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Happy Friday!

September 1, 2023 |


Good morning and welcome to September, the month when everyone stops complaining about the humidity and starts complaining about their fantasy football injuries.


The fight for the right to repair McFlurry machines

An ice cream machine with scrolling code

Illustration: Francis Scialabba, Photos: Getty Images

Tech whizzes and copyright experts have teamed up to reduce the number of people haunted by the words “Ice cream machine’s broken.”

The online repair community iFixit and the DC-based nonprofit Public Knowledge are asking the government to let them fix McDonald’s soft serve dispensers, an act currently prohibited under copyright law. The treat machines are so notorious for breaking down that there’s a website for tracking busted McFlurry-makers in the US (about 12% were offline as of yesterday). The fast-food joint has even joked about its frozen dairy dysfunction.

The ice cream machines have earned a reputation because they shut down and require tending to when they encounter a problem (just like us, fr). It’s a major drain for franchise owners but a boon for the machine’s manufacturer, Taylor Company, which has an exclusive repair contract with McDonald’s.

  • Every time an $18,000 McD’s ice cream-maker breaks down, franchisees need to call up a Taylor technician. If a non-Taylor handyperson is used, the ice cream machine’s warranty is revoked.
  • Fixing the complex machinery costs $350 for every 15 minutes of service, according to Ars Technica, so it’s no wonder Taylor has generated 25% of its revenue from maintenance and repair services in recent years, as Inc. reported.

iFixit recently broke down a Taylor ice cream machine and found “easily replaceable parts” gatekept by “cryptic error messages.” A different company called Kytch built an attachable device for ice cream-makers that would help franchisees understand and address these confusing codes…but Kytch has been in a legal battle with McDonald’s and Taylor for more than two years.

So, what do the fixers want?

In addition to seeking a copyright law exemption—which has consistently been granted to permit independent repairers to fix Xboxes and other tech—iFixit and Public Knowledge are asking Congress to pass the Freedom to Repair Act, a stalled 2022 bill that would protect all repair exemptions and the distribution of independently made repair devices, like the Kytch device.

Right-to-repair gains ground: Apple has long opposed letting customers and unaffiliated repair shops fix its tech, but it’s changed its iTune in recent years to allow customers to order self-service repair kits. And just last week, the company came out in support of a California right-to-repair bill.—ML


The new it card 

The Ascent

We don’t roll out the red carpet for just any ol’ credit card. But for this one, it’s a no-brainer.

If you’re wondering what the big deal is, here are 3 eye-popping features this card boasts:

  • 0% interest until nearly 2025 on purchases and balance transfers
  • up to 5% cash back on varying categories you’ll actually use
  • no annual fee

If that sounds like some of the highest cash-back potential you’ve ever seen, well, it probably is. It’s not every day you get up to 5% cash back paired with 0% interest until almost 2025.


Tour de headlines

Plane takes off from an airport

Tayfun CoÅkun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

 Flying for Labor Day weekend? Expect to fight someone for overhead bin space. TSA projects that 14 million passengers will pass through its airport checkpoints between Friday and Wednesday, an 11% increase over last year. Many of those people will have to bring their passports—international bookings for Labor Day have jumped 44% from last year now that the world has been flung open for travel. For those journeying closer to home, the average gas price of $3.83/gallon is about the same as last year.

 UBS makes banking history. The Swiss lender posted the highest quarterly profit ever for a bank in Q2—$29 billion—thanks to its controversial rescue of rival Credit Suisse in March. That acquisition is looking like “one of the biggest steals in financial history,” per the FT, considering the skimpy $3.6 billion price UBS paid for Credit Suisse. While UBS execs have a challenging road ahead integrating Credit Suisse’s businesses into its own, investors seem to think it can pull it off: UBS shares jumped to their highest level since the 2008 financial crisis, making it the second-largest bank in Europe behind HSBC.

 Clarence Thomas acknowledges GOP megadonor paid for travel. In a financial disclosure form released yesterday, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas reported he took three trips last year on a private plane owned by Republican billionaire Harlan Crow. Thomas’s relationship with Crow came under scrutiny after reports showed he did not disclose previous trips with the GOP booster. But Thomas defended omitting those trips, claiming that he was adhering to the judicial guidelines at the time. As for last year’s travel on Crow’s private plane, Thomas said his security detail recommended he fly noncommercial following the leak of the decision that SCOTUS would overturn Roe v. Wade.


‘Lorax’ star out with new movie

Taylor Swift

Fernando Leon/Getty Images

Big news for anyone who wants to tell their grandkids that they saw Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour but doesn’t want to shell out $1,000 to see her at a football stadium: This fall, you can catch the tour in movie theaters for less than $20.

Yesterday morning, Swift revealed that a concert film of her smash Eras Tour will be released in movie theaters on Friday, October 13, and AMC opened up presale tickets soon after her announcement ($19.89 for adults ).

Knowing all too well that any ticketing goof could result in a Capitol Hill hearing, AMC said it upgraded its website and ticketing systems to process more than 5x the peak traffic it’s ever experienced. But to give itself some cover, the theater chain said it was “also aware that no ticketing system in history seems to have been able to accommodate the soaring demand from Taylor Swift fans when tickets are first placed on sale.” The theater chain was right: Its app crashed yesterday.

To handle the Swiftie hordes, AMC said it would show the movie at all US locations at least four times a day on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays during the initial run.

Exorswift was not meant to be. The Eras Tour movie was initially scheduled to hit theaters the same day as the latest Exorcist film, but Universal pushed the release date of its horror movie up one week following Swift’s announcement. Jason Blum, who heads the studio that made the new Exorcist, tweeted the news with the hashtag #TaylorWins.


Tiny countries are getting rich off their domains

Photo of a beach in Anguilla

Atlantide Phototravel/Getty Images

If you want to learn about passive income, talk to Anguilla.

The Caribbean nation half the size of Washington, DC, inadvertently struck gold when it was designated the country-specific website domain name “.ai” in the ’90s.

It wasn’t a cash cow then, but with ChatGPT leading the acceleration of AI development this year, the domain “.ai” has become popular among tech startups looking to give their companies some extra rizz. The person in charge of the Anguilla domain, Vince Cate, told Bloomberg, “Since November 30, things are very different here.” (ChatGPT was released to the public on November 30, 2022.)

How Anguilla makes money from this: Domain registrars like Hover pay Anguilla $140 for every two-year .ai domain registration. According to Cate:

  • Anguilla domains doubled in the past year to nearly 300,000.
  • Domain revenue is expected to reach $25 million–$30 million this year, compared to $8.3 million in 2022. If it hits $26.75 million, it will account for 25% of Anguilla’s total annual revenue, which is estimated at $107 million.

It’s not the only country finding money in the URL bar. The South Pacific island of Tuvalu—with, you guessed it, a “.tv” domain—earns an estimated $10 million a year from its contract with GoDaddy, thanks to the streaming boom.


Key performance indicators

A US made of corn with the number 2 on it

Francis Scialabba

Stat: Someone should probably check on Corn Kid. For the first time in more than 50 years (save one post-drought outlier in 2013), the US is no longer the No. 1 global exporter of corn, ceding the top spot to Brazil, Bloomberg reported. In the agricultural year ending Aug. 31, Brazil will have shipped 32% of the world’s corn exports, compared to the US’ 23%. The country known for its amber waves of grain has been losing market share of food exports for years, having also lost the No. 1 spot for soybean and wheat exports in the last decade.

Quote: “They wouldn’t let me drive the cars for insurance reasons.”

Adam Driver, who plays legendary Italian automaker Enzo Ferrari in the upcoming biopic Ferrari, revealed that he wasn’t allowed to drive any Ferraris while making the film…despite coming from a long line of Drivers. The cast of Ferrari was given a special exemption by the striking SAG-AFTRA union to promote the film in Venice (because it’s being distributed by an indie studio), and Driver used the opportunity to call out Netflix and Amazon for not agreeing to the actors’ contract demands.

Read: Life or death: AI-generated mushroom foraging books are all over Amazon. (404 Media)


Quiz is OOO

New Friday quiz image

The feeling of getting a 5/5 on the Brew’s Weekly News Quiz has been compared to remembering we’re about to have a long weekend.

It’s that satisfying. Ace the quiz.


What else is brewing

  • Residents of Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas have begun the lengthy cleanup process after Tropical Storm Idalia crossed into the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Joe Biggs, a leader of the far-right Proud Boys and a former Infowars correspondent, was sentenced to 17 years in prison for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot. Zachary Rehl, who led the group’s Philadelphia branch, was sentenced to 15 years.
  • Former President Trump pleaded not guilty in his mugshot-tinged criminal case in Georgia over his alleged efforts to overturn the state’s election results. A Georgia judge confirmed that his trial will be televised.
  • At least 74 people died in a building fire in Johannesburg, South Africa. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the tragedy was a “wake-up call” to address housing in the inner city.
  • Kylie Jenner, who sold 51% of her Kylie Cosmetics line to Coty for $600 million in 2020, is considering buying it back, per Bloomberg. Jenner’s relationship with the beauty giant has reportedly been going downhill.


Friday to-do list

 Design analysis: Why Reddit can’t get anyone to download its app.

 Sustainability tip: Recycling and other myths about tackling climate change.

 Learn: The infinite hotel paradox.

 Watch: Nebraskans aren’t just crazy about volleyball—they also let bulls ride shotgun on the interstate.

 Write better: Build confidence in your writing abilities with our Business Writing course. Sign up here.


 Private equity certificate program: Boost your career in private equity investing with this 8-week, fully online program from Wharton Online and Wall Street Prep. Starts September 5.*



The puzzle section

Picodku: Everyone’s got a Monopoly token they needed to play with (for us, penguin). Find your favorite in today’s Monopoly-themed Picdoku.

Friday puzzle

Find a one-syllable word that becomes a different three-syllable word when you add just one letter to the end.



Are → area


Word of the Day

Today’s Word of the Day is: “rizz,” a Gen Z term the WSJ defines as “a mix of confidence, charm, magnetism, attractiveness and a certain je ne sais quoi.”