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Italy’s Lake Garda becomes the latest visible symbol of a parched continent

Planet Business: Caribbean water temperatures, Airbnb’s anti-party technology, a new thorn in Disney’s side and the return of WeWork’s Adam Neumann

Image of the week: When in drought

First tributaries of the Po river dried out, now the water levels on Lake Garda have dropped to a 15-year low, leaving tourists staring at rocks. With much of Italy’s agricultural north in state of emergency since early July and crops failing amid the driest weather in the region in 70 years, the country has been suffering the brunt of the European drought all summer. Evidence of a changed climate is now visible in the flat stone slabs at Lombardy holiday hotspot Sirmione, a town on the southern shores of Lake Garda, where the plummeting water level has prompted boat companies to switch from hydrofoils to catamarans and the tourist pedalos sit some way off the receded water’s edge. The water has also risen in temperature, warming from its usual August average of 22 degrees to an ominous 26 degrees, leaving it just one degree shy of the average in the Caribbean Sea.

In numbers: Flow state

$350 million

Funding that venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz is giving Flow, a new property venture set up by Adam Neumann, the controversial cofounder of WeWork. The sum (€345 million) is the single largest cheque the firm has written for a start-up.

$1 billion


Valuation now afforded to Flow, which has invested in thousands of apartments across the US and intends to create a “widely recognised apartment brand, stocked with amenities”. Neumann has long been keen on the “college dorms for adults” or WeLive vibe.

$47 billion

Peak valuation of WeWork, the workspace rental company, before its planned flotation was shelved amid enough material about Neumann’s unsuitability for business leadership to fill an Apple television series (WeCrashed). It is now worth less than a 10th of this.

Getting to know: Dan Loeb

New York hedge fund manager Dan Loeb is the kind of person, misleadingly termed an “activist investor”, who buys stakes in large companies in order to push for a change at the top and profit from the share price gains he expects will follow. He’s been knocking around for a while now, becoming a thorn in the side of several blue chips from auction house Sotheby’s to Sony and Yahoo! More recently, the founder and chief executive of Third Point has been losing money on Intel — he urged the chipmaker to explore breaking up the company, to no avail — and he is now busy weighing in on the House of Mouse, aka Disney, with thoughts on what it should do to make his new stake in the entertainment behemoth worthwhile. “We urge the company to embark on a cost-cutting programme that addresses both margins and the disposal of excess underperforming assets,” he wrote in a letter this week to Disney chief executive Bob Chapek — a sort of “Disney minus” strategy, if you will.

The list: Suspected party-throwers

Load up on cans, fill the ice tray, go big on crisps, book a fancy Airbnb for the night: that’s just standard party preparation, right? Not if Airbnb can help it. Wary of its reputation for facilitating wild shindigs not seen since the last days of Rome, it banned parties in 2020. It is now deploying “anti-party technology” across Australia and testing it in the US and Canada to identify and prevent certain bookings. So which factors will trigger the tool’s suspicions?

1 Review history: Users who haven’t garnered positive reviews from hosts in the past are an unknown quantity and very possibly mad for a party.

2 Length of registration: Does this new user just want somewhere to kip on a mini-break, or are they thinking of WhatsApp-ing several dozen of their closest friends to come around and stain the carpet?

3 Duration of trip: Booking an entire home for one night only? Who does that unless they’re planning to rave and go?

4 Day of the week: Shocking as this may be, not all days of the week were created equal when it comes to parties. Only a truly dedicated minority of what the tech world calls “bad actors” are bothered to stage one on a Monday.

5 Distance to the property: Party-throwers don’t tend to hold social extravaganzas for their mates hundreds of miles away from where they live — unless they’re too rich to need Airbnb in the first place.