March 10th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

SVB Craters, Weekend Whats, Feel Good Friday

It started on Thursday with news that Silicon Valley Bank was underwater on some massive investments and would have to raise outside capital. That news tanked the stock. It also triggered a major bank run as individual customers, venture capitalists, and thousands of tech and biotech startups raced to get their money out before things got worse. Those withdrawals made worse a reality. Within hours, the bank was looking for a buyer. When that didn’t happen, federal regulators swooped in to take over. In the blink of an eye, we’d seen the largest bank failure since Washington Mutual cratered during the 2008 financial crisis. The FDIC has informed Silicon Valley Bank customers that accounts up to $250K are guaranteed. But those are a small percentage of affected accounts, as this was the leading bank when it comes to tech companies, the primary driver of the multiyear American boom. Needless to say, tech companies are scrambling. Some of them got some of their money out in time. Others were left with an unchanging message that read, “wire in process.” The big account holders left holding the potentially empty bag likely won’t have any visibility on how much, if any, of their money is left until next week. Will there be a buyer of the bank? Is SVB too big to fail? Meanwhile, we might need a few days or more to have any confidence that the contagion won’t spread to other financial institutions. AP: Silicon Valley Bank seized after run by depositors.

+ CNBC: Silicon Valley Bank is shut down by regulators in biggest bank failure since global financial crisis.


Lecture Haul

“Hundreds of thousands of young people who came of age during the pandemic but didn’t go to college. Many have turned to hourly jobs or careers that don’t require a degree, while others have been deterred by high tuition and the prospect of student debt. What first looked like a pandemic blip has turned into a crisis … The slide in the college-going rate since 2018 is the steepest on record, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.” AP: Jaded with education, more Americans are skipping college. (And yet, it still seems to be even harder than ever to get into one…)


The Enemy of My Enemy Has New Frenemies

“China’s role in hosting the talks that led to a breakthrough in a longstanding regional rivalry highlights the country’s growing economic and political importance in the Middle East, a region that was long shaped by the military and diplomatic involvement of the United States.” NYT (Gift Article): Saudi Arabia and Iran Agree to Restore Ties, in Talks Hosted by China. That these longtime foes are finding common ground is huge geopolitical news. That it’s China bringing them together could be even bigger. A contempt for America’s world leadership is one thing that binds them.


Weekend Whats

What to Read: Pulitzer Prize-winning sociologist Matthew Desmond takes a crack at explaining Why Poverty Persists in America (NYT Gift Article). “There are, it would seem, deeper structural forces at play, ones that have to do with the way the American poor are routinely taken advantage of. The primary reason for our stalled progress on poverty reduction has to do with the fact that we have not confronted the unrelenting exploitation of the poor in the labor, housing and financial markets.”

+ What to Watch: It’s described as “an extraordinary tale of a mother’s love for her daughter that explores a dysfunctional family on the fringes of society, attempting to go straight in a crooked world.” It’s also a comedy. A dark one. And so far, a very promising one. Check out HBO’s Rain Dogs.


Extra, Extra

Trans Plans: “Whether or not they are enacted, they allow conservative state legislatures to perform opposition to the ‘woke left’ and ensure evangelical voters show up to vote — even after the religious right achieved its decades-long goal of overturning Roe v. Wade last year.” The GOP’s coordinated national campaign against trans rights, explained.

+ Climate Model: “Chatbots’ habit of mirroring us back to ourselves goes back way further than Sydney’s rumination on whether there is a meaning to being a Bing search engine. In fact, it’s been there since the introduction of the first notable chatbot almost 50 years ago.” How the first chatbot predicted the dangers of AI more than 50 years ago.

+ Tunnel of Gov: “U.S. inspectors used to refer only a handful of drivers for cargo screening with powerful scanning equipment to check for illegal drugs.
But on a recent morning they routed every truck through a new drive-through machine the size of a carwash.” WaPo: U.S. deploys powerful scanners at border to fight fentanyl smuggling. (We should have deployed this on the Sacklers years ago.)

+ Frozen in Time: “Frozen human embryos can legally be considered property, or ‘chattel,’ a Virginia judge has ruled, basing his decision in part on a 19th century law governing the treatment of slaves.”

+ Duke Score: King Charles III has made his youngest brother the Duke of Edinburgh. (One could really accuse the royal family of nepotism.)

+ Red Bull: The red carpet at the Oscars will not be red this year. Red’s dead, baby. Red’s dead.


Feel Good Friday

“It was like clockwork, he recalled. Schuman would knock on his door that first day of the month with her rent payment in hand at 9 a.m. — and he would drive her wherever she needed to go.” New York landlord becomes legal guardian of 93-year-old Holocaust survivor: ‘She had no one else.’

+ La Niña, which worsens Atlantic hurricanes and Western droughts, is gone.

+ Honduras lifts decade-long ban on morning after pill.

+ Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signs order protecting rights to gender-affirming health care. “We want every Minnesotan to grow up feeling safe, valued, protected, celebrated, and free to exist as their authentic versions of themselves.”

+ Mikaela Shiffrin surges into history with record-tying 86th World Cup win.

+ Van Leeuwen Ice Cream and Hidden Valley Ranch have partnered on a limited-time offering of a ranch-flavored ice cream.

+ An African serval cat that was found with cocaine in its system after an escape at a traffic stop now calls the Cincinnati Zoo home. (No more coke and it’s locked up in a zoo? Yup, I’m pretty hard up for good news this week.)

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