Nov 24, 2018

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

☕️ Good Saturday morning from Oshvegas, a.k.a. Oshburg ... Oshkosh, Wis.

Situational awareness: Shoppers are being charged sales tax at some websites where they weren't before, after more than two dozen states took advantage of a Supreme Court ruling allowing them to require more companies to collect sales tax online. (AP)

1 big thing: Catastrophic climate scenarios come true

Firefighter Jose Corona sprays water as flames from the Camp Fire consume a home in Magalia, Calif., this month. (Noah Berger/AP)

In three increasingly strident reports — two in the past two months — scientists reach the dire, unified conclusion that global warming is already costing lives and inflicting a mounting economic toll, Axios science editor Andrew Freedman writes.

  • Why it matters: It will take unprecedented global action to avert potentially catastrophic scenarios in many of our lifetimes.

The latest report, with the release buried by the Trump administration on Black Friday, warns under the present course of emissions, "It is very likely that some physical and ecological impacts will be irreversible for thousands of years, while others will be permanent." 

  • The report, written by scientists at 13 federal agencies and extensively peer reviewed, concludes that the impact of global warming is outpacing previous projections.

The takeaway: The pace and extent of economic growth will be increasingly curtailed by a sweltering, flooded and more hostile planet. 

  • Call it Mother Nature's recession, if you will, except it will be an extended downturn.
  • The only way to avoid that would be significant steps to adapt to global warming while sharply curtailing emissions — which isn't the course we're on now.

The Black Friday climate report, formally known as the National Climate Assessment, follows a landmark U.N. science report in October, and Volume I of yesterday's report, published a year ago.

  • The bottom line: The decisions made in the next few years will set the course of the planet's climate far into the future.

How it's playing ... N.Y. Times 2-column lead, "U.S. CLIMATE STUDY HAS GRIM WARNING OF ECONOMIC RISKS: Reduction of Up to 10 Percent in G.D.P. — Findings Are at Odds With Policies."

Go deeper:

2. Free shipping tames Black Friday

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The features that made Black Friday "a cultural phenomenon — the discounted electronics, the predawn openings, the curbside campsites, the incivility — are changing with the broader retail landscape," the N.Y. Times' Tiffany Hsu reports:

  • What's new: "Foot traffic into stores on Black Friday is slipping while e-commerce claims a growing portion of the sales."
  • Why it's happening: "Shoppers can now find bargains well before and long after Black Friday, and some deals are explicitly intended to draw spending away from the main event."
  • Why it matters: "The retail bonanza is increasingly met with indifference or disapproval by Americans who want to spend time with their families, sleep in and give underpaid retail employees a break."
3. Trillion-dollar meltdown
Courtesy Barron's

It was just this summer "that investors were placing odds on the first U.S. stock to reach a trillion-dollar market value. Apple won the race, crossing the symbolic mark in early August. Amazon.com followed suit, though its trillion-dollar dalliance lasted less than a day," Tae Kim of Barron's writes:

  • "For most tech stocks, it has been downhill ever since. Now the talk is about a trillion-dollar meltdown. The FAANGs — a basket of high-growth technology companies that includes Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Alphabet — have lost $1.1 trillion since their peaks."
  • "This month alone, the loss comes to $400 billion. Each of the FAANGs has sustained drops ranging from 20% to 40%. Among the list of top 10 S&P 500 tech stocks in 2018, Netflix is now the only FAANG to make the cut."

"For investors, the selloff is also a chance to step back from the FAANG obsession that has dominated investing since the acronym became popular in 2015. (The original incarnation of FANG didn’t include Apple.)"

  • "While the group of stocks has seemingly moved together since then, the FAANG stocks topped out at different times this summer, speaking to their varied business models."
Bonus: Pic du jour

Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

The Frost Moon, a full moon named by Native American tradition, rose yesterday behind the Empire State Building, as seen from Newark.

4. Using AI to vet babysitters, screen applicants, watch employees

Predictim, an online service that uses artificial intelligence to assess a babysitter’s personality, scans a candidates' Facebook, Twitter and Instagram post to offer an automated "risk rating" for drug abuse, bullying, harassment, being disrespectful or having a bad attitude," the WashPost's Drew Harwell writes.

  • Dozens of firms are selling employers "systems that analyze a person’s speech, facial expressions and online history."
  • Why it matters: "The technology is reshaping how some companies approach recruiting, hiring and reviewing workers, offering employers an unrivaled look at job candidates through a new wave of invasive psychological assessment and surveillance."

"[T]he recruitment-technology firm HireVue, which works with companies such as Geico, Hilton and Unilever, offers a system that automatically analyzes applicants' tone, word choice and facial movements during video interviews to predict their skill and demeanor on the job. (Candidates are encouraged to smile for best results.)"

  • Fama, a tech firm, "says it uses AI to police workers' social media for 'toxic behavior' and alert their bosses."

P.S. "China’s plan to judge each of its 1.3 billion people based on their social behavior is moving a step closer to reality, with Beijing set to adopt a lifelong points program by 2021 that assigns personalized ratings for each resident." (Bloomberg)

5. Push for digital license plates for drones

Wang Gang/China News Service via Getty Images

The FAA "is significantly behind earlier schedules for crafting airborne-identification rules for drones, causing industry officials to worry the delay could stymie their most ambitious plans for years," the Wall Street Journal's Andy Pasztor reports (subscription).

  • Why it matters: Some experts believe regulations aren't likely to come until 2022.
  • "Many agree drones need electronic license plates [for reliable remote tracking]; few agree on how they should work."

The state of play: The FAA could propose standard regulations this month allowing small drones to fly over crowds and populated areas, per the WSJ. But other regulations will take years to iron out.

  • Go deeper: Drone sales exploded in 2017, surpassing the $1 billion mark for the first time.
6. 1 toy thing

David J. Phillip/AP

Toy trends: Adults want cozy, kids want gross ... Cozy sweaters and soft pajamas are in for adults. Kids, meanwhile, are asking for board games featuring fake poop and pimples, per AP retail writers Joseph Pisani and Anne D'Innocenzio:

  • "Target, Kohl's and other retailers are pushing 'cozy' goods. That means pajamas for the family, weighted blankets, fuzzy mules and everything Sherpa — from socks to sweatshirts. ... Kohl's is making it easy to choose soft and snuggly fashions by prominently displaying the looks near store entrances."
  • Gross sells in the toy business: "In one game, called Don't Step In It, players are blindfolded and have to avoid stepping in soft, clay-like 'poop.' A unicorn version of the game features poop in bright colors. Both have been on Amazon's list of bestselling toys. Another popular game is Pimple Pete ... Players pull, wiggle or twist out squishy 'zits' from a plastic face. Losers get squirted with water."
  • "The LOL Surprise brand is a hot seller again so far this year ... [K]ids peel each layer of a shrink-wrapped plastic ball to reveal dolls, stickers or other trinkets."

Store trends ... "Walmart ... recently introduced WalmartToyLab.com, a new digital playground where shoppers can play with 20 top toys on their computer or tablet. They can also share their favorites on a digital wish list. At the store, Walmart's app now helps shoppers find the exact location of a particular item."

  • "Amazon and eBay are taking a page from traditional retailers and printing their own toy catalogs. Amazon is shipping its toy book to shoppers' mailboxes while eBay placed a shortened six-page version inside People magazine's 'Sexiest Man Alive' issue."
  • "One thing missing from Amazon's toy book: prices. The online retailer tells readers to pick up a phone, open the Amazon app and take a snap of the toy to see how much it costs. Both companies are trying to make a play for former shoppers of Toys R Us."
Mike Allen