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John Oliver accepts an Emmy at the September, 2017 awards ceremony. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Comedian John Oliver made the push for tougher antitrust enforcement his latest cause Sunday night. "The point is we have laws to prevent the worst effects of consolidation, and it may well be time to more aggressively use them to impose stricter standards and to empower the FTC and the DOJ's antitrust divisions," Oliver said in the feature segment of his HBO show, Last Week Tonight.

Why it matters: Oliver's blend of deep research and humor has been successful in the past at introducing complicated policy debates into the mainstream.

What he said:

  • Oliver took aim at consolidation is sectors as varied as airlines (where four companies dominate) and eyeglasses, where Luxottica owns many of the major retailers.
  • Though it's particularly fashionable to focus on consolidation in the internet space right now, Oliver limited his comments to this joke: "And online search engines are of course, as we all know, dominated by one major player, that's right, say it with me, 'Bing!' That's right, Bing, 'The best way to Google something.'"
  • He also had barbs for AT&T, the telecom giant that is planning to acquire Time Warner — which owns HBO (the network that airs Oliver's show). He took aim at Ma Bell during a segment on "infuriating" bag charges imposed by the airlines. "After all, if I wanted exorbitant fees that keep getting raised all the time despite [crappy] service I'd become a customer of AT&T. Yeah, f*** you AT&T. Even if you take over, you'll never be my real dad!" He also played footage of the show blowing up a cable set-top box, which he said was a market where consumers had suffered thanks to consolidation.

The bigger picture: Oliver's concerns track closely with a growing group worried about increased corporate power. That includes Congressional Democrats, who have made increased antitrust enforcement a part of their "Better Deal" platform. Oliver namechecked every industry — other than food — that Democrats included in the summer rollout of their position as he said that lawmakers should support stronger antitrust enforcement.

Go deeper

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Philanthropy in the age of crypto

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The best charities are increasingly effective. That's the clear message sent by Open Philanthropy, the think tank that doubles as the grant-making vehicle for Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and his wife Cari Tuna.

Why it matters: With tech and crypto wealth becoming a fast-growing part of the philanthropic pie, there's more of an emphasis than ever on effectiveness — what the newly-divorced Melinda French Gates, in her recent Giving Pledge update, characterizes as giving as "impactfully as possible."

4 hours ago - Health

Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New data from South Africa suggests the Omicron variant spreads more than twice as quickly as the Delta variant, and that immunity from prior infection doesn't appear to protect a person very well against Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The findings are extremely preliminary, and there are still many open questions about how well vaccines work against the variant. But these initial breadcrumbs of data are helping the world begin to understand what it's up against.