Axios PM

An analog clock with only two symbols instead of twelve: the symbols read 'AM' and 'PM'.

November 20, 2023

👋 Good Monday afternoon. Today's PM — edited by Noah Bressner — is 595 words, a 2-min. read. Thanks to Sheryl Miller for the copy edit.

1 big thing: Tech's weekend of chaos

Illustration of a cursor on fire

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

It's been a chaotic few days for high-profile tech companies — and their influential leaders — working to shape the future, Axios' Alex Fitzpatrick writes.

  • Why it matters: Three major stories — about OpenAI, X and Cruise — are a reminder that the people and companies trying to design the future are imperfect, that leadership is important, and that nobody's immune to potentially catastrophic unforced errors.

Driving the news: Coming in at a 9.6 on the Wow-o-Meter: generative AI darling OpenAI's ongoing self-destruction, which began Friday with the board's sudden and largely unexplained removal of CEO Sam Altman.

  • A vast majority of OpenAI workers signed a stunning open letter this morning threatening to quit and go work at Microsoft — where Altman now works — unless the board resigns and the former CEO is reinstated.
  • "We are unable to work for or with people that lack competence, judgement and care for our mission and employees," reads the letter.

The intrigue: OpenAI chief scientist Ilya Sutskever, who led the board's anti-Altman rebellion, now says he "deeply regrets" his actions, Axios' Scott Rosenberg writes.

  • Sutskever even signed the open letter, essentially calling for his own resignation.

🔎 Zoom in: The Altman drama — so unexpected and irresistible as a story — somewhat overshadowed two other major stories in tech...

  • The ongoing exodus of major advertisers at X (formerly Twitter) following owner Elon Musk's embrace of antisemitic messages. Apple, IBM, Disney, Comcast/NBCUniversal, Paramount and more have either pulled or "paused" advertising.
  • Kyle Vogt, co-founder and CEO of GM-owned robotaxi startup Cruise, resigned yesterday amid a disastrous few weeks. The company recently paused operations after losing permission to operate in San Francisco after an incident that left a pedestrian badly wounded.

Keep reading ... Get the latest on OpenAI.

2. 🗳️ 2024 debate road map

Presidential debate sites since 1960
Data: The American Presidency Project. Map: Simran Parwani/Axios (Note: Excludes canceled debates. The 1960 debate that was broadcast from New York and Los Angeles is double-counted.)

The three presidential debates next year will be held in Texas, Virginia and Utah, Axios' Erin Doherty writes.

  • The sole vice presidential debate is set to take place at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania.

By the numbers: Missouri has hosted six presidential and vice presidential debates, the most of any state (charted above).

  • 22 states and D.C. have hosted at least one debate since 1960.

State of play: Former President Trump — who has skipped all three Republican primary debates so far — has said that he wants to debate President Biden.

  • The Biden campaign hasn't said whether he plans to participate in the debates.

Keep reading.

3. Catch me up

Sheryl Sandberg speaks in an Instagram video
Photo: Sheryl Sandberg via Instagram
  1. 🔎 Sheryl Sandberg, the former Meta COO, writes in an op-ed today: "No matter which flag you are flying ... there is one opinion that everyone can agree on: Rape should never be used as an act of war." Keep reading ... Watch her video.
  2. 🌡️ The planet likely briefly exceeded a key warming threshold for the first time since at least the beginning of instrument records, Axios' Andrew Freedman writes.
  3. 🦠 Americans can order more free COVID tests from the government starting today, Axios' Kelly Tyko writes.

4. 🦃 Biden pardons big birds

Data: Axios research. Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios (Note: Only turkeys where the weight of the bird was known are shown.)
Data: Axios research. Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios (Note: Only turkeys where the weight of the bird was known are shown.)

Liberty and Bell — two 42-pound turkeys — were pardoned today by President Biden and spared from the Thanksgiving table.

  • They're squarely in the middle of the flock of turkeys pardoned over the last 40 years (charted above).

The turkeys traveled from Minnesota in a Cadillac Escalade and stayed overnight at a suite in the Willard Intercontinental near the White House.

President Joe Biden speaks after pardoning the national Thanksgiving turkey, Liberty, during a pardoning ceremony at the White House in Washington, Monday, Nov. 20, 2023.
President Biden speaks after pardoning Liberty, one of the National Thanksgiving Turkeys, today. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

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