- The brick-and-mortar grocery business is not dead yet.
- President Donald Trump can score some wins in his Kim Jong Un summit.
- The Supreme Court just got nakedly political (again).
- Bank of America is now a paragon of safety.
- This is a good time for a deep dive on China’s global ambitions.
Happy Anniversary, AmazonGroceryPocalypse
Where were you the day brick-and-mortar grocery stores died? That’s when Amazon.com Inc. bought Whole Foods.
It’s a trick question: One year after that $13.7 billion deal, the grocery industry is still quite alive. Just this weekend, many of you reading this newsletter probably bought food at Kroger, Publix, or the unquestionably best-named grocery store of all time, Piggly Wiggly.
The deal did temporarily crush grocery-chain stocks. It made everybody worry Amazon would gut Whole Foods’ infamously high prices and squash industry profits. It triggered a frenzy of survivalist deal-making and business-model-rethinking. And yet, at Ground Zero – Whole Foods – not much has changed, writes Sarah Halzack. Prices are still pretty high. Amazon’s presence is barely noticeable. Meanwhile, Piggly Wiggly just turned 102 years old.
And most grocery stocks have bounced back:
Amazon is still huge in the online grocery sector. But that only represents somewhere between one and four percent of total grocery spending in the U.S., depending on who’s measuring. And the Whole Foods deal has only made Amazon’s complex food-selling and -shipping tangle even messier, Sarah, Shira Ovide and Tara Lachapelle note in a Facebook Live discussion. It’s hard to avoid the feeling that Amazon might have – CLUMSY FOOD METAPHOR WARNING – bitten off more than it can chew.
This is Amazon we’re talking about, of course – an $821 billion behemoth that, Sarah, Shira and Tara noted, can afford to fail in ways Kroger can’t. Still, as Sarah suggests, Amazon has given its wiggly prey time to evolve into more-durable forms.
The Singapore Summit
By now, nobody should expect monumental accomplishments from the summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un, scheduled to begin at 9:00 p.m. ET tonight. It feels more like a photo-op than a substantive negotiation. Still, it's possible Trump could wring a "win" or two from the meeting, write Bloomberg's editors. First, he must do no harm. And getting a firm commitment from Kim to get on a schedule for "denuclearization" would be a respectable achievement.
Would-be South Korean ambassador Victor Cha – whose nomination the White House killed because he wasn't hawkish enough – talks to Toby Harshaw about what a "win" or "loss" here would look like.
One of Trump’s biggest goals may be merely to open a U.S. embassy in Pyongyang, Eli Lake writes. The upside of that would be sticking a Trojan horse filled with American influence into a closed-down nation. The downside is that it would legitimize North Korea, rewarding it for bad behavior, while keeping American influence confined to a narrow window in Pyongyang.
Bonus Trump-Kim Question: Is a U.S.-North Korea peace deal even possible? Noah Feldman walks you through the arguments like a modern-day Socrates.
Let the Voter Purges Begin
In a narrow decision, split along political lines, the Supreme Court upheld an Ohio law that lets the state purge voters from registration rolls if they haven’t voted in a while and don’t respond to a mailed questionnaire asking if they’ve moved. It seems especially designed to disenfranchise Democratic voters. Noah Feldman writes that the only legal basis for the stances the justices took in this case seems to be political party affiliation. “Partisanship should not inform statutory interpretation in this way,” Noah writes. Bush v. Gore could not be reached for comment.
What a Difference a Financial Crisis Makes
Better Know a Global Superpower: China Edition
This weekend, Hal Brands launched a must-read series exploring China’s growing global influence. The first installment traces how China’s military ambitions have expanded beyond its own neighborhood to challenge the U.S. around the world. The second piece explains the evolving ideology behind China’s approach to governing its people and interacting with the world – think “authoritarian mercantilism,” not “communism.”
American houses are getting bigger, though households and lots are getting smaller, writes Justin Fox:
So much for America’s growing “energy dominance”: Logistical nightmares are making Permian shale-oil prices lastingly cheap, writes Liam Denning:
Populists need enemies, and Donald Trump’s special skill seems to be finding enemies and nurturing hatred for them. – Frank Wilkinson.
Why does Comcast Corp. want an expensive 21st Century Fox Inc. asset deal? CEO-for-life Brian Roberts does not have to explain that to you! – Tara Lachapelle
Want to know what the world will be like when run by millennials? Look at Europe. – Leonid Bershidsky
If cryptocurrencies want to be taken seriously, they should take security more seriously. – Tim Culpan
Scientists might have an easier time growing a conscious brain in a lab using stem cells than by using computers. And nobody is thinking about the consequences, warns Mark Buchanan.
Are you hungry for analysis of every single one of the 736 players in the World Cup? The Guardian’s got you.
Note: Please send brain cells, suggestions and kicker ideas to Mark Gongloff at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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