Inside Airbnb, Employees Eager for Big Payouts Pushed It to Go Public

The New York Times (NYT) (09/20/2019)
  • Airbnb employees are increasingly agitating for the startup to go public (IPO) so they can cash in on stock options and shares.
  • To keep them happy, boss Brian Chesky has offered perks including extended sabbaticals and higher retirement-matching.
  • Some tranches of employee stock-awards are set to expire (become worthless) in November 2020.
  • Since 2011, Airbnb has prohibited employees from selling shares.
  • However, some current and former employees have circumvented the rule by selling on private secondary markets or taking out loans against their shares.

Airbnb and Uber are chalk and cheese

The Economist (10/10/2019)
  • As Airbnb prepares to go public (2020), its boss Brian Chesky is pointing out how it differs from Uber.
  • While unemployed, Chesky and friends started Airbnb in 2008 by renting out empty rooms (with airbeds) in their apartment.
  • Airbnb has hosted 500 million+ bookings and 2 million people use it worldwide every night.
  • Whereas Uber loses billions, Airbnb has been profitable since 2017 ($93 million estimated annual profit) and it lacks major competitors (eg Lyft).
  • Airbnb was recently valued at $31 billion.

TikTok’s silly clips raise some serious questions

The Economist (11/07/2019)
  • “YouTube on Steroids”: TikTok is a video app that lets users post 15-second clips with background music.
  • The app is extremely popular among teenager, with 750 million downloads over the past 12 months alone (exceeds Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp combined).
  • TikTok is owned by Bytedance, a $75 billion Chinese firm that fueled TikTok’s growth by allegedly spending $1 billion on social media ads last year.
  • The Beijing connection has some US politicians worried about China’s access to data on millions of Americans.

Hundreds of Thousands Are Losing Access to Food Stamps

The New York Times (12/04/2019)
  • The Trump administration gave final approval to strictly enforce federal food stamp work requirements.
  • Able-bodied adults without children cannot receive food stamps for more than three months during a 36-month period without working or participating in a work program.
  • State governors had been able to waive requirements for recipients living in economically-distressed areas.
  • 700,000 people will lose access to food stamps under the rule change (effective April 2020).
  • The change is expected to reduced food stamp spending by $5.5 billion over 5 years.

H.I.V. Is Coming to Rural America

The New York Times (12/01/2019)
  • While new HIV diagnoses are hitting lows across major cities (eg NYC, Chicago, San Francisco), an opposite trend of outbreaks is emerging in rural America.
  • Rural areas such as Appalachia, West Virginia are experiencing an uptick due to the opioid epidemic.
  • Many prescription drug addicts have switched to cheaper injectable alternatives (eg heroin, fentanyl), which results in the sharing of dirty needles.
  • The rural HIV outbreak is worsened by the fact that rural areas lack the healthcare infrastructure to meet growing needs.

3 Baltimore men freed from prison 36 years after they were wrongfully convicted of murder

CNN (11/26/2019)
  • On Thanksgiving Day 1983, Baltimore teenagers Alfred Chestnut (16), Ransom Watkins (16) and Andrew Stewart (17) were arrested for murdering 14 year-old DeWitt Duckett.
  • They were accused of shooting DeWitt over his Georgetown basketball jacket.
  • The teens were convicted based on witness testimony and a Georgetown jacket discovered in Chestnut’s bedroom.
  • Prosecutors ignored the jacket lacked blood or gunshot residue and the purchase receipt.
  • A recent re-investigation uncovered evidence hiding and witness coercion.
  • Despite release and apology, Maryland lacks formal compensation for wrongful convictions.

Colleges Struggle With Soaring Student Demand for Counseling

Associated Press (11/25/2019)
  • More US college students are turning to school counsellors for help with anxiety and depression.
  • Demand for treatment has nearly doubled over the last 5 years while counseling budgets have only risen by 25%.
  • The rise is attributed to less mental health stigma and social media.
  • Many universities only have one counselor per 4,000 students.
  • Students forced to wait weeks (or months) for initial appointments must cope by themselves.
  • In 2014, Illinois State freshman Chris Predmore committed suicide after being told to wait for counseling.

You donated to kids with cancer. This Vegas telemarketer cashed in.

The Center for Public Integrity (09/12/2019)
  • American nonprofits and political committees are allowed to spend almost everything they collect on fundraising.
  • During the last four years, the US saw a significant spike in the number of political action committees that raise most of their money from small-dollar donors before plowing much of it back into salaries, administrative costs and raising more cash.
  • Since 2006, one Las Vegas man’s telemarketing companies have been paid about $133 million out of $153 million raised for nonprofits and PACs.

Basic Income and the Video Game Myth

Medium (07/23/2018)
  • Some people worry that Basic Income will lead to millions of people giving up work and ‘just playing video games.’ But Basic Income is only likely to be enough to pay for essentials and little else.
  • And hardly anyone is happy to exist on only the essentials.
  • Very few people are going to give up their smartphones, their cars or their nights out and exist on Basic Income alone.
  • People will carry on working, just as they do now.

What Happens to Your Body on No Sleep

Outside (04/02/2019)
  • Scientists have found that the effects of acute sleep deprivation, or all-nighters, kicks in after being awake for 16-18 hours straight.
  • The first sign is a sluggish mind, with reaction times lagging to the equivalent of being legally drunk by the 24th hour awake.
  • After 24 hours, your brain starts forcing you into 10-20 second periods of “micro-sleep”.
  • After 35 hours, the brain’s emotion-emitting amygdala becomes 60% more reactive and the ability to regulate emotions declines.
  • Hallucinations are common after 48 hours awake.