Billy Beane Trade Data, Parallel Worlds II, and Who Jails the Most Journalists

As we type, we gaze at a snow-draped lawn (which means there may be typos in this, we should really be looking at the computer screen). Weather is the great humbler of humans. Whether Napoleon in Russia, the winds destroying the Spanish Armada or our flight from San Diego earlier this week much delayed due to the Seattle snow. In the airport bar we listened to people’s plans stymied by the mathematical chaos that are meteorological conditions. After midnight we made it home and flashlight in hand trudged carefully towards the hobby house in our backyard where we could not remember if we had plugged in the pipe heater (a few years back a pipe burst with all the accompanying expense and chaos). We stopped in our tracks when we came across large animal pawprints in the snow. They seemed too large for a dog or even a raccoon, although if it was the latter it must have been some ancient monster raccoon thought only to exist in myth. We searched around the yard, followed the footprints to the back fence, then satisfied we were safe, opened the hobby house to find we had indeed plugged in the pipe heater earlier in the winter. Which is all to say life brings many unexpected moments, including that a year ago we would not have anticipated our fourth knee surgery in 13 months this coming Monday. So though we would have loved to, there will be no International Need to Know next Thursday on Valentine’s Day.* But, we do provide you a sweetheart of services trade data, a Marshmello treat of Parallel Worlds and a sour candy of jailed journalists. It’s this week’s International Need to Know, a snow flurry of important international data and information.

*We hope to be back February 21st.

Without further ado, here’s what you need to know.

Services are Billy Beane of Trade

We often compare international trade data to pre-Sabermetrics baseball statistics, simple to understand, but crude, misleading and prone to error. Even the current data we have is generally presented incompletely. When you see trade data in the news it is often only referring to “merchandise” trade, items you can touch and feel like cars, computers and caviar. It usually does not include services trade such as education, software and engineering services. But services trade is growing while merchandise trade wanes like an aging right-handed pitcher. According to VisualCapitalist, services trade in 2017 grew 60 percent faster than merchandise trade. From 2007 to 2017, telecom and IT services exports increased the fastest. In fact, McKinsey and Company calculates that services trade may already be larger than merchandise trade, now totaling $13.4 trillion. The Billy Beanes of China understand this and it helps explain a variety of China’s policies. Get with the trade Moneyball, folks.

Parallel Worlds II: The Wrath of Marshmello

Following up on last week’s revelation of the parallel world of fashion vloggers, this week we discover how live music is gravitating to online video games. According to, last weekend DJ Marshmello (his super group S’mores is awesome) played a live set to 10 million people in the video game, Fortnite. Tencent, the Chinese IT powerhouse based in Shenzhen, owns 40 percent of the company that makes Fortnite, which has over 200 million users. That’s as many as Spotify and thus a good entrée into the live music business. MusicBusiness Worldwide reports, “DJ star Marshmello played an exclusive in-game concert in Fornite at 2pm ET. Fortnite players could watch the virtual show for free, so long as they made sure their avatar was available at the concert’s location (Pleasant Park).” Virtual concert attendees’ avatars could dance at the concert. We were at a concert last weekend in a Parallel World—Trombone Shorty. We tried to dance as adeptly as an Avatar. We probably failed. But, again we are all living in parallel worlds that rarely collide (not even on the dance floor).

Who Jails the Most Journalists?

The world has become a more dangerous place for journalists in recent years with more reporters being killed and imprisoned. But as Ian Bremmer recently pointed out, a mere five countries are responsible for jailing 70 percent of the world’s journalists. Your cowardly five are in order Turkey, China, Egypt, Eritrea and Saudi Arabia. So we could solve a large part of the problem if those five countries would grow up. If we look at where journalists are being killed the most it’s no surprise that it’s predominantly in war zones with that ever ending battle in Afghanistan leading the way with 13 journalists killed in 2018, followed by Syria (9), India (5), the U.S. (4) and Mexico (4).

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