company is working on proof that the panels, for which it has a patent, are strong enough and have enough traction to handle motor vehicles, including semitrailers.

“Our plan is to replace all the asphalt and concrete,” said Brusaw, noting concrete occupies over 48,000 square miles in the U.S. “If you cover it with solar panels, we can make three times our energy needs.” Read More > at CBS News

What’s the Most Popular Time of Year to Get Married? – So when do people get married? Let’s start with the day of the week. The data is restricted to marriages in the United States in 2015.

According to the data we collected, over 70% of couples got married on a Saturday in 2015, and nearly 95% of weddings occurred on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.

About one quarter of the nearly 11% of weddings that occur on Sunday happened on one of three holidays weekends: Labor Day, Memorial Day, and Columbus Day (in some places known as Indigenous Peoples’ Day). The Sunday of Labor Day weekend is the most common Sunday, but still ranks 28th overall—all 27 above it are Saturdays.

Our data show that just about 80% of all weddings happen in the six months between May and October. About two thirds of the weddings in these months happened on a Saturday, so put together, only a little over half of weddings occur in the warm weather months on a Saturday. If you had a cold months or non-Saturday wedding, you are not as unusual as you might think.

…Couples doing their nuptials in the South differ in their choice of wedding dates more than any other region. While September and October are the most popular wedding months throughout the rest of the country, in the South, April through June dominate. This is mostly because most Southern couples avoid the sweltering months of July and August.

The most concentrated wedding season for any region is August through October in the Northeast. More than 56% of all marriages in that part of the U.S. occur in just those three months. Read More > at Priceonomics

A True-Crime Documentary About the Con That Shook the World of Wine – Rudy Kurniawan was a rich twenty-something with a naïve fondness for wine when he first started rubbing elbows with the high rollers at wine auctions, in the early two-thousands—“Just a geeky kid drinking Merlot,” as one veteran collector recalls. But he quickly developed a taste for Burgundy, a far more complex realm of connoisseurship, and was soon spending a million dollars every month on wine, much of it at boozy dinners with luminaries like the wine critic Robert Parker, who found Kurniawan to be a “very sweet and generous man.” Like other wealthy collectors, Kurniawan also sold treasures from his cellar. In 2006, the auction house Acker Merrall & Condit broke records selling off thirty-five million dollars’ worth of his wines. Two years later, at the Manhattan restaurant Cru, Acker held a sale proffering more of Kurniawan’s “rare gems,” promising that they had been authenticated by “some of Burgundy’s most discerning (and difficult) connoisseurs.” The lots included bottles of the coveted Domaine Ponsot Clos Saint-Denis, from the years 1945, 1949, and 1966. The only problem, as the proprietor of the estate pointed out, was that Domaine Ponsot did not start producing that particular wine until 1982.

This was the most conspicuous sign that there was something very off about Kurniawan’s collection. As recounted in “Sour Grapes,” a documentary débuting at film festivals this month and on Netflix in November, many more suspicious details emerged in 2012, after F.B.I. agents raided Kurniawan’s Italianate home in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, turning up shopping bags brimming with old corks, pristine labels bundled up like currency, and recipes for faking aged Bordeaux. It turned out that scores of bottles from Kurniawan’s cellar had been produced not by the acclaimed châteaux on their labels but by Kurniawan himself. He stockpiled empty bottles, and, with the care of a chemist, refilled them with mixtures of lesser wines blended to taste like the real thing. Two years ago, he became the first person in the United States to be convicted of wine fraud. He’s currently serving a ten-year sentence in a California prison for what is thought to be the largest case of wine counterfeiting in history. Read More > in The New Yorker

Oil prices slide, OPEC action expectation limits losses – Oil prices fell on Monday, weighed by oversupply concerns, while expectations of an OPEC intervention next month to curb production limited losses.

International benchmark Brent crude oil futures fell 57 cents to $51.38 per barrel at 1348 GMT, after hitting a session high of $52.29 a barrel.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil futures were trading at $49.65 per barrel, down 70 cents from their last settlement, after hitting a session high of $50.58. Read More > at CNBC

1,000 more people shot in Chicago compared with same time last year – A thousand more people have been shot in Chicago this year compared with the same time last year after a weekend that saw eight people killed and at least 40 wounded, according to police and data compiled by the Tribune.

At least 3,475 people had been shot in the city as of shortly after midnight Monday compared with 2,441 people shot this time last year, an increase of 1,034, according to Tribune data. There have been at least 595 homicides this year compared with 409 this time last year, an increase of 186.

The gun violence over the weekend was at levels usually seen in the summer when shootings typically spike. Read More > in the Chicago Tribune


About Kevin

Mayor - City of Oakley, Data Center Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit and Transplan
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