A Rotten Deal
Salmonella, TMTG, Rivian, Facebook, and Dressage
This is not a sentence you want to read, under any circumstances:
So supermarkets and restaurants continued selling chicken tainted with drug-resistant infantis.
Especially not when followed by:
And they continue to do so today.
Infantis is a particularly nasty form of salmonella, which is currently running rampant through the US poultry supply, unchecked by regulators or, really, anyone. ProPublica spent the last eight months investigating, and it is not good:
With a public health threat unfolding across the country, you might have expected federal regulators to act swiftly and decisively to warn the public, recall the contaminated poultry and compel changes at chicken plants. Or that federal investigators would pursue the root cause of the outbreak wherever the evidence led.
None of that happened.
Instead, the team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention closed the outbreak investigation nine months later even though people were continuing to get sick. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees meat and poultry, was not only powerless to act but said nothing to consumers about the growing threat.
One fun fact I learned in this article is that the USDA does not prohibit companies from selling tainted meat:
The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, unlike its counterparts in some countries, has no authority to control salmonella on farms, where the bacteria often spreads. And even when there’s persistent evidence of contamination in a plant’s products, the USDA can’t use those findings to suspend operations.
You may remember the infamous Jack in the Box incident in the 1990s - four children died from E. coli - which led the USDA to make it illegal to sell meat that contained a particular strain of E. coli. It’s never done the same for salmonella, though in the ‘90s the USDA did require poultry plants to test for the bacteria, threatening them with shutdowns if they violated the standard.
That didn’t last long, and eventually a federal court said the USDA didn’t have the power to regulate salmonella. Even now, the agency’s workaround leaves it with few tools to punish plants that regularly break the rules.
There are over 2500 different types of salmonella, and only a few strains cause severe illness in humans. Infantis has been around for years, sickening and occasionally killing people. The CDC and the USDA were both essentially powerless to track and combat the spread of the bacteria, for different reasons.
This, unsurprisingly, leads companies to simply flout the rules with no consequences:
According to the most recent data, more than a third of the plants producing ground chicken are violating the USDA standard. And many large companies — including Tyson, Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue, Koch Foods and the processors that produce chicken for Costco and Whole Foods — currently have plants with high rates of the types of salmonella most likely to make people sick.
I will spare you the details, but factory poultry farming in the US is gruesome, creating many opportunities for bacteria to spread between chickens, slaughterhouses, workers, and back again.
Cooking chicken to 165 degrees will kill infantis, according to the CDC, but many restaurants and home cooks who handle raw meat can easily cross-contaminate surfaces and cause illness. This is a problem government regulators should be working with the multibillion dollar poultry industry to solve, but instead we’ve got a rickety patchwork of half measures and promises to improve. Meanwhile, people continue to get sick and die, and we risk future drug-resistant salmonella strains becoming more potent.
Here is a handy Chicken Checker that ProPublica put together, so you can look up how bad salmonella is at the place you buy your chicken from.
One funny thing that happened when Trump took his fake media company public was that it made a lot of money for investors and speculators and not very much money for Trump or the company itself. I wrote:
At current valuations, he sold over $3 billion worth of stock for $293 million dollars, which is about what you’d expect from the master of The Deal.
When you do a SPAC, you can also do something called a PIPE, which is sort of the reverse of an IPO - a company goes to institutional investors for money after they’ve gone public, instead of before. Working in Trump’s favor is DWAC’s stock price, which is still quite a bit higher than $10, the SPAC starting price. So, now they’re going to ask Wall Street for another $500 million to “launch the media conglomerate,” which, again, is not a real thing.
Even so, it has to be making Trump absolutely furious that:
He can’t sell his shares yet, he’s sitting on paper billions he can’t touch
Even the PIPE will be at a deep discount to DWAC’s current price, so he’s selling another few billion worth of stock for $500 million, etc
Much like Trump’s presidential campaign, he’s attached his name to something hoping to make some money, but now it’s become successful beyond his wildest dreams and everyone else is getting rich off it.
Rivian, an electric-vehicle maker that has been around for over a decade, finally got around to delivering a product this year — 156 pickup trucks — and nearly all went to its employees.
In the first day of trading after its initial public offering, Rivian’s stock jumped 29 percent, putting its market value at $86 billion — in line with G.M.’s and higher than Ford’s.
A car company that hasn’t delivered any cars is worth as much as GM in its first day of trading. They’ve got 55,000 outstanding orders which the company says will take nearly two years to fill. They’re building an upscale pickup truck and an SUV - two vehicles the US definitely needs more of - and currently have no dealerships or obvious plan for how to deliver charging stations to service customers. Also, they’re burning a few billion dollars a year in development costs. Anyhow, financial markets are rational and I’m sure all of this makes sense to someone.
Compulsive use of social media may be causing issues for more than 10% of its users, according to Facebook’s own research:
Facebook researchers have found that 1 in 8 of its users report engaging in compulsive use of social media that impacts their sleep, work, parenting or relationships
Not great! Facebook is not alone in pushing addictive apps on people, to be sure, but your uncle isn’t getting Q-pilled on Candy Crush, so Facebook may have more of a responsibility to do something about it. So, what did they do?
A Facebook team focused on user well-being suggested a range of fixes, and the company implemented some, building in optional features to encourage breaks from social media and to dial back the notifications that can serve as a lure to bring people back to the platform.
Facebook shut down the team in late 2019.
You’ll forgive me if I treat the claim that Facebook attempted to “dial back” user engagement at any time since its founding with extreme suspicion. In fact, the one thing you can reliably count on Facebook to do is put user engagement above any other considerations, including safety, health, et cetera. Zuckerberg is so maniacally focused on user engagement that Facebook executives wrote 100% serious memos about encouraging parents to put their children on social media during play dates:
Sounds like a company concerned with their users’ health! Anyhow, Facebook has known for years that overuse of its social apps can cause psychological problems for people, and in response dissolved its “well-being team”. It’s yet another reminder that the Meta rebrand and the company’s attempts to pivot to taking over more aspects of our lives should also be treated with extreme suspicion.
Yes, the dancing horses:
A gold trader who disappeared after testifying about a U.S. sanctions-evasion scheme he masterminded has apparently had his assumed identity blown by a horse.
In late August, a photo appeared in PS Dressage magazine as part of an article about Sonata MF, a horse who had just become a national champion in the equestrian sport. The since-removed picture showed “Aaron Goldsmith,” the smiling owner of the facility near Palm Beach, Florida, where the horse trained.
Turkish journalists soon identified Goldsmith as Reza Zarrab, who in 2017 was the U.S. government’s star witness in a case alleging that he conspired with an executive at state-run Turkiye Halk Bankasi AS to launder money and funnel Iranian funds through the U.S. financial system. Zarrab pleaded guilty and cooperated against his co-defendant, who was convicted. He may testify again in the U.S. government’s case against the bank.
This is funny on a few levels. It is funny that a gold trader convicted of laundering money would choose the pseudonym Goldsmith. It is less funny that he’d move to Palm Beach and get into competitive dressage while awaiting sentencing, but it is very funny that he’d get his cover blown by appearing next to his national champion horse in a magazine. The bank in question - Halkbank - was the topic of much conversation between Turkey’s president and our last president, and there are probably quite a few people back in Turkey who are not happy with Mister Goldsmith, so he may have wanted to keep a low profile. We know Erdogan isn’t above kidnapping.
This doesn’t violate my rule about Posting Your Crimes per se, but it’s probably a good idea to stay out of the public eye when you’re the snitch in a big international money laundering scandal.
WSJ - “About 40% of the traffic to Facebook pages at one point in 2018 went to pages that stole or repurposed most of their content, according to a research report that year by Facebook senior data scientist Jeff Allen…”
NYT - “In the email, which was reviewed by The New York Times, Mr. Watson wrote that Ozy had “heard from” the S.E.C. and the Justice Department, adding that the company had enlisted the law firm Zuckerman Spaeder “to help us navigate the investigations.””
Bloomberg - “FedEx’s less costly contractor drivers were supposed to give it an edge. But labor shortages are hobbling services.”
FT - “Electric truck start-up Nikola said it is setting aside $125m to settle an investigation by US securities regulators and will seek reimbursement from its founder, Trevor Milton, who is facing criminal fraud charges.”
Tips, thoughts, or bacteria-free chicken to email@example.com