Those who can’t paint, steal


July 12, 2019

Today, Bird had a rough winter and French/US trade relations are on the verge of splinter, but first…
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Authorities charged the king of art smugglers… but they can’t find his loot

Earlier this week, Manhattan authorities charged former antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor with trafficking $145m worth of artifacts from Asia and the Middle East, The New York Times reports.

Over the course of 3 decades, officials say, Kapoor and his co-conspirators built a global smuggling empire that extended from remote Indian temples to ritzy Manhattan galleries — and authorities are still struggling to untangle the twisting trail.

The smugglers went to great lengths to look legit

First, smugglers stole artifacts from Afghanistan, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Thailand, swiping relics from loosely guarded temples and historic structures.

Using phony import documents, the artifacts were then sent to the US and London, where they were gussied up and made to look like a million bucks.

Then, accompanied by doctored provenance papers that falsely certified their legal origins, the artifacts were put for sale at some of the world’s shmanciest galleries.

These ancient artifacts fetched a pretty penny

Some stolen statues — many of which were considered national and religious treasures — sold for more than $2.5m in the 2000s.

Before his exposure in 2011, Kapoor was an art-world star known for his too-good-to-be-true ability to find remarkable pieces of art. 

The 70-year-old Kapoor is in jail in India, where he has been awaiting trial on similar smuggling charges for years. 

But the story isn’t over…

Authorities have seized 2.6k antiquities — worth $107m — from storage vaults in New York.

But 39 of the most valuable pieces — worth $36m — are still missing, believed to be protected by Kapoor’s family members.

An evil Indiana Jones?
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Bird works to convince investors it’s still a sure bet after big winter losses  

Now we know why birds fly south before the cold hits…

According to The Information, the electric scooter operator lost nearly $100m this winter (in Q1), while revenue decreased to about $15m. 

By springtime, the company admitted it spent all but $100m of the $700m it raised a year and a half earlier — and thus came the sharp end to Bird’s onetime furious investor frenzy.

Now, as the summer heats up, the company claims to be heading in the right direction. And it’s working overtime to re-convince backers — as it seeks yet another funding round worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Flying north for the winter causes more work in the long run 

Bird released a pitch to investors that listed several quick moves the company has made to reduce the fierce cash burn in recent months — like building its scooters with more durable hardware, and cutting back on 5% of its staff.

According to some investors, it’s helping

The company is projecting solid growth in the summer months, where it expects to break even by taking its classic tech-bro ethos of “asking for forgiveness, not permission” back on the road.

Bird announced that it plans to build its “second home” in Paris — promising to hire 1k people over the next 2 years — despite Paris’ vehement crackdown with public scooter limitations in recent weeks.

Because if you’re not first on all of the world’s micro mobility freeways (even the regions that don’t want you) — you’re apparently last.

» Word to the bird
If you’re looking for TV so good you’ll postpone plans for it, look no further:

Fleabag image

Fleabag Ssn 2 (Amazon)
A follow up to Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s blunt (but also heartbreaking and hilarious) perspective of a British woman in her 20’s on the brink of, uh… meltdown? disaster? herpes, maybe? That’s the thing: It’s all so relatable to anyone in their 20’s (and/or who’s put that decade in rear-view). This newest season is better than the first.

Euphoria image

Euphoria (HBO)
Zendaya’s gritty breakout role as a teenage addict is both sentimental and intense in this hyper-real illustration of high schoolers in an era where texting is far more prominent than h2h dialogue, jocks are nerds and nerds are, well… getting laid (ok, the jocks are too). But what puts this show above other heightened teen dramas is the kindness creator/writer Sam Levinson brings to this deeply flawed, diverse cast of characters.

When They See Us image
When they see us (Netflix)
Wow. Just… wow. The fictional depiction of the VERY REAL, nightmarish Central Park 5 is more nightmare/horror series than social drama, but it’s just as poignant and powerful. The story of 5 teenagers wronged by the system sworn to protect them may be the one thing everyone needs to watch this year. Jharrel Jerome, who played Korey Wise, should win all the awards.

Amazon will retrain 100k employees in a $700m attempt to brace for more automation

The ecommerce Goliath, which doesn’t exactly have a sterling track record for employee working conditions, announced it will retrain ⅓ of its 300k employees in an effort to prepare its massive workforce for a more automated future. 

Amazon’s offering 6 different ‘upskilling’ plans

These programs — which have names like Amazon Technical Academy, Associate2Tech, and Machine Learning University — are designed to equip non-technical employees for technical roles, with a goal of training 100k across the entire company by 2025.

Many of Amazon’s employees already work alongside robots, and these new education programs will focus on training even more employees to work alongside them.

Automation is real, y’all

Nearly 40% of US jobs are in categories expected to shrink between now and 2030 — and, according to a forthcoming McKinsey report, entry-level and older workers are the most likely to lose out.

While Amazon may need less fulfillment workers in the future, it will need more high-skill employees — so the ecommerce giant hopes to use its existing labor force to build its future one. 

But the outcome is uncertain. Amazon’s past attempts to upgrade its workforce have fizzled: A 2012 internal training program attracted just 25k of Amazon’s hundreds of thousands of employees.

» On the training train

The US investigates France’s controversial tax on Big Tech

France passed a polarizing tax on “digital services” that will hit American tech’s major players like Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Now, the US says it plans to investigate

Under the bill, tech companies with more than $844m in global annual revenue and more than $28m in French revenue will be required to pay a 3% tax on total annual revenue generated by providing services to French users.

In a statement on Wednesday, the office of the US Trade Representative said the tax suggests unfair treatment of US-based tech companies.

Why tax Big Tech?

France argues these firms have long benefited from global tax loopholes that aggressively minimize their tax bill in countries where they aren’t headquartered.

According to the European Commission, internet companies typically pay less than half the tax of traditional businesses. 

Now, the country of fine wine and cheese believes that, oui, it’s time to pay the piper. 

The American red and white is feeling pretty blue about it

American business groups quickly fired back at the proposal — because, unfortunately, with sadness comes anger.

The US Chamber of Commerce says the plan “would harm American businesses and workers.”

But with anger comes vengeance, and there’s nothing more dangerous than a vengeful trade-hoarder. Now, many worry the US inquiry could lead to retaliatory tariffs.

» Not again
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