Jun 13, 2021

Axios AM

Happy Sunday! Smart Brevity™ count: 1,241 words ... 4½ minutes. Edited by Fadel Allassan.

1 big thing: Workers get picky (and pricey)

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

American workers have been losing power since 1980 — but now the tables are turning, Axios' Felix Salmon writes.

  • The lowest wage that workers without a college degree are willing to accept for a new job stands at a record $61,483 a year — a rise of $10,000 in just one year, according to a New York Fed labor market survey.
  • Why it matters: The 2010s gave us the gig economy and left millions of workers stranded seemingly on the precipice of financial ruin. The 2020s could be the decade when workers seize back power.
  • "[A]n entire generation of managers that came of age in an era of abundant workers is being forced to learn how to operate amid labor scarcity," Neil Irwin wrote in the N.Y. Times (subscription).

The big picture: The number of unfilled jobs continues to grow, the size of the workforce is stagnating and workers are flexing their muscles whether or not they have formal union representation.

  • A record 9.3 million jobs are open in America. The labor force stands at 161 million, about 3 million people fewer than it was pre-pandemic, and has had no growth since August.
  • Demographic realities mean that only increased immigration will be able to boost the number of working-age Americans in coming years.

What's happening: A booming stock market, along with the pandemic-fueled broadening of unemployment benefits, seems to have made enough workers rich enough that they can afford to be pickier.

2. China hits back as summit counters "Belt and Road"
President Biden and France President Emmanuel Macron speak in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, England on Friday. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

China today pointedly cautioned Group of Seven leaders, meeting in England, that the "days when global decisions were dictated by a small group of countries are long gone," Reuters reports.

President Biden and the G7 wealthy nations are offering developing countries a climate-focused infrastructure plan — Build Back Better World (B3W) — to counter Xi Jinping’s multi-trillion-dollar Belt and Road.

  • The "green Belt and Road" would fund infrastructure projects to reduce carbon emissions, the Financial Times reports (subscription).

The White House said the plan is part of "strategic competition with China": "B3W will collectively catalyze hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure investment for low- and middle-income countries in the coming years."

  • Go deeper: White House fact sheet on the Build Back Better World (B3W) Partnership.
President Biden at the G7 in Cornwall, England, yesterday. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images
3. 🥊 The new filibuster

Sen. Joe Manchin departs the Capitol on Thursday. Photo: Rod Lamkey/CNP/Sipa via Reuters

N.Y. Times columnist Ross Douthat proposes (subscription) an idea for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to consider as a more appetizing option than abolishing the filibuster: weakening it by taking it from 60 votes to 55.

  • Douthat writes that the lower threshold "puts a lot of things that the West Virginia senator favors more in play — from the gun-control measure he hashed out with Pat Toomey in the Obama years to infrastructure spending and the Jan. 6 commission."
  • But it still poses "a strong impediment to ideological legislating."

The bottom line: "It adapts the filibuster in a reasonable way to our age of heightened polarization, maintaining protections for the minority," while once again making deals possible.

4. Winning bid to blast off with Bezos

This Blue Origin illustration shows the capsule the company plans to use to take tourists into space. Via AP

An auction for a ride into space next month alongside Jeff Bezos and his brother ended yesterday with a winning bid of $28 million, AP reports.

  • The Amazon founder's rocket company, Blue Origin, didn't disclose the winner's name following the live online auction.
  • The identity will be revealed in a couple weeks — closer to the brief up-and-down flight from West Texas on July 20, the 52nd anniversary of the moon landing by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

More than 7,500 people from 159 countries registered to bid.

5. 🎬 Tonight on "Axios on HBO": U.N. ambassador previews Putin summit
Photo: "Axios on HBO"

On tonight's episode of "Axios on HBO" (6 p.m. ET, HBO and HBO Max), I sit down in the State Department's Treaty Room with Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

I asked: "Vladimir Putin has been basically taunting Washington in the lead-up to this trip [with his crackdown on critics]. ... What happens if that meeting's a failure? What if it's impossible to do the friendly smiles that you diplomats do?"

  • Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield replied: "I don't know that it will be a meeting of friendly smiles."
  • Watch a clip.

🎞️ Also tonight ... Margaret Talev talks nuclear power in Vienna with IAEA head Rafael Grossi ... Nicholas Johnston has "The Shipping News" from Denmark, with Maersk CEO Søren Skou ... and I mix it up with U.S. Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Suzanne Clark. See a clip.

6. Collapse speeding for Antarctic ice shelf

Image: Ian Joughin et al./Science Advances

The Pine Island Glacier on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is responsible for more than a quarter of Antarctica's contribution to global sea level rise over the past decades. Now, climate change is making it more vulnerable to rapid melting than thought, Axios' Andrew Freedman writes.

  • A study, published Friday in the journal Science Advances, uses satellite measurements and a computer model to find a 12%+ increase in the speed the glacier flowed into the sea from 2017 to 2020.

Threat level: The neighboring Thwaites Glacier is called the "doomsday glacier," due to the possibility that it may already be past a tipping point into a virtually unstoppable, runaway melt.

7. Pulse named a national memorial
Visitors pay tribute in Orlando on Friday. Photo: John Raoux/AP

On the fifth anniversary of the killing of 49 people at Pulse — a gay nightclub in Orlando, now closed — President Biden announced, after passage by the House and Senate:

In the coming days, I will sign a bill designating Pulse Nightclub as a national memorial, enshrining in law what has been true since that terrible day five years ago: Pulse Nightclub is hallowed ground.

Remembrances were held around the world yesterday.

  • Members of the onePULSE Foundation, incorporated by the owners of the nightclub, said a memorial and museum are in the works.

Read Biden's statement.

8. Pentagon Papers published 50 years ago today
The New York Times

On June 13, 1971, The New York Times began publishing the Pentagon Papers — a classified history of the Vietnam War, commissioned in 1967 by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara — showing a massive gap between what Washington officials said, and what they truly knew.

  • "The lies revealed in the papers were of a generational scale, and, for much of the American public, this grand deception seeded a suspicion of government that is even more widespread today," Elizabeth Becker writes in a Times special section. (Outside paywall.)

Read an oral history (subscription) of The Times' historic decision to publish, which led to a landmark Supreme Court decision.

  • 🗞️ Go deeper: Today's print New York Times has a 16-page special section, "The Pentagon Papers at 50." ... Online special section.
9. 🐋 Whale tale called fishy

Questions are being raised about the lobsterman who claims he was in a whale's mouth — yesterday's bottom item in AM:

  • An emergency-room doctor at the Cape Cod hospital where the 57-year-old recovered — but who wasn't part of the team that treated the man — told the N.Y. Post that a person traumatized by such an encounter should expect more serious injuries, such as hearing loss.
  • Michael Packard was released "just hours after the incident, miraculously suffering only soft tissue damage," as the Post put it.
10. "In the Heights" become a national event

Photo: Warner Bros.

"In the Heights" — the long-awaited film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical about life in Washington Heights, a Dominican neighborhood in New York — arrived at cinemas and on HBO Max, Marina E. Franco of Noticias Telemundo writes for Axios Latino.

  • The story includes Latino characters from different cultures, and shows their dreams, aspirations and love towards their barrio, without stereotyping them.
  • Miranda told NBC that the film gives the spotlight to "people who are in the margins of other people's stories so much of the time, in mainstream Hollywood or mainstream Broadway."

The big picture: "In the Heights" begins a string of productions that place Latinos front and center, raising hopes for a breakthrough for a group that’s been historically underrepresented in films, AP reports.

  • Coming attractions include "Cinderella" with Cuban-American singer Camila Cabello, "The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard" with Mexican star Salma Hayek and Steven Spielberg’s revival of "West Side Story."

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