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Weekend Briefing No. 506
A Saturday morning briefing on innovation and society.
Welcome to the weekend.
I've been deeply troubled by the horrifying terrorist attacks in Israel and the devastating impacts of the escalating war and cascading humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The loss of innocent lives is heartbreaking. I know many of you feel the same. Some of you are living through it on the ground in real time.
We are seeing such dehumanizing narratives in the media. Antisemitism is on the rise worldwide. So is Islamophobia. Jews are being attacked for being Jews, yet again. A six year old Palestinian boy was stabbed 26 times in Chicago. For being Palestinian.
I’ve been hesitant to speak about it in the Weekend Briefing for a few reasons. First, I hear time and time again from readers that you appreciate that the briefing is a respite from whatever is dominating the news cycle, and you enjoy the opportunity to tune out the news and tune in to more interesting and enduring ideas. Secondly, I’m an American. I’m living a comfortable, privileged and peaceful life in New York. Israel / Palestine is not my home. People on the ground have way more right to speak up than I do. So, I keep asking myself… who am I to weigh in on this.
That being said, this feels like such a significant moment for the region, our country, and potentially the world. But I feel compelled to speak in this moment.
Because I've spent time in Israel / Palestine, this feels very personal. I sat in Netiv Ha'asara, one of the first communities attacked on 10/7, with Roni whose neighbors were slaughtered and whose daughter survived by hiding in a kitchen cupboard for hours. I've talked big ideas for peace with a Palestinian farmer in a cave outside of Bethlehem, already facing an unimaginable reality with Israeli settlers trying to take his land. And I've spent time with Israeli and Palestinian families who lost children in the conflict, but who came together--and still do today--to say there's a different way. I've met with Israelis and Palestinians from a broad array of backgrounds and worldviews. They are truly some of the most compelling voices I've ever met. And they are suffering.
Peace is not possible without justice, and justice cannot be derived through violence—direct violence like what we've seen from Hamas or from the Israeli military in Gaza even now, or structural violence like military occupation and a 16-year blockade. A lasting, just peace in Israel/Palestine cannot come at the expense of dignity, freedom, or security for either Palestinians or Israelis. Any vision of a future that demands one people sacrifice any of these basic human rights is a future condemned to violence.
We need peacemakers like Bassam Aramin and Israeli Robi Damelin featured in the video below - Our Pain is Our Power.
I don't presume to have the answers for how we get there. But I do think this conflict--and maybe its ramifications--will likely shape our world for years, even if there is a return of hostages and a ceasefire today.
The Weekend Briefing is and always will be about building a better world. And some of my friends in Israel and Palestine were--and are--doing that in the toughest conditions.
Additionally, if this is something you’re interested in learning more about, check out the good work my friends at Telos are doing around peacemaking and maybe follow them on Instagram for up-to-date content.
Did your brilliant friend share this with you?
1.84 — How far does $1 from 1999 go today? This cool visualization helps us understand the impact of inflation. For instance, $1 of food in 1999 costs $1.84 today.
16,000,000 — The damage caused by the climate crisis through extreme weather has cost $16 million an hour for the past 20 years, according to a new estimate.
100,000 — A person earning $100,000 per year would not be able to afford the minimum mortgage payment to buy a home in nearly half of the 50 biggest cities in the US.
Our Power Is Our Pain
Palestinian Bassam Aramin and Israeli Robi Damelin are unlikely allies. But they share a powerful bond — the loss of a child to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The joint spokespeople for the Parents Circle Family Forum travel the world sharing their personal stories as impassioned cries for peace, understanding and reconciliation in the Middle East. YouTube (3 minutes)
Kids and Risk
Last weekend, a paper in The Journal of Pediatrics titled “Decline in Independent Activity as a Cause of Decline in Children’s Mental Well-Being: Summary of the Evidence” swept the internet. The authors argue that “a primary cause of the rise in mental disorders is a decline over decades in opportunities for children and teens to play, roam and engage in other activities independent of direct oversight and control by adults.” Right on the first page, they write: Over time, however, beginning in the 1960s and accelerating in the 1980s, the implicit understanding shifted from that of children as competent, responsible and resilient to the opposite, as advice focused increasingly on children’s needs for supervision and protection. Rutherford noted, as have other reviewers, that in some respects — such as freedom to choose what they wear or eat — children have gained autonomy over the decades. What has declined specifically is children’s freedom to engage in activities that involve some degree of risk and personal responsibility away from adults. Not Boring (9 minutes)
This Is What Impact Looks Like
While we use data all the time to understand our portfolio’s impact in the world, seeing their impact through the faces of those whose lives have been changed for the better is so much more powerful in understanding what impact looks like on the ground. The world we live in has never been more challenging and is daunting in every way, often creating a sense of hopelessness. Seeing what impact looks like on the ground not only reminds us every day of the possible and how one human being can make a difference in the lives of others, but it is the best antidote to feeling hopeless. We hope you will take as much joy in seeing what impact looks like as we do. DRK Foundation (Sponsored)
The notion of carbon as a fungible commodity, like coffee or cotton, emerged in the late 1980s. As humanity reckoned with the harms of fossil fuels, a U.S. power company named Applied Energy Services conceived a novel way to reduce emissions: It could surround its main coal-fired power station with a forest to absorb the carbon billowing from its chimney. That plan turned out to be implausible. Scientists calculated that to absorb the carbon that the facility would pump out in its life span, the company needed to plant some 52 million trees — an impossibility in densely populated Connecticut. Then, an executive named Sheryl Sturges had an inspiration: Since the atmosphere was a global commons, why not situate the forest elsewhere? The company eventually paid for 40K farmers to plant trees in the mountains of Guatemala. It cost just $2 million — pennies per ton of carbon. Sturges’ idea caught the world’s attention. “Antidote for a Smokestack,” a headline in Time magazine announced. A decade later, the concept of carbon offsetting was enshrined in international law, as 37 industrialized nations and the European Union agreed to emissions-reduction targets under the Kyoto Protocol. Through the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism, rich countries struggling to meet their goals could compensate by paying for projects in impoverished ones. Offsetting has been hailed as a fix for runaway emissions and climate change, but the market’s largest firm sold millions of credits for carbon reductions that weren’t real. New Yorker (18 minutes)
Songwriter and producer Ghostwriter sits down with Bloomberg’s Brad Stone at the Bloomberg Screentime event in Los Angeles for a first-ever interview to discuss the intrigue and outcry surrounding his viral song that used artificial intelligence (AI)-generated vocals. The business of songwriting is tough. Writers, even ones that write hits, don’t make a ton of money. So, one songwriter created a character called Ghostwriter who releases AI-generated music in the style of major artists like Drake and Travis Scott. The music industry is fighting back. Bloomberg (18 minutes)
Healthcare and Employment
In the U.S., it’s about to be “Open Enrollment” season for health care. It might also be a time when you ask yourself why it has to be this way. Look around the world, and it’s clear there are much simpler ways to run a health care system. Some rich countries have all public insurance. Some use private coverage, but they have a few things in common: They insure pretty much everybody. Their systems cost less money. And whether you have health care has nothing to do with whether you’re employed. In the United States, however, 57% of Americans under 65 get insurance through their jobs, and attempts to reform that system have all failed. While people might not be very happy with the insurance they have now, they are also wary of change. America has been left with a dominant form of health coverage that is just effective enough not to collapse but still leaves patients stuck with plenty of problems. Vox (7 minutes)
How to Dress Right Now
In 2023, though, the moment finally feels right for GQ to lay down a few new sartorial edicts. The anything-goes abandon of the last couple of years has given way to a return to elegance. Quite frankly, some of you have been allowed to dress yourselves unchecked for too long. Here are some do’s and don’ts for menswear: 1) It’s OK to repeat outfits. Nobody but you is keeping track. 2) When faced with a choice between being overdressed and underdressed, do the former. 3) Wear the clothes you own. Put some thought into what you buy. Buy things that you like, that fit and that you have a need for. Then, wear the hell out of them. Don't be a collector or a hoarder. Life is too short, and square footage is too valuable. 4) Buy multiples of anything you love. 5) Pack light; it forces you to be creative. 6) The perfect white T-shirt doesn’t exist. Trust me: I’ve been looking for years. It’s OK — healthy, even — to just settle for “pretty good.” GQ (12 minutes)
Should We Work Together?
Hi! I’m Kyle. This newsletter is my passion project. When I’m not writing, I run a law firm that helps startups move fast without breaking things. Most founders want a trusted legal partner, but they hate surprise legal bills. At Westaway, we take care of your startup’s legal needs for a flat, monthly fee so you can control your costs and focus on scaling your business. If you’re interested, let’s jump on a call to see if you’re a good fit for the firm. Click here to schedule a one-on-one call with me.
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True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice. -Martin Luther King Jr.