Dec 25, 2019

Axios AM

🛷☃️ Merry, Merry from Oregon! From our family to yours, thank you for starting these fascinating days with Axios AM.

1 big thing: Perils of online shopping

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As online shopping keeps growing, the holidays have turned into a windfall for porch pirates, Axios' Erica Pandey and Stef Kight write.

  • Cyber Monday 2019 (the Monday after Thanksgiving) was Amazon's biggest sales day in history. FedEx delivered a record-breaking 33 million packages that day. UPS planned on shipping 32 million parcels each day between Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to Transport Topics.
  • At the same time, Google searches from “stolen package” have been steadily growing, according to Google Trends data. Searches spike every December.
  • More than 90,000 packages are stolen every day in New York City, and 1.7 million packages throughout the country are stolen or go missing each day, per the N.Y. Times.

What to watch: The thefts are creating business opportunities for tech giants and startups alike.

  • Amazon advertises its entire smart home apparatus — including Ring — as a way to prevent thefts. One Axion bought his mother a Ring doorbell as a Christmas present. (Ring came under fire after its cameras were hacked by strangers who used the devices to talk to customers, their dogs or children.)
  • Amazon has also invested in lockers for package safekeeping.
  • And the thefts are giving rise to new startups aiming to help solve the problem, such as Pickups or Latch.

The bottom line: Santa might have been onto something with chimney delivery.

2. 📱 The diary you never see
Image: The New York Times. Used by permission.

On a day when you may have time to read, I urge you to dive into "One Nation, Tracked," an exposé for New York Times Opinion, by Stuart A. Thompson and Charlie Warzel.

  • They mined a data file of 50 billion location pings from the cellphones of 12 million Americans as they moved through several major cities, including D.C., New York, San Francisco and L.A.
  • The image above shows the pings from a single smartphone over several months in 2016 and 2017.
  • "Connecting those pings reveals a diary of the person’s life," the authors write.

Why it matters: Supposedly anonymous data isn't always all that anonymous.

  • "Watching dots move across a map sometimes revealed hints of faltering marriages, evidence of drug addiction, records of visits to psychological facilities."

"The data was provided ... by sources who asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to share it and could face severe penalties for doing so," The Times reports.

  • "The sources of the information said they had grown alarmed about how it might be abused and urgently wanted to inform the public and lawmakers."

Worthy of your time (subscription).

3. What's not in your stocking

New technology giveth, and taketh away ...

Graphic: Reuters
Graphic: Reuters
Bonus: Pic du jour
Photo: Giulio Origlia/Getty Images

A reminder of Christmas across the ages ... Pope Francis delivers his Christmas Urbi rt Orbi ("to the city [of Rome] and to the world") blessing in St. Peter's Square.

4. Remembering Edward Aschoff, 34

That was a tweet 20 days ago by Edward Aschoff, a dapper, gregarious ESPN college football reporter.

  • The native of Oxford, Miss., died yesterday on his 34th birthday, "after a brief illness" signaled by the tweet.
  • "Our thoughts are with his loved ones, including his fiancée, Katy," ESPN said.

Five days before the tweet about pneumonia, Aschoff had noted that it was "freezing" as he covered Ohio State v. Michigan.

  • Before the game, he tweeted a picture of Michigan Stadium, "The Big House": "Cross this one off the bucket list."

"A talented storyteller," ESPN writes, "Aschoff joined ESPN in 2011 as part of the SEC blog network after covering recruiting and Florida football for The Gainesville Sun."

  • "A graduate of the University of Florida, Aschoff had a keen sense of humor and connected with many he crossed paths with, be it professionally or personally."
  • "His witty picks columns in the SEC blog were must-reads, and he oftentimes poked fun at himself about everything from his cat, Meeko, to his love of soccer."
5. Memorable pics of 2019
Photo: Steve Helber/AP

A massive bronze sculpture of a young black man with dreadlocks and Nikes, astride a muscular horse, was unveiled Dec. 10 in Richmond, not far from one of the country's most prominent displays of Confederate monuments, per AP.

  • "Rumors of War," by prominent artist Kehinde Wiley, 42, was on display in Times Square, and is now on the lawn of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
  • The statue was Wiley's response to the Confederate monuments that pepper the U.S. and the South. "It's a story about America 2.0," he said.

"The massive figure stands more than 27 feet high — 60,000 pounds of bronze and stone, beautiful and intimidating," the WashPost's Greg Schneider reported from Richmond.

  • "It both echoes and shatters the conventions of this city of monuments, as the first major equestrian statue here in a century."
6. 1 fun thing: JFK on Santa
Image: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

In the throes of the Cold War, the Soviet Union was planning to test a massive nuclear bomb in the Arctic Circle. A Michigan girl wrote to then-President John F. Kennedy about the North Pole's most famous resident, AP's Phil Marcelo reports.

  • "Please stop the Russians from bombing the North Pole," 8-year-old Michelle Rochon pleaded. "Because they will kill Santa Claus."
  • JFK's brief, reassuring response (above) is part of a trove of online holiday material at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston.

The Soviets made good on their threat. Two days after Kennedy penned his letter, they dropped the "King of Bombs," as it was dubbed in Russian.

  • 1,570 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined, it shattered windows as far away as Norway and Finland.
  • It's still considered the most powerful man-made explosive ever detonated.

📬 Thanks for reading! Please tell a friend about AM/PM.