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Today's Smart Brevity count: 1217 words, ~ 5 minute read.
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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
After years of bitter complaints about cyberattacks from foreign adversaries, a new report describes an aggressive U.S. cyber plan against Russia, a show of long-understood American prowess on the leading edge of warfare.
The big picture: Over the last half-dozen years, the U.S. has been on the receiving end of some of the most damaging hacks in history, climaxing with Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.
But now, in a high-profile story, the U.S., under tremendous military, economic and diplomatic pressure globally amid the multi-front brinkmanship of the Trump administration, has been depicted as a formidable cyber actor:
Both reports resemble a lower-level 21st century version of the “mutually assured destruction” policy between the U.S. and the Soviets that prevailed during the Cold War. “With the 2020 election heating up, and Russia's cyber offensive continuing, I can well imagine policymakers wishing Americans to know what their government is doing in response," Richard Fontaine, CEO of the Center for a New American Security, tells Axios.
Speaking by email, James Lewis, director of CSIS’s Technology Policy Program, said that the leaks may in part reflect unhappiness by some U.S. officials with Trump’s Russia stance, and “a desire to lock in a more confrontational policy.”
Like an automated carwash for plates, a new commercial-grade robot dish-scrubber takes in dirty dishes in tall stacks and spits clean ones out the other side — potentially cutting dishwashing staffs by more than half, Kaveh reports.
Why it matters: Dishwashing, a longstanding entry point for restaurant workers, is an unpleasant and potentially dangerous job. Add in low pay and restaurants face a near-constant churn: The average tenure for dishwashing staff is under a month and a half.
What's happening: The robotic dish-scrubber from Dishcraft Robotics, a Silicon Valley startup, is the latest in a boom in food robotics that we've been covering. It takes the place of the manual scrub most dishes undergo before heading to a commercial dishwasher, which sanitizes them with chemicals or very hot water.
How it works:
The scrubber, by Dishcraft's account, is fast and uses water and energy more efficiently than people. But it's inflexible.
Only the biggest kitchens, like hospital or hotel cafeterias serving many hundreds of diners a day, might benefit from the robotic scrubber.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Private equity firms are raising record money, but the returns on these mega-funds aren't outpacing the S&P 500.
The big picture: These superstar funds are ballooning due to rising demand from investors with deep pockets. "With interest rates still persistently low, the industry’s historical reputation for 20%-plus returns, is appealing — even if it means paying higher fees and having money locked up for long periods," writes WSJ's Miriam Gottfried.
But, but, but: They yield middling returns. Over 3 years, mega-funds netted 15% in returns compared to the S&P 500's 17%. And over about 13 years, both mega-funds and the index netted 10%.
Plastic that washed up on the UK coast, 1994-2019. Photo: Steve McPherson
Questioning the zoning gospel (Emily Badger, Quoctrung Bui — NYT)
Our plastic planet (Andrew Freedman — Axios)
Iceland's booming data centers (Tryggvi Adalbjornsson — MIT Tech Review)
Why Big Tech is raiding animal research labs (Sarah McBride, Ashlee Vance — Bloomberg)
The biggest winners against poverty (GZERO Media)
Photo: Owen Humphreys/PA Images/Getty
Since humans first set foot on the moon, astronauts have been leaving poopy diapers there. We should go and get 'em, reports Vox's Brian Resnick in a video.
Erica writes: It's not a question of cleaning up after ourselves. Rather, studying all that poop could tell us a lot about the moon and Mars and how life might fare outside of Earth. Across six moon landings, Apollo astronauts left 96 bags of poop, pee, vomit and other human waste on the moon.