☃️Welcome to December! It's World AIDS Day.
- Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,180 words ... a 4½-minute read.
1 big thing: Dems' 2020 chaos theory
Democrats say a very realistic scenario now calls for Pete Buttigieg to win Iowa, Elizabeth Warren to win New Hampshire, Joe Biden to win South Carolina and Bernie Sanders to win Nevada.
- Why it matters: With Buttigieg's rise in Iowa and Warren's deflation, Democrats' 2020 race has no real front runner as the big field begins the two-month holiday sprint to the caucuses on Feb. 3, 64 days from now.
The intrigue: Mike Bloomberg, who's bypassing the early states, thinks a split decision opens a path for him to make a big statement on Super Tuesday (March 3), which includes California.
- But other candidates contend the former mayor will have a standing start at a time when another candidate or two will have excitement and momentum coming out of the early states.
- That's part of the reason Bloomberg's candidacy is so fascinating: No one has tried a self-funded race with anything like the spending Bloomberg has already unleashed.
Iowa has a history of abrupt surprises. Matt Bennett of Third Way, the center-left think tank, shared a fascinating tally showing that the leader in December polls wins contested caucuses less than half the time.
- Of the last 10 contested Democratic contests in Iowa, the candidate who was in first place in December polling won just three times (Walter Mondale in 1984, Al Gore in 2000 and Hillary Clinton in 2016).
- In 2004, John Kerry won Iowa after being sixth in December polling, behind leader Howard Dean. [Corrected]
- Once, the candidate who was in 10th place in December polling won the caucuses. That was former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter, in 1976.
- The tally goes back to 1972, when the modern era of candidate selection began. It omits the reelection campaigns of Presidents Clinton and Obama, who were unopposed for the nomination.
The bottom line: If the race plays through along these lines, the nominee will be chosen in July — at the convention in Milwaukee. That is Bloomberg’s play.
2. 🎁 Cyber Monday eclipses Black Friday
"U.S. shoppers made more purchases online on Black Friday than in the mall," Reuters reports.
- "For the first time in several years, however, store traffic on Thanksgiving evening grew," denting Black Friday.
- ShopperTrak said "visits to stores fell a combined 3% during Thanksgiving and Black Friday compared with the same days in 2018."
"Black Friday was the biggest ever for online sales ... $7.4 billion," per AP.
- "That’s just behind the $7.9 billion haul of last year’s Cyber Monday, which holds the one-day record for online sales, according to Adobe Analytics."
- "Adobe expects online sales to jump to another record this Cyber Monday with an estimated total of $9.4 billion."
3. 📦 "Prime Mover ... Amazon Everywhere"
Amazon "may now reach into Americans’ daily lives in more ways than any corporation in history," the N.Y. Times' Scott Shane writes from Baltimore:
- "Amazon insists, in an argument it is likely to use in antitrust proceedings, that its market power is nothing like what people imagine. Yes, it accounts for 40 to 50 percent of online retail in the United States — but that is only four to five percent of total retail."
- "We welcome the scrutiny," Jay Carney, Amazon’s top Washington representative and former White House press secretary, told the Times. "We operate in huge competitive arenas in which there are thousands and thousands, if not millions, of competitors. It’s hard to argue that if you’re four percent of retail you’re not in competition."
"Baltimore offers in microcosm the contentious issues that Amazon’s conduct has raised nationally," the Times reports:
The erosion of brick-and-mortar retail. Modestly paid warehouse work and the looming job destroyer of automation. An aggressive foray into government and institutional procurement, driving local suppliers to partner with Amazon or face decline.
A swift expansion in air cargo, challenging FedEx and U.P.S. The neighborhood spread of video and audio surveillance. And the steady conquest of the computing infrastructure that underlies commerce, government and communications, something like an electric utility — except without the regulation imposed on utilities.
4. Pic du jour
The sun rises yesterday along 42nd Street, behind the skyline of midtown Manhattan and the Empire State Building, as seen from Weehawken, N.J.
- This is "Manhattanhenge" — four days a year when the sun lines up with Manhattan's street grid.
5. Fighting back: The might of everyday people
On London Bridge on Friday, bystanders used a fire extinguisher and a 5-foot whale tusk to fight back against an attacker who stabbed two people to death.
Those heroes are a reminder of how ordinary people take extraordinary actions to save themselves and others, AP recounts:
- 9/11: United Airlines Flight 93 was headed from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco on Sept. 11, 2001, when hijackers diverted it in an apparent effort to direct it to Washington. It crashed over Pennsylvania as people aboard the plane tried to wrest control of the cockpit. All 33 passengers and seven crew members died.
- Nashville, April 2018: Electrical technician James Shaw Jr., had just sat down at Waffle House when he rushed a shooter and wrested away his AR-15 rifle. "I chose to react because I didn't see any other way of me living, and that's all I wanted to do," Shaw said. "I just wanted to live."
- San Diego, last April: Lori Kaye, 60, was the sole person killed in an attack at a synagogue. Kaye blocked the shooter with an AR-15 rifle by jumping in front of rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, whose index fingers on both hands were wounded.
- UNC-Charlotte, last May: Riley Howell, 21, was shot and killed while tackling a gunman who entered his classroom.
- Denver, last May: Kendrick Castillo, 18, was the only student killed when he lunged at a shooter in his classroom, allowing other students time to hide.
How it's playing:
6. 1 cold thing: Antarctic tourism booms
"The swimsuit-clad tourists leap into the icy water, gasping at the shock, and startling a gaggle of penguins," Agence France-Presse reports from Antarctica.
- "They are spectators at the end of the world, luxury visitors experiencing a vulnerable ecosystem close-up. And their very presence might accelerate its demise."
Why it matters: "The Antarctic peninsula is one of the regions on Earth that is warming the fastest ... three times faster than the global average."
- "Every year you can observe and record the melting of glaciers, the disappearance of sea ice," said Marcelo Leppe, director of the Chilean Antarctic Institute.
- Antarctica is "like the heart of the Earth," he added — it expands and contracts like a heart beating.
"Cruise ships have roamed the region for around 50 years, but their numbers only started to increase from 1990, as Soviet ice-breakers found new purposes in the post-Cold War era," per AFP.
- "78,500 people are expected to visit the region between November and March."
- "That's a 40-percent increase from last year, due in part to short visits by a few new cruise ships carrying more than 500 passengers, too many to disembark under [tour operators'] regulations."