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July 07, 2023
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Fed Raises Rates: Impact on Economy (link)

  1. Fed keenly focused on labor market strength to determine rate hikes.
  2. June payrolls report showed job growth slowing, wages rising.
  3. Fed expected to raise rates at July meeting.
  4. Wage growth could lead to higher prices and inflation.
  5. Fed likely to raise rates twice more this year.
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The June Payrolls Report showed that job growth is slowing, but wage growth remains abnormally quick and the unemployment rate is very low at 3.6 percent. This data has reinforced the prediction that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates at their July meeting. Fed officials are closely watching wage data, as they worry that if pay growth remains unusually rapid, it could make it difficult to bring elevated inflation fully back to their 2 percent goal. Fed officials have been surprised by the economy’s staying power and are expecting to continue raising interest rates, albeit at a slower pace than last year. Investors will monitor how policymakers are reacting to economic developments to gauge whether another move this year is likely.

The Great Resignation: Impact on Wages and Inequality (link)

  1. Millions of Americans changed jobs in the past two years due to worker power.
  2. Voluntary quits rate has declined in recent months.
  3. Wage growth has slowed, especially in low-paying service jobs.
  4. Game of musical chairs: workers become nervous when fewer jobs are available.
  5. Earnings gap between top and bottom earners began to narrow in two years.
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The great resignation of the past two years saw a huge increase in job-switching, leading to higher wages for low-wage workers. However, the rate of voluntary quits has recently fallen and wage growth has slowed, suggesting the pendulum is swinging back towards employers. Despite this, some economists believe that the gains made by workers during the great resignation will remain, as many switched jobs to find better pay or start their own businesses. Arindrajit Dube found that the earnings gap between those at the top and bottom of the income scale has begun to narrow, undoing a quarter of the increase in inequality since 1980.

UPS Strike Disrupts Small Businesses (link)

  1. UPS handles 25% of packages shipped in US.
  2. Small businesses rely on UPS for shipping.
  3. Labor contract between UPS and 325,000 workers expiring.
  4. Businesses turning to FedEx or USPS as alternatives.
  5. Potential strike could disrupt domestic shipping.
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Small businesses across the US are facing yet another disruption to their supply chain due to the potential strike of UPS workers. UPS handles 25% of packages shipped daily in the US, leaving many businesses reliant on them for shipping their goods. Businesses are turning to FedEx and the US Postal Service as alternatives, but this often comes at an extra cost. The pandemic has already strained the global supply chain in a number of ways, and a UPS strike could further complicate the situation for small businesses who are already stretched thin.

Yellen Visits Beijing to Warn Against Decoupling (link)

  1. Tensions between US and China remain high.
  2. Yellen criticized Chinese punitive measures against US firms.
  3. US does not seek wholesale separation of economies.
  4. Yellen raised concerns of US business community.
  5. US preparing additional restrictions on tech trade with China.
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Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visited Beijing to express her concerns over the Chinese government's punitive measures against US firms, which she believes are unjustified. She argued that a wholesale separation of the two economies would be destabilizing for the global economy, and instead suggested diversifying and not decoupling. Yellen's comments were made to a group of executives from American businesses operating in China, and were followed by restrictions imposed by the Biden administration on China's access to critical semiconductor-making technology and tools.

Fentanyl Crisis: U.S. & China at Odds (link)

  1. Biden administration pushing for global coalition to end synthetic drug threat.
  2. US-China cooperation on fentanyl halted by geopolitical tensions.
  3. China has not indicated participation in coalition.
  4. US Treasury Dept. imposing sanctions on fentanyl traffickers.
  5. US accused of shifting blame for own social problems.
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The Biden administration is pushing for international cooperation to stem the flow of fentanyl into the United States, after the joint American and Chinese effort to do so was derailed by wider geopolitical tensions. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken is leading a virtual meeting of a global coalition of nations to end the threat of dangerous synthetic drugs, but China has not indicated it plans to participate. The U.S. Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on Chinese and Mexican companies suspected of producing fentanyl pills, and the issue is expected to be raised in meetings this week in Beijing between Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen and Chinese officials. However, China has accused the U.S. of shifting blame for its own social problems onto Beijing and denying its own failures in fighting the fentanyl epidemic.

U.S.-China Relations: Complexity & Contrasts (link)

  1. US-China relationship is complex, ranging from conflict to cooperation.
  2. US economy is larger than China's, but adjusted for PPP, China is larger.
  3. US-China trade remains strong, with US imports from China at record high.
  4. US sanctions Chinese companies due to security and human rights concerns.
  5. China is a major lender to US and US companies generate 7.6% of revenue in China.
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The U.S.-China relationship is complex, ranging from conflict to cooperation. The U.S. economy is larger than China's, but China's population is more than four times America's. China's military is rapidly growing, but the U.S. still spends more on defense. Trade between the countries remains strong, with the U.S. importing goods and services from China and China being a major export market for the U.S. China is also a major lender to the U.S. and members of the S&P 500 index generate 7.6% of their revenue in mainland China. Sanctions against Chinese companies and organizations have been increasing due to national security and human rights concerns.

Peaceful Scene at Vaalimaa Border (link)

  1. Finland joined NATO in April 2021.
  2. Russia has responded with hostility.
  3. NATO's charter states an attack on Finland is an attack on all members.
  4. Finland has a 830 mile border with Russia.
  5. Finland has a history of Russian invasion.
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Finland's membership in NATO has increased the alliance's borders with Russia by 830 miles, causing tension between the two countries. Despite the fear of a potential Russian attack, a recent afternoon at the Vaalimaa border crossing showed a peaceful scene, with few Russians present. Finland's membership in NATO means that an attack on Finland would be treated as an attack on all NATO members, and the country's history of invasion by Russia leaves them understandably wary.

Soldier's Sacrifice: Fundraising for Ukraine's Front Lines (link)

  1. War in Ukraine has been ongoing since Russia's invasion.
  2. Donations to supply troops have been lagging.
  3. Pavlo Vyshebaba has used poetry to raise $100,000.
  4. Donations have been used to supply troops with first aid kits, body armor, vehicles, and drones.
  5. Weapons are being decorated and auctioned off to raise money.
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Pavlo Vyshebaba, a soldier with Ukraine's 68th Brigade, has been raising funds to supply soldiers at the front lines since Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year. He recently took two weeks off from the war to give readings around the country and has collected more than $100,000. Other soldiers have also been raising money on their own, such as selling paintings or memorabilia from the front lines, or offering to add personalized messages to artillery shells for a fee. In addition, some have been decorating and auctioning off non-functioning military armaments to raise money. Despite these efforts, donations have been lagging as the war drags on, leaving many Ukrainian military units struggling to supply their troops.

Hope for Penn Station: Plan for $6B Makeover (link)

  1. ASTM's plan to improve Penn Station includes a new stone facade, single concourse, and lofty entrance.
  2. Plan does not involve moving Madison Square Garden.
  3. Plan includes demolishing Theater at Madison Square Garden.
  4. Cost of plan estimated at $6 billion with ASTM covering overruns.
  5. Plan prioritizes streets and sidewalks, resolves back-of-house problems.
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After decades of demands and promises, there may finally be hope for New York's busiest and dreariest train hub, Penn Station. A new plan from private infrastructure developer ASTM North America proposes a six-year, $6 billion project to reconfigure the cramped, confusing station into a single concourse with high ceilings and wide corridors, and a new stone facade with landscaped terraces and rows of columns to restore the architectural sensibility and civic symbolism of the original Penn Station. The plan also includes a lofty new Eighth Avenue entrance, a 55-foot-high train hall with a map of the city's streets in relief on the ceiling, and the demolition of the Theater at Madison Square Garden. The cost and feasibility of the plan remain to be seen, but it may be the disruption needed to finally bring change to Penn Station.

Revitalizing the NYPL: A $200M Transformation (link)

  1. NYPL renovated to be more welcoming and accessible.
  2. New 40th Street entrance and outdoor plaza.
  3. Expanded gift shop and cafe.
  4. Visitor center with interactive screens.
  5. Private funding for renovation.
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The New York Public Library's Fifth Avenue branch has undergone a $200 million renovation to make it more inviting and accessible to all. A new entrance was opened along 40th Street, allowing visitors to bypass the Fifth Avenue front steps and come around the side through a tranquil, shaded outdoor plaza with benches. The library has also upgraded public restrooms, significantly expanded the gift shop and transformed what was a simple food cart run by Amy’s Bread into a full cafe. A visitor’s center with a detailed model of the building, interactive screens, and replicas of artifacts have been set out on tables to be seen and touched. The renovation was paid for almost entirely with private money, but the library still faces the threat of budget cuts to their programs.

Gray Wolf Found in New York: Hope and Fear (link)

  1. Gray wolf shot near Cooperstown in 2021, now stored in NY State Museum.
  2. Hunter's kill brings hope of wolves returning to Northeast.
  3. Wolf DNA found in Northeastern coyotes, creating confusion.
  4. Wolves protected under state and federal law, coyotes can be killed.
  5. Retired telephone mechanic Joseph Butera searches for wolves in Adirondacks.
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In December 2021, a hunter in upstate New York shot a gray wolf near Cooperstown, sparking hope and trepidation that wolves could be making their way back to the Northeast. Genetic analysis and other testing revealed that the 85-pound animal was wild and not an escaped captive. This discovery has led to a debate over the protection of wolves, which were nearly eradicated more than a century ago. Scientists have found that northeastern coyotes have a significant amount of wolf DNA, leading to the term "coywolves." This interbreeding has caused confusion for the public and management, as wolves are protected under state and federal law, while coyotes can be killed without limit from October to March.

FDA Approves Risky Alzheimer's Drug (link)

  1. FDA approves Leqembi for Alzheimer's treatment.
  2. Leqembi can slow cognitive decline by 5 months.
  3. Leqembi carries serious safety risks.
  4. Medicare will cover 80% of Leqembi's cost.
  5. Leqembi is only for mild dementia/MCI.
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The FDA has given full approval to the Alzheimer's drug Leqembi, which can modestly slow cognitive decline in the early stages of the disease. Medicare will cover 80% of the $26,500 cost, however there are significant safety risks associated with the drug. Evidence suggests that Leqembi may be able to slow cognitive decline by five months over a period of 18 months for people with mild symptoms, however it is unclear whether this would be noticeable or meaningful for patients and their families. The drug is only available for people with mild dementia or mild cognitive impairment, and must be accompanied by a test to confirm the presence of amyloid protein.

Weighing the Risks of Leqembi (link)

  1. Leqembi is approved for early-stage Alzheimer's and mild cognitive impairment.
  2. Leqembi can modestly slow cognitive decline.
  3. Leqembi has safety risks, including brain swelling and bleeding.
  4. Medicare covers 80% of the $26,500 annual cost.
  5. Diagnosis must be confirmed with PET scans, spinal taps, or blood tests.
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The FDA has approved the drug Leqembi for people with early-stage Alzheimer's and mild cognitive impairment. It can modestly slow cognitive decline, but it also has safety risks such as brain swelling or bleeding which can be serious or fatal in rare cases. Medicare will cover 80% of the annual cost of $26,500, but patients must first confirm they have a buildup of amyloid protein in the brain through PET scans, spinal taps, or blood tests. It is important for patients and their families to weigh the financial and medical factors before deciding if the drug is right for them.

Tragic Fire Claims Two Lives (link)

  1. Firefighters responded to a fire on a cargo ship at Port Newark.
  2. Firefighters had to use the vessel's one-inch firefighting hoses.
  3. Augusto Acabou and Wayne Brooks Jr. died in the blaze.
  4. Three other Newark firefighters were injured.
  5. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey does not maintain its own fire department.
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Two firefighters, Augusto Acabou and Wayne Brooks Jr., tragically lost their lives while responding to a fire on a cargo ship docked at Port Newark, which was carrying over a thousand vehicles. The firefighters were ill-equipped to face the blaze, as their standard 2.5-inch hoses could not connect to the ship's one-inch firefighting hoses. Three other Newark firefighters were injured, as well as two members of the Elizabeth Fire Department. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the port, is unable to comment on the investigation pending the outcome. The tragedy highlights the need for better safety measures and training for firefighters in such situations.

Gen Xers: Latchkey Kids Now in Charge. (link)

  1. Gen Xers are taking over corporate boardrooms.
  2. Gen Xers are more comfortable with remote flexibility.
  3. Gen Xers are the unlikely warriors for flexible work.
  4. Average age of incoming CEOs is 54.
  5. Gen Xers are the "latchkey kids" who grew up independent.
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Generation X, born between 1965 and 1980, is now in the boss's seat and making the rules. This transition in corporate boardrooms has been accompanied by a shift in workplace culture, with Gen Xers advocating for more flexible and informal ways of working. This is exemplified by the Darby family business, where the sons of the former CEO, Bob Darby, encouraged him to step down and allow for more remote flexibility. Gen Xers are now in the position to enjoy the fruits of their labor, with Robert Glazer, founder of Acceleration Partners, noting that they are the "latchkey kids" who grew up independent. With Gen Xers now in charge, they are able to prioritize flexible work and taking time to enjoy life.

Exploring Asian American Experience (link)

  1. Asian American actors are being given more opportunities to explore all dimensions of their experience.
  2. Films and shows like “Joy Ride”, “Beef” and “Shortcomings” are examples of this.
  3. Asian American characters are being presented as deeply flawed and fully fleshed out.
  4. The 1993 drama “The Joy Luck Club” and 2018 blockbuster “Crazy Rich Asians” are examples of family-centric stories.
  5. Margaret Cho was among the first to go onstage and talk openly about race, sexuality and other topics.
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For decades, Asian American stories onscreen were limited to family-centric stories of generational hardship, sacrifice and culture clash. However, recent films and shows such as “Joy Ride”, “Beef” and “Shortcomings” are finally exploring all dimensions of the Asian American experience, including the weird, bad and raunchy parts. This is an important moment in the relatively short history of Asian American lives onscreen, as it allows audiences to see all dimensions of the Asian American experience, and it is a liberating experience for Asian American actors.

The Macho Performance:American Masculinity in the Trump Era (link)

  1. Powerful men are engaging in physical displays of masculinity.
  2. Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg may fight in Vegas.
  3. U.S. Senator and union boss challenged to MMA fight.
  4. Robert Kennedy Jr. and Jeff Bezos have muscular physiques.
  5. Performative displays of masculinity are part of a larger trend.
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In recent months, powerful men have been displaying their machismo in various ways, from Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg's potential cage match to Robert Kennedy Jr. and Jamaal Bowman's feats of strength. This behavior is partly for show, as it is prime fodder for the social media machine, but it also draws on deeper tropes of masculine honor and personal strength. Mixed martial arts culture has had an influence on this trend, with Joe Rogan's podcast being a platform for many of these men to appear on. This blend of reality and fantasy has become a key feature of American public life in the Trump era, as campy performances of heterosexual masculinity can seize our collective attention.

VC QAnon: Tech Billionaire's Contrarianism (link)

  1. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is a crank with a mishmash of right-wing fantasies.
  2. Tech billionaires are attracted to his contrarianism.
  3. Most of the time conventional wisdom and expert opinion are right.
  4. Tech bros often believe they are uniquely brilliant.
  5. Tech billionaires are being radicalized by their own bubble.
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Despite having zero chance of winning the Democratic presidential nomination, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is receiving support from some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley. This phenomenon of venture capitalism, or "VC QAnon", is explained by tech billionaires' tendency to defy conventional wisdom and expert opinion, and to live within their own cultural and social bubble. This "brain-rotting drug" of contrarianism can lead to clinging to low quality contrarian fads, and can be seen in the tech bros' recession and inflation truthers, and Jack Dorsey's 2021 declaration of hyperinflation.

Colorblind Constitution Triumphs: SFFA v. Harvard (link)

  1. Justice John Marshall Harlan's dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson is the basis of the colorblind Constitution.
  2. Harlan's dissent does not advocate for equality, but rather for hierarchy and inequality.
  3. The Supreme Court ignored Harlan's dissent for much of the century after it was written.
  4. Harlan's dissent was frequently cited by opponents of white supremacy.
  5. Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Clarence Thomas have quoted Harlan to challenge affirmative action.
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The Supreme Court's decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard is a victory for the conservative vision of a colorblind Constitution, as articulated by Justice John Marshall Harlan in his dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson. His words, "There is no caste here. Our Constitution is colorblind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens," have become a rallying cry for conservatives who argue that race should not be a factor in any official action. While Harlan's dissent was largely ignored for much of the century after it was written, it has become increasingly influential in the past few decades, with Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas both citing it in their opinions.

Unions: Providing Workers with Bargaining Power (link)

  1. Elba and her husband earn $50,000 a year.
  2. Unions allow members to earn substantially more than non-unionized workers.
  3. Unionized workers typically earn 10-20% more than similar non-unionized workers.
  4. Unions reduce economic inequality by shifting money from stock returns and top incomes to wages.
  5. 15,000 hotel workers in Unite Here recently voted to authorize a strike for higher wages.
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Elba, a housekeeper at the Pierre Hotel in New York, earns a modest but comfortable living wage of $50,000 a year due to her membership in a labor union. This is in stark contrast to many other service workers, such as Starbucks baristas and Walmart employees, who often earn far less. Unions are a much smaller part of the American economy than they once were, but they still provide workers with the bargaining power they need to negotiate higher wages and reduce economic inequality. This was recently demonstrated in Los Angeles, where 15,000 hotel workers voted to authorize a strike in order to secure higher wages.

Gateway: New Hope for Hudson Tunnel (link)

  1. $6.88 billion federal grant for Hudson River train tunnel.
  2. Doubles number of trains and passengers crossing Hudson.
  3. 70,000 construction jobs and economic boost.
  4. Delays and cost increases since 2010.
  5. Expected completion in 2035.
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The $6.88 billion grant announced by Senator Chuck Schumer of New York this week will allow the long-delayed project to build a train tunnel under the Hudson River to New York City to proceed with preliminary construction this year. The two-track tunnel will effectively double the number of trains and passengers that can cross the Hudson during peak hours, and the $17 billion project is expected to be completed by 2035. The project, known as Gateway, will create more than 70,000 construction jobs and will boost the regional and national economies. It has been delayed by political support and the withholding of federal approvals by the Trump administration, but President Biden and Senator Schumer have made it a national priority.

Casey DeSantis: Championing Parent's Rights (link)

  1. Casey DeSantis is Ron DeSantis' wife and adviser.
  2. She is the "humanizer-in-chief" for his 2024 campaign.
  3. She held her first solo campaign event in Iowa.
  4. She has long played a central role in her husband's political career.
  5. She has embraced the traditions of the early-state primary circuit.
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Casey DeSantis, wife of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, has taken on a key role in his 2024 presidential campaign by connecting with fellow moms and casting her husband as a champion of the “parents’ rights” movement. Her first solo campaign event in Iowa was an effort to soften her husband's image and connect with female voters. She has long been a key part of his political career, from campaigning in his congressional race to narrating his most attention-grabbing gubernatorial ad. Her role has only expanded since then, and she has embraced the early-state primary circuit with her husband.

Interfaith Love in a Virtual Battlefield (link)

  1. Seema Ghulam Haider and Sachin Meena fell in love in a video game.
  2. They were arrested for illegally entering India.
  3. Interfaith relations are a minefield in both countries.
  4. They were accused of "love jihad" by Indian nationalists.
  5. They met in 2019 in the game PUBG.
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Seema Ghulam Haider and Sachin Meena met in 2019 in the virtual battlefields of the popular game PUBG and eventually developed a romantic relationship. Despite the acrimony between India and Pakistan, they decided to meet in person and Ms. Haider, a married Pakistani Muslim, sneaked into India with her four children. After two months of living together, they were arrested and charged with illegal entry and conspiracy. Despite the charges, the couple remains in love and has asked the government to let them marry and build a family. Interfaith relationships are a minefield in both countries, with Islamic extremism entrenched in Pakistan and a powerful Hindu right-wing movement in India condemning such unions.

Justice Thomas: A Call for Transparency (link)

  1. Judge Amul Thapar defends Supreme Court justice's integrity.
  2. Calls for more transparency in court process.
  3. Public view of judges as politicians in robes.
  4. Judge Thapar argues for Justice Clarence Thomas & originalism.
  5. Senate Judiciary Committee to consider ethics rules.
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Judge Amul Thapar, a member of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and Trump appointee, has written a new book extolling the judicial approach of Justice Clarence Thomas at a moment when the Supreme Court and Justice Thomas himself are under fire. Thapar believes that public skepticism about the courts could be dispelled by more transparency, and that the intense scrutiny on the high court has led to a sharp drop in public approval. He has no doubts whatsoever about the rectitude of those on the court, and argues that originalism is misunderstood and has been used to side with ordinary Americans who have found themselves up against powerful government forces. Thapar calls for more transparency to foster greater public understanding of how the courts work, and believes that this could help to turn down the volume on everything.

Native Garden on Historic Estate (link)

  1. Stoneleigh is a 42-acre public garden in Villanova, PA.
  2. Natural Lands is the parent organization of Stoneleigh, preserving over 135,000 acres.
  3. Empty spots were planted to prevent weed growth.
  4. Trees and shrubs were planted to create an early statement.
  5. Combinations of native plants were used to replace pachysandra.
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Ethan Kauffman, the director of Stoneleigh, a public garden on a historic estate in Villanova, Pennsylvania, was tasked with creating a native garden that looks at home on the grounds of a historic Philadelphia Main Line estate. To do this, he had to identify key areas for maximum impact and prioritize higher-value tasks. He and his team planted empty spots to prevent weeds, and planted trees and shrubs, many of which were new or uncommon in the nursery trade. The result is a formal landscape with native plants that is both ecologically focused and aesthetically pleasing.