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Data Sheet—The Biggest Enemy of Cab Drivers Wasn’t Uber and Lyft

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The best journalism illuminates, analyzes, and challenges conventional wisdom. The technology sector, given to rosy outlooks and equally harsh assessments, needs this more than most.

With that in mind I point you to two tech-tinged gems. The New York Times recently published a certain prizewinning-series that explained the scandalous run-up in prices of taxi medallions in New York City. The unexpected finding was that while Uber and Lyft certainly injured the taxi business, the tech-enabled upstarts had nothing whatsoever to do with the run-up in prices of medallions from $200,000 to $1 million in the space of a few years. Instead, the galloping cost was the result of predatory lenders, some of whom might end up in jail thanks to The Times’s dogged reporting.

It was an article of faith that the ride-hailing apps killed the taxi business. The Times didn’t set out to disprove this. But it did stumble into the ruinous spike in prices that mostly occurred before Uber and Lyft appeared. Reporter Brian Rosenthal also used some nifty technology of his own to assemble the data that proved his point. In a follow-up interview with The Daily podcast Rosenthal explains that he’s no cheerleader for Uber and Lyft, which have their own well-documented problems. It was an important epiphany, however, that the damage they inflicted on independent, predominantly immigrant taxi drivers was nothing compared to the nefarious lenders they encountered or the government officials who turned a blind eye to their plight.

I also recommend an insightful piece on Fortune.com by Hong Kong correspondent Eamon Barrett that we linked to yesterday. Barrett clearly and engagingly explains why it isn’t likely that China will “weaponize” rare earth materials in the trade war it is fighting with the United States. In fact, China itself uses the majority of the rare earths it mines and processes, Barrett reports. What’s more, a U.S. rare earth mine formerly owned by bankrupt Molycorp may soon be back in business. (Fortune featured Molycorp’s billion-dollar gamble in 2011, a gamble that failed.)

Adam Lashinsky
@adamlashinsky
adam_lashinsky@fortune.com

NEWSWORTHY

Mind blowing. After receiving more than $500 million worth of stock in prior years, Google CEO Sundar Pichai last year took a rare step for someone in his position. He turned down another huge package of restricted stock, Blooomberg reports.

Clash of the titans. A divided Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday approved a revised version of its annual broadband report, which had to be adjusted after the agency included some bogus data in the initial release. Chair Ajit Pai and his two fellow Republicans voted in favor of the report, which concludes that Americans’ access to fast Internet service has dramatically improved. The two Democrats dissented. The conclusion is “fundamentally at odds with reality,” according to Commissioner Geoffrey Starks.

Mash-up. Further consolidation is happening in semiconductor world. NXP Semiconductors agreed to pay $1.76 billion in cash for Marvell Technology Group‘s wireless business that makes chips for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other areas. Meanwhile, analysts say Cypress Semiconductor could be sold for almost $10 billion. Possible buyers include Qualcomm, Texas Instruments, and…NXP.

I want it now. It’s always a little risky to read too much into Apple’s patent filings, but this one’s too intriguing to skip: a folding phone with multiple hinges that can morph into multiple shapes. Back in the real world, Google is adding more information about speed limits and police speed traps to its Maps app in more than 40 countries

I’m gonna bounce. Being mean to your Uber driver could get you banned from the ride hailing service. The company said this week that customers with low ratings from drivers would get recommendations on how to improve their behavior (like not asking a driver to break the speed limit), but if that didn’t help, would be barred from the service.

WE NEED YOU

Each year, Fortune’s Change the World list recognizes companies that literally do well by doing good—the ones that have had a positive, measurable, and significant social impact through activities that are part of their core business strategy. We’re soliciting nominations for the 2019 edition of our list and we’d love to hear from you. (Here are our top finishers from 2018.)

To determine each year’s list, Fortune writers and editors, with help from the nonprofit Shared Value Initiative, evaluate and rank hundreds of companies. The most important category is measurable, significant social impact: We consider the reach, nature, and durability of each company’s impact on one or more specific societal problems.

But we’re not recognizing companies for philanthropic activity, however noteworthy that may be. We’re looking for companies whose socially impactful work is also generating business results. Profitability and contribution to shareholder value are more important than benefits to a company’s reputation.

To learn more, and to nominate your company—or someone else’s—  please visit our application page. The list itself will be published in mid-August.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Apple holds its annual developer conference next week even as it faces complaints from some larger software makers that the market it runs for iPhone apps isn’t fair. Bloomberg’s ace Apple reporter Mark Gurman sat down with Phillip Shoemaker, who ran the company’s third-party app review unit for seven years, to examine how the process works–and how Apple sometimes finds itself in conflict with the very developers it hoped to woo to the platform:

Shoemaker also discussed Apple’s own applications competing more with apps from outside developers. This wasn’t a problem in the early days of the iPhone because many of the things Apple did were so new. Nowadays, the company sometimes adds in-house software to the iPhone that is similar to existing offerings from other providers. “There is now a conflict as Apple goes into these spaces that are ripe with competition,” he said. “I’m really worried about the competition.”

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

In Hindsight: How Warby Parker Got Its Start By Dinah Eng

Uber’s First Earnings After IPO May Reveal More About Its Scooter Ambitions By Danielle Abril

Why Electrification Is Powering Fiat Chrysler’s Renault Merger Ambitions By David Meyer

Rare Earths, Bonds, and Permit Hell: 3 Weapons China Can Use to Escalate the Trade War By Erik Sherman

A Look Inside GM’s Two-Year, Entry-Level Rotational Program By McKenna Moore

BEFORE YOU GO

Amid other big events next week, Hulu’s award-winning, dystopian series The Handmaid’s Tale returns for a third season, to be doled out the old fashioned way of one episode per week. Entertainment Weekly reviewed the first six episodes of the upcoming run and it sounds like things are as gloomy as ever in the fictional theocracy of Gilead. “June and the show she anchors are stuck in a grim cycle of combative misery, working ever harder for a future that gets further and further out of reach,” the mag notes. Maybe I’ll pass on this season.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.