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9/4/22: The Reading List
Notable content from around the internet.
September 6th, 2022
Julia Moskin, The New York Times
Abdul’s Note: I love coffee—and one of my favorite parts of travel is trying new shops. Last time I was in New York, I noticed this place, Blank Street, everywhere. When I walked in, I realized it was basically a Starbucks with updated vibes—and I left. I didn’t realize why: because Blank Street is not just a successful coffee chain, it’s a technology company masquerading as a coffee shop. Here’s the full story.
The rapid expansion has piqued the interest of New Yorkers, who became especially alert to changes in the streetscape during the pandemic. When word got out that Blank Street is not an independent chain like Variety or Bean & Bean, but an enterprise with global ambitions backed by private equity financing, many became curious — and sometimes suspicious.
Aditi Ramaswami, The Lever
Abdul’s Note: I first came across Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs), when I was meeting with a group of independent pharmacists in Michigan during my campaign for governor. They were talking about the incredible power that PBMs wield over them on behalf of insurers, sucking them dry and destroying independent pharmacies across the state. This write-up does a great job explaining how they work—and why they’re so pernicious. (Special thanks to subscriber Susan Steigerwalt for bringing this piece to my attention!)
A tiny handful of PBMs, most of which are owned by insurers, control nearly the entire market, shape the benefits of hundreds of millions of Americans, and boast sky-high revenues — yet most people don’t know they exist, and they have long skirted federal oversight.
Casey Michel, The New Republic
Abdul’s Note: The passing of Mikhail Gorbachev as Vladimir Putin continues to lay siege to Ukraine offers a Rohrschach test of sorts. How we eulogize Gorbachev in the context of Putin says a lot about what we wished Russia had become in those halcyon days after the twilight of the USSR. And yet Gorbachev’s record is far more complex than either Russian oligarchs or Western leaders would have us think. Casey Michel, whom I interviewed about his book American Kleptocracy, lays out why:
… Gorbachev offered the world a convenient opportunity to rewrite the rules of the Cold War, redraw the borders of Europe, and recast the foundations of the entire relationship between Moscow and the West and all those other nations caught in between. And if the West had to ignore the massacres and crimes of Gorbachev’s own regime, so be it. There were, as the West saw it, bigger realities at stake and a new world order to forge—all of which left Gorbachev with arguably the most complicated legacy of any Soviet premier, both then and now. And all of which have, in just the past few months alone, come roaring back to relevance.