63 days and counting... 😎

“The summer of New York City” is on the way. Plus: Notes from Biden’s speech to Congress and the gummy version of a classic candy I can’t get enough of.

The aftermath of President Joe Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress last night sucked up most of the news cycle’s oxygen today. I’ll cover all the important angles from the speech in a moment. But first… Can you indulge me for a sec while I bask in the glory of what’s certain to be an unforgettable summer in New York City?

— Coronavirus

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that NYC plans to fully reopen on July 1 — that's in 63 days, but who's counting?! — with no restrictions on restaurants, retail or any other businesses. 

  • “We now have the confidence that we can pull all of these pieces together and get life back, really, in many ways, to where it was," he said. "This is going to be the summer of New York City." That's the politically correct way of saying reports of the Big Apple's demise will turn out to have been greatly exaggerated. 

Expect a few more states to follow suit since new coronavirus infections fell by roughly 16 percent over the past week in the US. 

  • “When you get somewhere between 40 and 50 percent, I believe you’re going to start seeing real change, the start of a precipitous drop in cases,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert said, pointing to the success in Israel as a blueprint. “When you do, that's when people are going to start doing things they've been craving.” (More than 40 percent of adults currently are vaccinated in at least 17 states.)

The pandemic’s grip on our economy seems to be relenting too: According to the Labor Department, the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits dropped to the lowest level since the crisis emerged last March.

— Politics

Back to Biden’s speech. During his 65-minute address, he touted the success of one of his multi-trillion-dollar spending plans — the American Rescue Plan — while making the case for two others to rebuild the nation's infrastructure and expand access to education, reduce the cost of child care and support women in the workforce. 

  • Biden wants Congress to pay for the entirety of his third plan but some Democratic senators would prefer it be financed with deficit spending, which could complicate what’s already a sensitive negotiation with post-policy Republicans who would rather fuss about “woke capital” and fall asleep on camera than govern in good faith.

  • The president characterized white supremacy as “terrorism,” hours after his Justice Department indicted three white men on federal hate crime charges in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was chased in fatally shot in February 2020 while jogging.

  • He also called for Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit the discrimination of people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. 

  • Biden spoke directly to transgender Americans who are under attack by state legislators simply for existing as their true selves: “Your president has your back.” More than 400 major corporations have undersigned a letter to support the bill and express solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.

  • Finally, how cool was it to see two women — Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — seated behind the president?. The address also made history by providing American Sign Language interpretation for the first time for such an address.

— Business

Apple reported its earnings for its second fiscal quarter and here’s the TL;DR: The company made $1 billion a day during the period. 

  • It showed profits of $23.6 billion, fueled in large part by strong growth in iPhone ($47.9 billion), wearables ($7.8 billion) and services ($16.9 billion). 

  • Services include Apple TV+, Apple Music, the App Store, iCloud and other software sales and now makeup Apple's second-largest business unit after the iPhone. 

Amazon, which will report its quarterly earnings later today after this issue goes to press, announced it would invest $1 billion to raise pay for 500,000 operations workers

  • The wage increases will range from 50 cents to $3 and is likely designed to stave off any looming union threats after an organizing effort at an Alabama warehouse attracted nationwide media attention before ultimately failing earlier this month.

Meanwhile, Facebook had itself an exceptional quarter too.

  • It reported $26.17 billion in revenue and an average daily active user base 1.88 billion. The number of people active daily on at least one of Facebook's products — including FacebookInstagramMessenger and WhatsApp — increased 15 percent from last year to 2.72 billion people. 

  • Facebook attributes much of its success to higher ad prices and increased business activity on WhatsApp, which the company uses to drive ad sales on Facebook and Instagram. 

  • But executives expect to see a slowdown in the second half of the year as potential regulation and a new anti-tracking feature launching in Apple’s latest iOS update could impact its ability to target ads with the precision businesses have come to expect.

In related news, Facebook announced a $5-million push today to attract local journalists “who are often the lone voice covering a given community” to the app’s upcoming newsletter product. 

  • Independent journalists in the US can apply now, with reporters who over “Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian and other audiences” given priority. 

  • When it launches, Facebook’s publishing tool will be integrated with Facebook Pages and enable journalists to send newsletters, create a website and monetize with subscriptions.

— Tech

During their Instagram Live broadcast earlier this week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and head of Instagram Adam Mosseri previewed new functionality in Instagram Live that allows participants to mute their video or audio at any point in the event. 

Snap’s workforce is still overwhelmingly white (65 percent) and male (47 percent), according to its latest diversity report — the second of its kind. 

  • Men account for 81 percent of the company’s technical roles, including software engineers, product designers and research scientists. 

  • 26 percent of director-level and higher roles are held by women; Snap said it nearly doubled the number of women in "tech leadership" jobs and doubled its hiring of Black women. (Women account for one-third of the total workforce.) 

  • Asian representation in leadership roles declined from 16 to 14 percent and overall Hispanic representation slightly declined. 

  • But the company says that it’s “on track” to double the number of women in tech jobs by 2023 and double the number of people from underrepresented racial backgrounds at the company by 2025.

Related: Snapchat launched an initiative to redesign its core camera technology to make it accessible to a wider range of skin tones. 

  • “The camera is, in fact, racist,” Snapchat engineer Bertrand Saint-Preu said to Ina Fried at Axios, noting the history of using light skin as baseline for film development.

— Culture

I love me some Willow SmithThe 20-year-old artist shared that she's polyamorous on Red Table Talk, the Facebook series she hosts with her mom Jada Pinkett-Smith and maternal grandmother  Adrienne Banfield-Norris.

  • Polyamory is defined as “the practice of engaging in multiple romantic (and typically sexual) relationships, with the consent of all the people involved.”

  • “With polyamory, I feel like the main foundation is the freedom to be able to create a relationship style that works for you and not just stepping into monogamy because that’s what everyone around you says is the right thing to do,” Willow said. “So, I was like, How can I structure the way that I approach relationships with that in mind? Also, doing research into polyamory, the main reasons why monogamous relationships — or why marriage, why divorces happen — is infidelity.”

  • Watch the full episode for the entire conversation.

Actress Gabrielle Union and retired NBA star Dwyane Wade do parenting so well. In a cover story for People to promote Shady Baby, a children’s book inspired by their two-year-old daughter Kaavia, the couple dropped so many gems.

  • Union: “It’s not about creating this image of perfection…its just capturing her essence and the main takeaway is she’s free. She’s free to be this amazing, dynamic, shady at times, loving at times, funny at times, Black little girl when the world has been not so kind to Black girls and women. So to so many people she’s just straight up freedom.”

  • Wade: “My focus when it comes to any of my kids is to let them know who they are so that when other people’s opinions about them are formed, it’s not hitting them… If we allow our kids to be their true selves, we don’t have to worry about them conforming with anything or anyone. Why wouldn’t we push our kids to be their authentic selves?”

Allure magazine launched The Melanin Edit, a vertical designed to “ensure that Black skin always feels like the gift that it is — a gift to be recognized, celebrated, and protected.”

Actor Eliot Page opened up about his happiest moments since transitioning and coming out as trans in an upcoming interview for Apple TV's The Oprah Conversation.

  • “It's, you know, getting out of the shower and the towel's around your waist, and you're looking at yourself in the mirror, and you're just like, ‘There I am.’ And I'm not having the moment where I'm panicked.”

  • When asked about coming out, Page said: “It felt important and selfish for myself, and my own wellbeing, and my mental health. And also, with this platform I have — the privilege that I have — and knowing the pain and the difficulties and the struggles I have faced in my life, let alone what so many other people are facing... It absolutely felt crucial and important for me to share that.”

  • Watch this clip from the interview shared by E! News.


Read All About It

Vanessa Friedman at The New York Times on Kamala Harris’s personal style:

Her extreme consistency effectively silences commentary. When someone wears the same thing day in and day out, at a certain point what else is there to say? But then, when Ms. Harris departs from the script, the effect is to draw attention to her choices, imbuing them with even more meaning. Thus the public brouhaha over her appearance in Converse on the campaign trail, the fact she wore a white pantsuit on the night she and Mr. Biden were declared the winners of the election, and at the inauguration. (And thus the universal freakout over the Vogue cover that appeared just before the swearing-in.) It’s a master class in framing.

Nathalie Baptiste at Mother Jones on Sen. Tim Scott, the GOP’s Black friend:

Choosing Sen. Scott [to respond to President Joe Biden’s Joint Address to Congress was an obvious choice for a party constantly facing accusations of racism. The three-term South Carolinian is one of only eleven Black people ever to have served in the US Senate and he is the only Black Republican senator in the current Congress. But the historic nature of his position is impossible to disentangle from the fact that he represents today’s Republican Party. Of all the Black Republicans in Congress—there are two in the House—he was the one who was chosen for this prime- time spot because his mere presence could reassure the party’s base that they’re not racist, that all of their grievances about voting and diversity initiatives are legitimate, and the problems facing America are the fault of Black people and Democrats. And who better to send that message than a palatable Black figure?

Sigal Samuel at Vox on anxiety about returning to normal life:

When I asked Vox readers if they were nervous about the return to normalcy, nearly 100 people responded with a resounding “yes.” They’re worried about the awkwardness of reacclimating to social life. They’re worried about returning to commutes and office work that added to their stress and chipped away at their quality of life. And they’re worried about returning to a new normal that looks much like the old normal — one whose flaws the pandemic threw into sharp relief.

Natalie Morin at Refinery29 on TikTok as the new Disney channel:

If [Addsion] Rae is a Disney-style prodigy for the TikTok age, then meet the rest of 2021’s Gen Z Mickey Mouse Club, who are all following that oh-so-familiar blueprint towards ubiquity. Dixie D’Amelio, the 19-year-old sister of the most-followed TikTok personality Charli D’Amelio, released “Be Happy” in July. Eighteen-year-old Lil’ Huddy (real name Chase Hudson), served pop-punk angst with “The Eulogy of You And Me. Nessa Barrett, the 17-year-old at the center of the latest TikTok drama, has a song called “la di die.” Unlike Lil’ Nas X, who got famous after “Old Town Road” blew up on the platform, these singers were TikTok personalities first, amassing a following by doing trending dance routines and challenges to other people’s songs. And it got them noticed: Lil’ Huddy’s TikTok success led to an appearance in Machine Gun Kelly’s Downfalls High opposite Euphoria star Sydney Sweeney. Dixie appeared in Brat TV series Attaway General as well as a Hulu reality series about her family before releasing any music. Rae appears in the final season of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

Nate Hopper at GQ on masculinity and physical touch:

According to NYU professor Niobe Way, who has studied the “crisis of connection” in boys’ friendships, this was far from a problem with just me. Since after World War II, and especially during the heights of homophobia in the late eighties and early nineties, which I was born into, American males have been reared to fear being seen as feminine. “Teenage boys become obsessed with who they are not,” Way told me. We undergo a change, and we start imitating and parroting certain “manly” archetypes. We stop seeking the comforts of self-expression and physical touch and intimacy that we once had access to, leading us to seek not community but isolation in times of stress, as we repress who we naturally would be. This not only limits our expressions of joy—by, say, preventing many of us from feeling comfortable dancing—but also our cures to sadness. She quoted a young man whose journal said, “I’ve had to rot in my loneliness.”

Candace Buckner at The Washington Post on Black sports agents:

In conversations with 10 Black agents for this story, several pointed to deeply rooted and unconscious biases they confront. Elite players are inundated by White authority figures throughout their amateur careers, from the recruiter in their living rooms to the Power Five conference coaches they play for to the athletic directors running the programs. When it’s time to pick a representative, Black agents say, players and their families tend to go with what they know.


Michael’s Pick

Wild Berry Skittles Gummies ($3): Haribo Gold-Bears and Welch’s fruit snacks now wish I would have never discovered the gummy version of this classic candy.