United States of Cows

MARKETS

  • U.S. stocks: The Dow gained ~100 points in the last session in July. Equities snagged their biggest monthly gain since January.
  • Economy: U.S. workers got their biggest pay increase in close to a decade in the 12 months through June, per the Labor Department's employment-cost index.

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SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook Takes a Stab at Removing Bad Actors

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"Fool me twice, shame on me."-Facebook, probably. Zuck's team deleted dozens of accounts reminiscent of Russian interference tactics from its Facebook and Instagram platforms this week.

The who

Facebook (+0.89%) axed 32 accounts found to be involved in "coordinated inauthentic behavior." They'd amassed 290,000+ followers in 9,500+ posts since getting started back in March 2017.

  • Casualties included "Aztlan Warriors," "Black Elevation," "Mindful Being," and "Resisters"

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Facebook said it's not sure who's behind the coordinated efforts, but "it's clear that whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency has in the past."

  • Remember: About five months ago, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted Russian firm Internet Research Agency-an operation that manipulated Facebook and other social platforms to influence the 2016 presidential election.

The what

The deleted pages ran ~150 ads on FB and Insta, and created ~30 events starting in May 2017 (the largest event had 4,700 accounts interested in attending).

  • Facebook said the "Resisters" page created and promoted a protest planned for Aug. 10-12 called "No Unite the Right 1-DC." It was slated to take place the same weekend as the "Unite the Right" protest.

The how

The now-deleted pages took enormous care to cover their tracks-they used virtual-private networks, internet phone services, and third-party purchases to stay undercover.

  • Facebook: "We face determined, well-funded adversaries who will never give up and are constantly changing tactics. It's an arms race and we need to constantly improve, too."

Facebook shared findings with Congress, law enforcement, and other tech companies. Sen. Mark Warner (the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee) pinned it on Russia:
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Zoom out: The move comes less than 100 days before midterm elections and reeks of outside interference in the U.S. electoral system.

TECH

Apple's Record-Breaking Quarter

The Apple doesn't fall...ever, it would seem. Apple (+3.34% after hours) handed Wall Street a strong fiscal Q3 earnings report, showing it's sitting out the tech sector's recent rout.

Apple earned $2.34 a share, easily beating Wall Street's $2.18 forecast. Revenue topped expectations at $53.3 billion and grew 17% annually. It was the best-ever revenue for Apple's June quarter.

  • Remember: Apple often releases new products in September...meaning sales typically slow down in the spring and summer as we all anticipate the next big thing.

iPhone sales were on low power mode-41.3 million were sold, just under analysts' predictions of 41.79 million. But, the average selling price of those smartphones was $724, ~4% higher than anticipated and ~20% higher annually (h/t iPhone X, starting at $999).

Fast forward: Apple expects strong iPhone sales to push revenue to $60 billion-$62 billion in its fiscal Q4...a 14% to 18% increase from last year. Next stop? A $1 trillion market cap (less than $80 billion to go!).

ECONOMY

From Sea to Shining Sea: How the U.S. Uses Its Land

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It's August, so you're either in the middle of a road trip or, in our case, jealously following your friend's RV adventure on Instagram (sweet Banff pics, Chandler).

But have you ever thought about how the forests, cities, and farms you're driving through contribute to the economy?

The Van Goghs on Bloomberg's graphics team have. They created 13 maps showing how the contiguous 48 states use 1.9 billion acres of land to create wealth. Here's what we learned:

  • Cities are economic powerhouses. While they make up just 3.6% of the contiguous U.S. in terms of land cover, just the top 10 most productive metro areas contributed to ~40% of U.S. GDP in 2016.
  • Cropland takes up about 20% of the landmass...but for the most part, it's not feeding you. So, who's it feeding?
  • The United States of Cows: 41% of the contiguous U.S. is used in the service of livestock.
  • Let's talk timber: Weyerhaeuser, the country's largest private owner of timberlands, controls an area almost the size of West Virginia.

CONSUMER GOODS

P&G Wants You to Pay a Little More for Household Goods

If your cabinets are looking a little bare these days, you might want to stock up soon. Consumer goods leader P&G (+0.82%) is raising prices on some of its major brands.

  • The price of Pampers diapers in North America will increase 4% on average.
  • Charmin toilet paper, Bounty paper towels, and Puffs tissues will all see an average price increase of 5%.

And surprise! Tariffs aren't contributing to higher costs. Instead, P&G is hoping to ride a wave of rising consumer confidence to give its thinning margins a little room to breathe.

Want another reason prices are going up?

Here's one answer: pulp.

No, not the kind that ruins an otherwise refreshing glass of orange juice...but the wood-based raw material that's used to make products from tissues to diapers. Since late 2016, hardwood pulp prices have jumped around 60%.

  • Did you know? You can make 1,000 rolls of toilet paper from the pulp of just one eucalyptus tree.

Become a pulp expert.

FIREARMS

3D-Printed Gun Blueprints Spark Fierce Debate

What would have been a milestone for gun "manufacturing" gets the boot: Today was set to be the first day you'd be able to download blueprints to 3D-print a gun at home.

But instead, a federal judge blocked the public availability of the blueprints just a handful of hours before they were set to hit the open internet.

  • How we got here: Nonprofit Defense Distributed and the State Department reached a settlement earlier this year allowing it to release DIY 3D-printed gun plans.
  • What it meant: People with a 3D printer could have printed a range of firearms that are untraceable and invisible to background checks.

But what happened? Gun control advocates took action and numerous states filed a joint lawsuit aimed at preventing the blueprints from becoming public, citing a threat to public safety...and it worked.

The view from Washington: President Trump was skeptical (FYI, the NRA notes that undetectable plastic guns have been illegal for 30 years, and the White House supports that law).
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Another perspective, from Medium blogger BJ Campbell: 3D-printed guns would barely work, he writes, not to mention...they're way more expensive to build than buying a regular handgun.

Bottom line: Thought the gun control debate was already heated? Technological innovations like 3D printing will only create more battle lines.

FOOD

It Was a Perfect National Avocado Day...

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The sun was shining and the summer was in full swing. "What could go wrong?" Chipotle's execs asked themselves.

Well...a lot.

  1. The first blow: Chipotle elected (generously) to offer free guacamole to customers who ordered entrees online or in-app. Sounds great, until you realize people go bananas for mashed avocados. Chipotle's free guac landing page crashed right around lunchtime and promo codes didn't work for many using the app.
  2. Tough, but survivable...right up until Chipotle learned guacamole is a condiment ripe for scams. Fraudsters pounced, offering fake social media ads for "$100 Chipotle Gift Cards" celebrating National Avocado Day. Hey, even we got excited for a good 30 seconds.
  3. The worst part of Chipotle's day, though, came when at least two people reported getting sick after eating at an Ohio location. And just as the memories of 2015's E. coli epidemic started to fade, Chipotle finds itself back in the crosshairs. Its stock dropped nearly 7%.

WHAT ELSE IS BREWING

  • Yahoo Finance will launch an all-day live video streaming network by the end of this year, per Axios.
  • Huawei, a Chinese smartphone maker, zoomed past Apple in market share in Q2 2018. It's now No. 2 in the smartphone market behind Samsung.
  • MoviePass will increase prices by 50% within the next 30 days, parent company Helios & Matheson Analytics said. It'll also make subscribers wait longer to see blockbusters.
  • Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he expects there will be an agreement on the renegotiation of NAFTA in the coming days.
  • Tesla (+2.75%) enlisted employees from across the country to work in its Fremont, CA plant in an effort to ramp up production of batteries and Model 3s, per CNBC.

BREAKROOM

PERSONAL FINANCE TIP
Here it is...the article you've been waiting for: The Penny Hoarder's ultimate step-by-step guide to building up your savings. From choosing a budgeting method to automating your finances, this resource will teach you everything you need to know to start saving. Get smart about personal finance.

PRODUCTIVITY TIP
Drink water-You're probably thinking, "Really insightful tip, Brew Crew...I never knew I needed to drink water." But hear us out: Scientists have recently shown that even just mild dehydration can lead to worse performance on tasks that require "complex processing" or "a lot of [your] attention." So fill up that bottle, get drinking, and learn more.

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