June 23rd – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

The Out of Office Crisis, Weekend Whats, Feel Good Friday

As a longtime newsletter writer, I’ve probably received as many out of office auto-replies as anyone on the internet. During the pandemic, those OOO replies lost their meaning as we were all out of the office. One of the lasting impacts of the pandemic is that many people still haven’t gone back, and you being out of the office means office building owners are running out of time when it comes to dwindling rent and increasing debt. “The creeping rot inside commercial real estate is like a dark seam running through the global economy. Even as stock markets rally and investors are hopeful that the fastest interest-rate increases in a generation will ebb, the trouble in property is set to play out for years. After a long buying binge fueled by cheap debt, owners and lenders are grappling with changes in how and where people work, shop and live in the wake of the pandemic. At the same time, higher interest rates are making it more expensive to buy or refinance buildings. A tipping point is coming.” Bloomberg (Gift Article): The World’s Empty Office Buildings Have Become a Debt Time Bomb.

+ WaPo (Gift Article): Workers want to stay remote, prompting an office real estate crisis. “If office and retail owners are having trouble generating rental income because people just aren’t going into the office and shopping, then it increases the odds that they aren’t going to be able to pay back those loans in timely way. That means losses will start to mount on those loans. And because the banking and financial system more broadly is already struggling with lots of other problems … there’s going to be more banking failures.” (In addition to the financial issues and all the struggling small businesses, it’s also just a major bummer being in empty-ish downtowns.)

+ The stay at home trend is hurting cities in a big way. Due in part to political messaging and the places where most members of the national media live, we’ve heard a lot about the doom loops in major coastal cities. But the trend is even more crushing in cities where things weren’t going all that well, even before the pandemic. Middle America’s doom loop. A look at which cities are effectively managing this shift vs those who aren’t is a reminder that politics is about more than parties and flame wars; actual leadership makes a difference.


The Typing Behind the Hyping

“Much of the public response to language models like OpenAI’s ChatGPT has focused on all the jobs they appear poised to automate. But behind even the most impressive AI system are people — huge numbers of people labeling data to train it and clarifying data when it gets confused. Only the companies that can afford to buy this data can compete, and those that get it are highly motivated to keep it secret. The result is that, with few exceptions, little is known about the information shaping these systems’ behavior, and even less is known about the people doing the shaping.” Josh Dzieza in The Verge with an interesting look at the humans driving machine learning. AI Is a Lot of Work. “As the technology becomes ubiquitous, a vast tasker underclass is emerging — and not going anywhere.”


Sub Plot

The implosion of the Titan submersible, and the explosion of media coverage, was one of those stories that grabbed the attention of people around the world because we could relate to passengers waiting and the rescuers racing to save them, reminiscent of the Thai cave rescue. In the case of the sub, the story, while very sad, wouldn’t have received nearly the coverage it did had we known the truth—which as it turns out, was the assumed outcome by most of those in the know. NPR: The US Navy heard the likely implosion of the missing Titan sub on Sunday. And from The Guardian: Titan submersible: why was its implosion not announced sooner?

+ James Cameron: “Their comms were lost, and navigation was lost – and I said instantly, you can’t lose comms and navigation together without an extreme catastrophic event or high, highly energetic catastrophic event. And the first thing that popped to mind was an implosion.”

+ “Throughout it all, OceanGate and its CEO, Stockton Rush—who was among the Titan’s lost passengers—declared that innovation was more important than critics’ concerns. In a 2019 blog post, the company said it didn’t want to get the Titan certified for safety standards in part because ‘bringing an outside entity up to speed on every innovation before it is put into real-world testing is anathema to rapid innovation.'” The Atlantic (Gift Article): How Could This Have Happened?


Weekend Whats

What to Watch: The Bear is one of the top shows in recent years and season 2 has dropped (and it getting rave reviews). It’s time to start calling everyone Chef again. Check out The Bear on Hulu. And if the recipe for The Bear has a secret sauce, it’s Ayo Edebiri. The New Yorker: How Ayo Edebiri Went from Being an Uncomfortable Child to a Star of The Bear.

+ What to Read: In addition to being the talented and generous editor behind some of your favorite authors, Sarah Stewart Taylor is an awesome mystery writer at the top of her game. Her latest Maggie D’arcy mystery, A Stolen Child, is getting a ton of praise for its plot twists, character depth, and what AP describes as, “a lyrical prose style that is a joy to read.”

+ What to Doc: Ed Sheeran and Disney set out to make a multipart documentary that celebrated his newest album and tour. Then life intervened, which made for some personal trauma and much more interesting look at the life of a musical superstar. The Sum of It All.


Extra, Extra

Modi Operandi: “As a practical matter, though, it’s far from clear whether the accommodations to Modi were worth it. In his White House remarks, Modi offered no sign of softening on the matter of support for Ukraine. He did not even acknowledge that it was Russia that started the war. He definitely did not sound like he had signed up for charter membership in Biden’s oft-cited alliance of democracies versus autocracies at this dangerous inflection point in world history.” The New Yorker: What Joe Biden Didn’t Say to Narendra Modi.

+ Tracking Hate: Vanity Fair: Amid a Wave of Antisemitic Hate Crimes, a New York Unit Offers a Model of Resistance. “Paulette’s intelligence group has operated largely out of public view. But with the spiraling growth in antisemitic violence, and in social media vitriol, I wanted to understand the origin story of the operation—and why it had become so critical.”

+ Impeach Pit: Instead of holding their favorite criminal accountable, MAGA House members are looking to impeach everyone else as payback. Your guide to everyone Republicans want to impeach.

+ Border Brawl: “The case concerned the Biden administration’s attempt to set guidelines for whom immigration authorities can target for arrest and deportation. Texas and Louisiana sued to block the guidelines, arguing that they were preventing immigration authorities from doing their jobs.” Supreme Court sides 8-1 with the Biden administration in a fight over immigration.

+ Sunrise, Sunset: You may not know his name, but you know his work. And when it comes to his most famous lyrics, they found us a perfect match. Tony-winning lyricist Sheldon Harnick ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ creator, dies at 99.

+ To the Victor Go the Spoils: Expectations for the top pick are high. Maybe the highest ever following an NBA draft. Victor Wembanyama is the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, with expectations of stardom. And in an incredible twist, two brothers were picked back to back, and both in the top five.

+ Cultural Bias: Dana White Says Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg Are ‘Absolutely Dead Serious’ About Cage Match. (Instead of a cage-fight, how about if we put Zuck and Musk into a cage and just leave them there.)


Feel Good Friday

“For the past 95 years, Virginia Oliver’s morning routine has been much the same: She applies red lipstick, puts on her fishing gear and — just before daybreak — she boards a boat. Then, for several hours straight, she hauls lobster traps.” WaPo (Gift Article): ‘Lobster Lady’ turns 103, has been hauling traps for 95 years.

+ “A firefighter in Ocala, Florida, was pulling an overnight shift at the station in January when he was awakened at 2 a.m. by an alarm. He recognized the sound immediately. A newborn had been placed in the building’s Safe Haven Baby Box, a device that allows someone to safely and anonymously surrender a child — no questions asked.” Newborn left in Florida Safe Haven Baby Box adopted by the firefighter who found her.

+ Natalie Jones and Cole Fitch shared a spontaneous kiss at a festival but didn’t exchange contact info. Internet sleuths help radio host find man she kissed at festival.

+ Camera review site DPReview finds a buyer, avoids shutdown by Amazon.

+ Firefighters rescue horse from Florida swimming pool.

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