November 27, 2023

📦 Welcome back, and happy Cyber Monday!

  • Smart Brevity™ count: 1,496 words ... 5½ mins. Edited by Bryan McBournie.

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1 big thing: DEI backlash hits corporate America

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

U.S. companies' diversity, equity and inclusion efforts lost momentum this year after the Supreme Court's June affirmative action ruling, Axios' Emily Peck writes from a DEI consulting firm's new report.

  • Why it matters: The slowdown is a reversal from the explosion in corporate DEI after George Floyd's killing in 2020 pushed companies to act to address racial inequality.

"2023 has undeniably shifted the DEI landscape for years to come," write the authors of a report out today from Paradigm.

  • "External forces are no longer pushing companies to invest in DEI; instead, in some cases, external forces are pushing back on companies' investment in DEI."

💨 Catch up fast: In June the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action at colleges — ruling that schools can't explicitly consider race in the admissions process.

  • Since then, the group that brought that case — American Alliance for Equal Rights — sued two law firms, challenging minority fellowships that were open only to students of color, those who identify as LGBTQ+ or those who have disabilities.
  • The group also sued a venture capital fund, the Fearless Fund, for investing solely in Black women.

In response, the law firms revised the programs, broadening their criteria to all law students at a certain stage of school. The suits were dropped.

In a letter this summer, 13 Republican state attorneys general urged Fortune 100 companies to take another look at their DEI programs after the high court's decision.

The lawsuits and letters "will have significant downstream consequences for DEI for years to come," Paradigm's report concludes.

  • Paradigm also says companies have deprioritized DEI as the hiring frenzy of the past few years has slowed.

Reality check: DEI efforts after 2020 had real impact.

  • 94% of the headcount increase at large firms in 2021, from the previous year, stemmed from hiring people of color, according to a Bloomberg analysis of 88 S&P 100 firms.

Explore the report ... Get Axios Markets.

2. First American hostage released

Hostages released by Hamas wave to the crowd from a vehicle driving toward an army base in Ofakim, Israel, yesterday. Photo: Menahem Kahana/AFP via Getty Images

Hamas released more than a dozen hostages from Gaza yesterday, including at least one American — 4-year-old Abigail Edan, Axios' Barak Ravid reports.

  • "Thank God she's home," President Biden told reporters in Nantucket. "I wish I was there to hold her."

Biden said he wants the pause in fighting to extend beyond the originally agreed four days, which ends today:

  • "I hope this is not the end. I would like to see this pause continuing as long as we can get more hostages out."
Residential buildings, destroyed in Israeli strikes during the conflict, lie in ruin in southern Gaza City yesterday. Photo: Bassam Masoud/Reuters

Gaza civilians are being killed at a historic pace — more quickly "than in even the deadliest moments of U.S.-led attacks in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, which were themselves widely criticized by human rights groups, conflict-casualty experts tell the N.Y. Times.

  • "It is not just the scale of the strikes ... It is also the nature of the weaponry itself," The Times adds.
  • "Israel's liberal use of very large weapons in dense urban areas, including U.S.-made 2,000-pound bombs that can flatten an apartment tower, is surprising, some experts say."

The Israeli military points out that Gaza "is small and dense, with civilians living next to, and even on top of, Hamas combatants who rely on tunnel networks to shield themselves and their weapons, putting residents directly in the line of fire," The Times notes.

3. 📚 Scoop: Haberman, Swan sign deal for Trump book

Swan and Haberman on "Inside Politics Sunday" in October. Screenshot: CNN

Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan have signed a deal for the definitive book about Donald Trump's final act in public life — whatever that final act is.

  • Why it matters: The two have owned the Trump beat for years, with deep, wide sources in his orbit and throughout the Republican Party he has transformed.

Simon and Schuster won a furious competition for the deeply reported book by the two New York Times political correspondents.

  • The publication date depends on what happens in 2024 — it'll be 2025 at the earliest.
  • Haberman wrote the international bestseller "Confidence Man" about the former president. Swan won an Emmy for his captivating "Axios on HBO" interview with Trump in 2020.

The duo's untitled Trump project aims to be more enduring than a campaign book — with plenty of juicy inside-the-room detail, but also the larger story of this singular figure in global affairs and public life for the past decade.

  • And, of course, it'll likely be part courtroom drama.

🔎 Between the lines: The two will continue their scoopy coverage — including their series, with Times colleague Charlie Savage, about the stakes of a Trump return to power — until they begin work on the book.

  • Refuting a misperception on social media, The Times said Haberman kept editors apprised of news she was learning for "Confidence Man."

Haberman was represented by Matt Latimer of Javelin. Swan was represented by Pilar Queen at UTA.

4. 🔋 Charted: Green pivot

How much the global oil and gas industry invests in clean energy
Data: International Energy Agency. (Investment amount is in 2022 dollars.) Table: Axios Visuals

Ahead of Thursday's opening of the U.N. climate summit COP28 in Dubai, UAE, this chart shows that the oil and gas industry's clean energy investments have grown rapidly.

  • But they remain a small slice of the sector's overall spending, Axios Generate co-author Ben Geman reports.

🌐 If you're heading to COP ... so is Axios! Axios House will host events Dec. 4-6, with experts and officials from around the world — and plenty of networking.

5. 🚙 Trust gap for self-driving cars

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Better transparency and tighter rules could improve public trust in self-driving cars amid safety concerns involving robotaxis.

  • Why it matters: Like human drivers, self-driving technology will never be perfect. But people would trust it more if they better understood its failings, Axios transportation expert Joann Muller writes from Detroit.

What's happening: The big promise of autonomous vehicles (AVs) is that they could make transportation safer and more accessible for everyone.

  • But robotaxis are being tested and deployed in cities without residents' explicit consent, and without much oversight.

💨 Catch up fast: GM-owned Cruise pulled its entire U.S. fleet of 950 driverless cars off the road last month after a San Francisco pedestrian was hit by a human-driven vehicle, then run over by a nearby Cruise robotaxi.

  • Cruise is now planning a slow return to service.

🖼️ The big picture: Other AV companies are forging ahead with deployment and testing.

  • Hyundai and AV developer Motional opened a new facility in Singapore last week that will produce Ioniq 5 robotaxis for planned deployment in Las Vegas and other U.S. cities starting next year.
  • Alphabet subsidiary Waymo partnered with Uber to offer driverless rides in metro Phoenix. In San Francisco, Waymo continues to expand access to its Waymo One driverless ride-hail service. It's also ramping up service in L.A., and is testing robotaxis with safety drivers in Austin.
  • May Mobility, backed by Toyota and BMW, just raised $105 million to expand its on-demand driverless transit shuttles in a handful of cities in Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota and Texas.

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6. 🏠 Larger share of U.S. homes sell at a loss

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A growing proportion of homeowners are selling their houses for less than they paid for them, according to Redfin data exclusive to Axios.

  • Some homeowners are losing six-figure amounts, Axios' Brianna Crane reports.

🧮 By the numbers: More than 3% of U.S. homes sold at a loss August–October 2023 — up from 2.4% a year ago, Redfin found.

  • The median loss was around $40,000.

Zoom in: The highest proportion and largest losses were in San Francisco. Roughly 1 in 7 S.F. owners lost money on their home sale, with a median loss of $122,500.

  • Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland and New York were also among the top five cities with the highest proportion of losses — all north of 6%.
  • Losses were least common in Providence, R.I.; Anaheim, Calif.; San Diego, Boston; and Fort Lauderdale.

🔥 Hot markets: Some markets have even been stronger for sellers this year. The proportion of losses in D.C. has shrunk since last year.

7. 📖 Revealed: Word of the year!

Image: Merriam-Webster via AP

Merriam-Webster's 2023 Word of the Year, announced just after midnight, is authentic.

  • Why it matters: Authentic saw a substantial increase in online lookups this year, driven by stories and conversations about AI, celebrity culture, identity, and social media, the dictionary giant says.

With the rise of AI "and its impact on deepfake videos, actors' contracts, academic honesty, and a vast number of other topics — the line between 'real' and 'fake' has become increasingly blurred," the announcement says.

  • "We see in 2023 a kind of crisis of authenticity," Merriam-Webster lexicographer Peter Sokolowski told AP. "What we realize is that when we question authenticity, we value it even more."

See the runners-up.

8. 🪐 Parting shot

Photo: Peter Cziborra/Reuters

A halo appears around the moon and Jupiter above Redbourn, England, on Saturday.

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