A different kind of drug store


April 11, 2019

Today, IKEA’s about to shrink, and catfish are going extinct(ish), but first…
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Dream Market will shut down at the end of April. What does that mean?

Last month, the Amazon of dark net marketplaces, Dream Market, announced it will close at the end of April after reportedly suffering a hack-attack that held the site hostage for $400k.

When it shuts down for good at the end of the month, hundreds of thousands of listings will close, eviscerating millions of dollars of weekly trade. 

As the heart of the underground economy scrambles for a lifeboat, whispers of a mysterious new partner-market that will replace Dream have surfaced — but seasoned dark-webbers suspect it’s a trap. 

For those who keep the light on

Founded in 2013, Dream Market has since been the biggest marketplace on the dark web, specializing in drug sales and stolen data.

Now, Dream will soon join Hansa, AlphaBay and, of course, Silk Road in the boneyard of darknet marketplaces.

Like the others, Dream’s partial closure didn’t come out of the blue. Multiple sustained attacks have halted the site for most of the previous 2 months, which would give the FBI just enough time to clone, control, and monitor a new site’s server traffic before another great migration.

Sound familiar?

Since the fall of Silk Road, the playbook for taking down dark web drug dealers is pretty well established, and it doesn’t take Ross Ulbricht to see that Dream’s closure is hitting the same beats.

In 2017, police seized AlphaBay, a market 10x the size of Silk Road. After it was seized users were directed to a new “safe” market called Hansa — turns out, it was an ambush.

“After so many users got stung in the Hansa honeypot operation, there is a similar sense of dread about Dream’s claim to reopen on a new site,” says Patrick Shortis, a criminology researcher at Manchester University.

Is this the end of an era?

Shortis maintained to Vice that this is not the end of decentralized drug trade. “Trade may drop during these kinds of events, but it recuperates quickly. I don’t see why this would be different.”

That said, if the Feds’ key strategy is to destroy user trust, each of these sting operations, as obvious as they may be now, make the dark web waters even murkier.

Are you afraid of the dark?
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Fake foreign fillets are catfishing Americans, and US fish farmers are damn near drowning

Something stinks in Belzoni, Mississippi; it stinks like old fish. 

Belzoni, the self-proclaimed “catfish capital of the world,” still hosts an annual catfish-eating festival and a Miss Catfish pageant — but the fish farms for which the town is famous are floundering.

A flood of fake fish from across the pond left many Mississippi fish farmers high and dry. Now, the cat-fish-tastrophe is also causing the communities built on the slimy backs of catfish to crumble too, reports The Guardian.

The catfish is out of the bag

In 2002, when Mississippi farmed 60% of the nation’s whiskered whitefish, the catfish craze minted many Mississippi mudfish millionaires. 

But the introduction of cheaper whitefish from Asia — much of which is passed off as catfish on American menus — caused a catfish crash.

Despite Ahab-esque effort from Mississippi’s catfish kingpins, the industry flopped like a fish out of water: Between 2001 and 2008, employment fell from 11k to 7.8k, and the catfish catch fell from $550m to $400m.

When fishing dries up, so does everything else

The US is one of only 2 countries in the world where fish farming is on the decline. Factories near Belzoni that once employed 3.5k people now provide 500 jobs. 

Fish flight has rippled across the entire local economy: Belzoni’s population recently reached a 100-year low, and the city borrows money to fill potholes and prevent floods. 

In Belzoni — a town that once claimed to have the most millionaires in the state — approximately 25% of households live on less than $10k a year, and median household income is $28k, 30% below the statewide average in the poorest US state.

» Fin

IKEA ditches its meatballs and more at its new NYC store

Next week in Manhattan, IKEA will open its first “Planning Studio” — a tiny storefront 1/20th the size of the classic 350k-square-foot stores we’ve all come to know and fear. 

It will be the new concept’s first location in the US, and it’s all part of an effort to build 20 new IKEA locales in cities over the next 3 years. 

At the Planning Studio, customers will be able to learn about Ikea’s “small space solutions,” browse selections of popular IKEA teams, and order products for home delivery — but don’t expect to take anything home day-of.

Lookin’s for free, but touchin’s gonna cost ya!

Bloomberg reports that this is the furniture giant’s latest change to its nearly $44B business model, as it needs to pivot from its DIY culture as e-commerce hybrids like Wayfair move in to take their lunch.

The Swedish company flipped the global furniture market with its selection of bargain furniture sprawled around a labyrinth of twists and turns (if you’ve never been lost in an IKEA, you’ve never known struggle).

But that model forces shoppers to assemble the furniture themselves — an expectation less appealing to today’s consumers (IKEA’s profits dropped 26% in 2018).

Ebay: Forever a visionary

We all laughed at those weird “We Sell Your Stuff On Ebay” stores but, nearly 20 years later, it turns out Ebay was just ahead of its time.

Now, as failed brick-and-mortars (*ahem* Sears) drop like flies, companies are forced to adapt to the way people actually shop both online and in physical stores.

These smaller storefronts are designed to focus more on white-glove services like “search bar” kiosks where shoppers can access the entirety of the brand’s stock — yeah, but, no meatballs?

» That’s a great IKEA

Johnson Publishing Co., the black-owned media trailblazer, files for bankruptcy

Johnson Publishing Company, the American publishing company that launched magazines Ebony and Jet, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy after a long run as one of the most influential black-owned publishers in the US.

At a time when mainstream media outlets didn’t make content for (and by) people of color, the family-run publishing company filled the gap with excellent, varied coverage, laying a blueprint for black-owned businesses.

The builder behind a black-owned business empire

John H. Johnson, the grandson of slaves, started his publishing company in 1942 with a $500 loan.

Johnson — who brought a white guy with him and posed as a janitor to buy offices — built the business into an empire that boasted more than 2m readers and spanned magazines, books, TV, radio, and cosmetics. 

Unlike other media outlets, Ebony and Jet highlighted “positive, everyday achievements from Harlem to Hollywood.” But they also fought boldly for racial justice, demanding equal employment and raising national awareness of Emmett Till’s murder.

A brilliant, beleaguered building block for black media

Johnson Publishing Co. — whose current CEO is Linda Johnson Rice, John H. Johnson’s daughter — has struggled to compete with digital outlets, selling its magazines to a private equity firm in 2016.

While Johnson inspired the success of many black-owned businesses, we’re still a long way from racial equality in business: Last year, there were only 3 black CEOs at Fortune 500 companies, and that number has never risen higher than 7.

» The end of an era
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