The Intangible Corporation

About 80% of the value of the S&P 500 is attributable to intangible assets. We are entering the era of the “mindful corporation”, the enterprise that is valued entirely for its brands, skills, ideas, patents and customers. WhatsApp had no assets, no profits and very few employees when Facebook bought it for $22 billion. “The less tangible a corporation’s assets, the freer it is to escape commitment” — and, of course, taxation (860 words)

The Myth Of Europe’s Little Ice Age

The Little Ice Age is generally seen as a major event in European history. But it didn’t happen. European weather was constant from the Middle Ages until 1900. The Little Ice Age is a statistical artefact creating by smoothing the climate data into 25-year moving averages. Nor does the supposed anecdotal evidence hold up. The Thames froze more often owing to the new London Bridge, not to climate change (1,500 words)

Tumult At The Telegraph

Britain’s Daily Telegraph has lost five editors in a rocky decade; recent accusations that it spiked stories to please advertisers pose “the biggest threat to its credibility in living memory”. Most newspapers have had a hard time adjusting to digital publishing; some have chosen poor strategies, and failed; but few have been quite as blindsided as the Telegraph, which has seemed unable to settle on any strategy at all (2,005 words)

On Amish Time

Admiring notes on Amish culture, which is more pragmatic than you might think. There is no blanket ban on modernity; rules are constantly updated; the question is whether a technology will be good or bad for the Amish way of life. Video games are out. Debt is out. Automated farm machinery is usually out. Old-fashioned fun is in. “They have a fondness for trampolines, rollerblades, and board games” (2,100 words)

The Crash Of EgyptAir 990

James Fallows calls this “the most useful work of journalism to consider today” when trying to understand the recent Germanwings air crash. Langewiesche tells how EgyptAir Flight 990 was brought down in the Atlantic by a suicidal first officer in 1999, killing 217 passengers. Egypt denied the facts. “One of the world’s really important divides lies between nations that react well to accidents and nations that do not” (10,900 words)

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