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Happy Friday Morning Brewers!

Good morning and Happy Friday. In today’s newsletter we’re covering…

  • The devastation from the Maui wildfires
  • Big spending by US colleges…and costs that get passed along to students
  • And how we know NYC is so back

Have a great day. We’ll see ya Monday!



A hub for Hawaiian heritage has burned to the ground

The Maui town of Lāhainā was largely destroyed in a wildfire.

Patrick T. Fallon/Getty Images

The Maui town of Lāhainā will never be the same. This week, unprecedented wildfires ripped through the historic area where the Hawaiian Kingdom’s constitution was drafted, destroying cherished cultural sites.

The blazes are now mostly contained, but at least 53 people have died, making this one of the deadliest US wildfires in decades. The death toll is likely to rise as search and rescue efforts continue. An investigation into the cause of the fire has not yet begun, but unmanaged, nonnative grasslands are believed to have fueled its spread, combined with dry air, drought, and winds from a passing hurricane.

“The whole town was devastated. Lāhainā was decimated,” Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Luke said. At least 1,000 buildings have been wrecked.

  • Front Street, the town’s popular stretch of restaurants, bars, and stores, has been reduced to ash. “Pretty much everybody I know lost everything,” one resident told MSNBC.
  • The town center—one of 60 nationally recognized historic sites in the area—was destroyed, as was the church where Christianity got its start in Hawaii in the early 1800s. Its graveyard is the burial site for some members of old Hawaiian royalty.
  • The largest banyan fig tree in the US, planted in Lāhainā in 1873, is charred but still standing.

Cell phone and internet service remained heavily disrupted, so people have been using social media to try to locate missing relatives. For some people on the island, Apple Emergency SOS was the only way to contact first responders.

Burnt docks and wrecked boats have complicated seaborne relief efforts. Several airlines have added flights to help get people out of Maui.

The recovery…will take years, authorities said. Maui’s economy, which was just bouncing back after the pandemic, will suffer—80% of the island’s money is generated by tourism. Lāhainā, once the capital of pre-colonized Hawaii, was a major destination for visitors.—ML


First disruption to smartphones in 15 years 

Mode Mobile

Tech startup with traction: Turn your phone from a cost to an income source. Intriguing idea, isn’t it? This is why eyes are on the launch of Mode’s pre-IPO offering, the latest in a series of impressive raises among smartphone innovators, likely spurred by Apple’s recent $3t valuation.

Mode saw 150x revenue growth from 2019 to 2022, a leap that has made them one of America’s fastest-growing companies—all thanks to EarnPhone, a budget smartphone that’s helped consumers earn and save $150m+ for activities like listening to music, playing games, and…even charging their devices.

Over 10k investors have already acquired shares. And with only days remaining prior to their closing update, allocations are limited.

 Claim your exclusive 50% bonus: $0.08/share.


Tour de headlines

A photograph of a prescription bottle for OxyCodone with pills spilling out of it

Getty Images

 SCOTUS pauses Sackler opioid settlement. The Supreme Court temporarily blocked a $6 billion settlement between OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and state and local governments that would protect the Sackler family—which owns the company—from civil lawsuits over the company’s role in fueling the opioid crisis. It’s a victory for Biden’s DOJ, which requested that the settlement be put on hold. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in December over whether the settlement can proceed.

 Jailed Americans freed from Iranian prison. Thanks to a US–Iran swap, five Iranian American dual citizens held in the notoriously brutal Evin Prison in Tehran have been moved to house arrest, according to a lawyer for one of them, and they’ll soon be allowed to leave the country. In exchange, the US promised to release multiple Iranians incarcerated for violating sanctions and will allow Iran to use $6 billion of frozen funds for humanitarian purposes, multiple news outlets reported. The agreement comes as a number of Americans remain in foreign prisons on dubious charges, including WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich, who is detained in Russia.

 Amazon puts WFH employees on notice. The e-commerce giant emailed some employees to warn them that, based on their badge swipes, they hadn’t been coming into the office at least three days a week as mandated by company policy, Insider reported. But several employees claimed they were flagged erroneously, and Amazon admitted it might be true. The company’s Slack was popping off with employees venting about what they perceived as a tone-deaf email and a lack of transparency around how the tracking worked, per Insider. When Amazon’s return-to-office policy was imposed in February, some employees walked out in protest and circulated a petition to nix it.


Colleges are spending money they don’t have

Illustration of a college building on top of stacks of money

Francis Scialabba

The price of college is rising, and for once, we can’t blame inflation. Spending increased by 38% at the median flagship school (the best known and usually the oldest public university in each state) between 2002 and 2022—and they passed the tab to students, contributing to the $1.6 trillion student debt crisis, according to the Wall Street Journal’s analysis of the 50 schools’ financial statements.

Driving the increase: Over the 20 years analyzed, the median flagship’s salaries and benefits rose by ~40%, spending on athletic coaches jumped by 50%, and millions of dollars were pumped into new construction and renovations, according to data the WSJ analyzed from the Knight-Newhouse College Athletics Database. Administrative costs have also become a greater share of institutional spending, per US News and the National Center for Education Statistics.

But that shiny new student union and all those higher salaries don’t pay for themselves. To afford them, every school in the Wall Street Journal’s analysis increased tuition and fee revenue per student by double digits from 2002–2022:

  • At the University of Oklahoma, tuition and fees per student rose 166% in the two decades analyzed.
  • Penn State, the most expensive flagship state school, costs the average student nearly $27,000 a year.

Big picture: Schools are spending so much because there’s no one to stop them. Economist James V. Koch found that trustees approve 98% of cost-increasing proposals at large public universities, and Holden Thorp, former chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told the WSJ that universities are just “devouring money.”


If New York is dead, why is our rent so high?

Two headlines next to each other. One reads “New York City is dead forever” from The New York Post on August 17, 2020. The other reads “The average Manhattan rent just hit a new record of $5,588 a month” from MSNBC on August 10, 2023.

New York Post & MSNBC

It wasn’t just your LA friends—everyone thought the pandemic would officially kill New York City. But apparently, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger: The city’s rents have rebounded…and then some.

Average rents in Manhattan hit a record high of $5,588 in July, according to a report from Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman. It’s also the fourth month of record-breaking prices in the last five months, according to CNBC.

During the pandemic-triggered remote work revolution, economists warned that workers would flee to more affordable states and devastate the city’s real estate market. But despite nearly 400,000 people leaving Manhattan between June 2020 and June 2022, the average rent for apartments in the borough is now 30% higher than it was in 2019.

What happened? For starters, there’s still not enough housing on the island. And soaring interest rates are making it a lot more expensive for people to buy, so they are being pushed back into the rental market, giving prices an even bigger lift. Plus, the cost of housing in the city typically climbs throughout the summer so, spoiler alert: This month will likely break records too.

Record rental prices show that people are choosing to live in Manhattan despite not going in to work there. Manhattan offices were only at 48% of capacity last month, according to Kastle Systems.


Key performance indicators

Golfer Phil Mickelson

Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Stat: A new book has revealed that golf star Phil Mickelson likes to gamble on sports…a lot. Mickelson has bet more than $1 billion over the last three decades on sports, losing about $100 million while doing it, according to excerpts of Gambler: Secrets from a Life at Risk published by Fire Pit Collective. The author says that Mickelson made 858 wagers of $220,000 and more than 1,100 wagers of $110,000 between 2010 and 2014. He even attempted to bet $400,000 on Team USA (which he was playing on) at the 2012 Ryder Cup.

Quote: “Elon works on the technology and dreams up what’s next. I bring it to market.”

In her first TV interview as X CEO, Linda Yaccarino stressed to CNBC that she has autonomy from owner Elon Musk who, despite stepping down as chief executive, still appears at times to be running the ship. Yaccarino also said that the social media company was pretty close to breaking even, advertisers including Coca-Cola and State Farm had returned, and, after gutting its workforce, X is back in hiring mode.

Read: Grimes on living forever, dying on Mars, and giving Elon Musk ideas for tweets. (Wired)


One quiz is all it takes

New Friday quiz image

Getting a 5/5 on the Brew’s Weekly News Quiz has been compared to the first bathroom break after a long car ride.

It’s that satisfying. Ace the quiz.


What else is brewing

  • Virgin Galactic successfully launched its first crew of tourists into space.
  • The number of US suicides reached a record high last year, according to preliminary CDC data.
  • Waymo and Cruise have gotten permission from California regulators to run robotaxis 24/7 in San Francisco.
  • Amazon is scrapping 27 of its 30 private-label clothing brands to a) cut costs and b) fend off regulatory scrutiny, per the WSJ.
  • Update: Lil Tay, the social media star whose Instagram account said she died on Wednesday, said she was very much alive and that her account was hacked.
  • A New Zealand supermarket’s experiment using AI to generate recipes didn’t go well. The AI recommended meals such as deadly chlorine gas and “poison bread sandwiches.” Chefs, you’re safe for now.


Friday to-do list

 Gas vs. electric cars: Which is cheaper to fill up? Here’s the answer.

 Don’t worry about 10k steps. Four thousand per day is enough to keep you healthy, new research says.

 Dunkin’ Spiked: What we know about the chain’s new line of hard iced coffee and iced tea.

  The best meteor shower of the year peaks this weekend: Here’s what to know.


 Earn $200 after spending $500: That’s like 40% cash rewards on the first $500 you spend. Plus, enjoy unlimited rewards. Start racking up huge cash rewards.*

*This is sponsored advertising content.


The puzzle section

Jigsaw: You gotta check out this jigsaw puzzle if you love a) strange musical instruments and b) mountainous terrain. Play the puzzle here.

Friday puzzle

Each of the nine letters in the equations below represents a different digit from 1 to 9. Your task is to figure out the integer value of each letter.

A + B = 9

B + C = 10

C + D = 9

D + E = 10

E + F = 9

F + G = 10

G + H = 9

H + I = 10



A = 5

B = 4

C = 6

D = 3

E = 7

F = 2

G = 8

H = 1

I = 9

Source and solution.

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