The Atlantic Daily: A Billion Dollar-Losing Company Goes Public

How Lyft can lose so much money and still be valued at $24 billion. Plus: Who—and where—is the ISIS leader Baghdadi? New movies and shows to try, and more

Mike Segar / Reuters

What We’re Following

Lyft became a public company on Friday with an eye-popping $24 billion valuation—yet the company lost nearly a billion dollars last year. So why are Wall Street bigwigs pouring money into the company? Alongside Uber, Lyft is one of two ride-sharing behemoths—and with about 40 percent of the market, it’s quickly gaining on its archrival. The company is accumulating users, but attaining profitability is a much trickier proposition. A large part of its revenue goes to drivers, and if it takes a larger slice of the pie, drivers and riders could both defect back to Uber.

The Islamic State is on the decline, but the group’s founder has so far eluded capture. ISIS’s leadership has been hollowed out, but does getting Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi—the man sitting at the top of the food chain—really matter? The decade-long hunt for the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden might give some insight; after he was killed in a dramatic raid in 2011, the group still survived without its figurehead. Though capturing Baghdadi would of course be a PR victory, it might not do all that much to hasten ISIS’s demise: To protect himself, Baghdadi scampers between safe houses and eschews communications equipment, which has limited his effectiveness as a leader.

This Week in Numbers

📉 New estimates find that the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis—or Bd—has caused the decline of upwards of 500 amphibian species. This many types of species attacked by Bd have been either wiped out entirely or close to it. (“Never in recorded history has a single disease burned down so much of the tree of life,” said one of the researchers who compiled these new figures.)

🌖 The last time any human walked on the moon was 1972, and the Trump administration has signaled frequently just how eager it is to return. The latest NASA budget, the largest in years, is this many billions of dollars (though that’s still a fraction of what it was in the Apollo era).

🚘 The ride-sharing company Lyft, which beat its primary competitor, Uber, to become a public company on Friday isn’t profitable: It reported a loss of this many millions of dollars in 2018, and so far neither Lyft nor Uber have shown that their core service—ride-sharing—can be a sustainable business.

Our Critics’ Picks

Amazon's new 8-part series, Hanna

(Jonathan Prime / Amazon Studios)

Watch: Amazon’s new series Hanna, which centers on a 15-year-old girl trained as a killer, is “worth sticking through for the performances from its three principals,” Sophie Gilbert writes. Or try Dumbo, the latest Disney remake that insistently got David Sims choked up, and is “just different enough to stick out amid the studio’s backwards-looking slate.”

Listen: Revisit the music of the legendary singer Scott Walker, who died this week at age 76, and whose voice “was a prime model in a great American line stretching through lounge legends and Andrew Lloyd Webber hambones,” writes Spencer Kornhaber.

Weekend Read

The cult of homework

Why is American education so centered around the idea of assigning homework?

The 21st century has so far been a homework-heavy era, with American teenagers now averaging about twice as much time spent on homework each day as their predecessors did in the 1990s. Even little kids are asked to bring school home with them. A 2015 study, for instance, found that kindergarteners, who researchers tend to agree shouldn’t have any take-home work, were spending about 25 minutes a night on it.

But not without pushback. As many children, not to mention their parents and teachers, are drained by their daily workload, some schools and districts are rethinking how homework should work—and some teachers are doing away with it entirely.

Poem of the Week

Heading into National Poetry Month, here’s an excerpt from “Samson in Love,” by Elizabeth Cox, from our June 2006 issue:

This is the first time he has killed a lion.
Inside the ribs a swarm of bees lies
nested there, and honey comes.
He reaches down inside the ribs
to where a sweetness runs,
and he thinks of the woman he has seen today.

→ Read the rest

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