​Apple hires video veterans to expand its original content push - Axios
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​Apple hires video veterans to expand its original content push

Apple has hired two executives from Sony's production arm to launch a push into the original programming business, The Wall Street Journal reports. The initiative comes as CEO Tim Cook has pledged to expand Apple's services business, which includes apps, software, etc.

Why it matters: Apple joins the other major tech companies, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, etc., in trying to produce original content. Currently, Apple's content distribution exists through a variety of services, including Apple News, Apple Music and iTunes, though nearly all the material is produced by others. Apple has also relied on exclusives and partnerships, such as those with musical.ly and 808.

Gut Check: If the strategy sounds a little misnamed, don't forget this is the same company that sells movies, TV shows and music all through something called iTunes.

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Facebook folds on stock reclassification

Illustration: Greg Ruben / Axios; Photo: Noah Berger / AP

Facebook on Friday said in a regulatory filing that it will no longer issue a new class of non-voting stock that had become the focus of a lawsuit that would have required Mark Zuckerberg to testify next Tuesday in a Delaware courtroom.

At issue: The new stock would have allowed Zuckerberg to maintain his majority voting rights at Facebook, despite selling existing shares to fund his philanthropic efforts. But the plan sparked a class action lawsuit, and was on hold pending an outcome.

Why it matters: Tuesday would have been only the second time that Zuckerberg testified in open court. And it would have come at a particularly fraught time, as he handles allegations that the Facebook platform was used by Russian operatives during the election.

Bottom line: Facebook blinked.

Going forward: Zuckerberg posted on Facebook shortly after the announcement, saying that the move will not affect the scope of his philanthropic intentions. He wrote, in part:

Over the past year and a half, Facebook's business has performed well and the value of our stock has grown to the point that I can fully fund our philanthropy and retain voting control of Facebook for 20 years or more. As a result, I've asked our board to withdraw the proposal to reclassify our stock -- and the board has agreed. I want to be clear: this doesn't change Priscilla and my plans to give away 99% of our Facebook shares during our lives. In fact, we now plan to accelerate our work and sell more of those shares sooner. I anticipate selling 35-75 million Facebook shares in the next 18 months to fund our work in education, science, and advocacy.
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Trump's war of words with North Korea

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

President Trump is known for his fiery, distinctive voice on Twitter, but he might have met his match. North Korea's state-run media arm, the Korean Central News Agency, often issues flamboyant threats to the United States.

Why it matters: The leaders of two nuclear-armed nations are engaged in a rhetorical game of chicken. While it has largely been limited to simple name-calling (think: Trump's nickname of "Rocket Man" for Kim), the childish aspects of their words risk spilling over into bona fide geopolitical and nuclear catastrophe.

Sanctions

  • May 29: North Korea launches a short-range ballistic missile test, causing Trump to goad China via a tweet:

  • June 2: The United States and China agreed to targeted sanctions against North Korea during a U.N. Security Council meeting.
  • June 9: North Korea issues a response to the sanctions: "The army and people of the DPRK will shatter to the smithereens the U.S. and its followers' unprecedented 'sanctions' and pressure racket with the great spirit of self-development and invincible military might."

ICBM test

  • July 4 (Pyongyang time): North Korea tests an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of striking the continental United States. The regime promptly and defiantly blames U.S. policy for necessitating the launch: "Unless a fundamental end is put to the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK and the nuclear threat to it, the DPRK will never put the nuke and ballistic rocket on the negotiating table nor take even an inch back from the road of bolstering the nuclear force which it has already taken. One has to adopt a new way of thinking, first, if one wants to deal with the DPRK."
  • July 3 (Eastern time): Trump personally dismisses Kim while condemning the ICBM launch. He again calls on China to do something regarding North Korea:

"Fire and fury"

  • August 8: During an impromptu Bedminster press conference, Trump threatens North Korea: "[T]hey will be met with fire and fury, and, frankly, power the likes of which this world has never seen before."
  • August 9: North Korea releases a statement slamming the "reckless nuclear war frenzy" of the U.S.: "The U.S. imperialists' ridiculous bluffing never works on the DPRK. They had better not provoke the DPRK any more, mindful of its deplorable fate on the verge of ruin."
  • August 11: Trump doubles down with his fiery rhetoric on Twitter:

Nuclear test

  • September 3: North Korea conducts an underground nuclear test, which it claims was a hydrogen bomb. Trump issues a veiled economic threat to both North Korea and China on Twitter:

  • September 10: North Korea says that "sanctions and pressure will never work," touting the success of its nuclear test: "[C]lear is the fact that the more recklessly the U.S. resorts to irrational sanctions, pressure and military threats to the DPRK, the more rapidly the defense capability of Juche Korea will develop beyond the world's imagination. The perfect success in the H-bomb test for ICBM that shook the earth is its eloquent proof."

U.N. General Assembly

  • September 15: In the days prior to start of the U.N. General Assembly, North Korea tests a ballistic missile that overflies Japan.
  • September 17:

  • September 19: Trump threatens to "totally destroy" North Korea in his speech to the General Assembly. He calls the regime's actions "a suicide mission for [Kim Jong Un] and for his regime" and again refers to the North Korean leader as "Rocket Man."
  • September 20: North Korea's response statement is titled "U.S. Will Meet Nuclear Strike and Final Ruin": "[North Korea] is now in full readiness to destroy the enemies' bases with its resolute and preemptive strike if they show any slight sign of provocation."
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Graham: "I respectfully disagree" with McCain's position

Sen. Lindsey Graham responds to Sen. John McCain's announcement that he won't vote for the Cassidy-Graham health bill. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Sen. Lindsey Graham issued a statement Friday in response to his longtime friend Sen. John McCain's announcement that he won't vote for the Cassidy-Graham health care bill, which likely kills the Senate's last attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act before its Sept. 30 deadline.

Key quotes: "My friendship with John McCain is not based on how he votes but respect for how he's lived his life and the person he is... I respectfully disagree with his position... We press on." Meanwhile, Sen. Bill Cassidy said he is "disappointed" with McCain, but will continue to work on the bill's passage.

Graham's full statement:

"My friendship with John McCain is not based on how he votes but respect for how he's lived his life and the person he is.
I respectfully disagree with his position not to proceed forward on Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson. I know Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson is the best chance to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Obamacare is collapsing in Arizona, South Carolina, and across the nation - driving up premiums and reducing choices. I feel an obligation to fix this disaster and intend to push forward for state-centric health care versus Washington-knows-best health care.
I'm completely convinced taking money and power out of Washington and returning it to states to administer health care is the best way to replace a collapsing Obamacare system. I'm excited about solutions we have found in Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson. We press on."

Sen. Bill Cassidy's full statement:

"I am disappointed that Senator John McCain is not voting to repeal and replace Obamacare. But, as long as there are families being penalized because they can't afford insurance costing $30,000 to $40,000 a year, I will continue to work for those families."

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Robinhood stock app sends 'cease and desist' to crypto upstart

Actor Jamie Foxx this week tweeted his support support of an initial coin offering for Cobinhood, which says it is launching a zero-fee trading exchange and cryptocurrency service platform. But the startup — which declined to say if Foxx was compensated, when asked by Axios — could be facing a big problem.

Robinhood, a zero-fee stock trading exchange recently valued at $1.3 billion by venture capitalists like Google Ventures, is upset about what it feels is misappropriation by the upstart (including a very similar color scheme).

Per a company statement:

"Robinhood has no affiliation with Cobinhood, which is confusingly similar in name and branding. In order to protect our brand, Robinhood sent a cease and desist letter requesting that Cobinhood cease its use of the Cobinhood name and branding."

Cobinhood's reply so far: "Cobinhood is not associated with Robinhood in any way, but are as legitimate as them."

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Pharma giant believes political risks of drug pricing are "waning"

AbbVie doesn't foresee drug pricing regulation. Photo: Nam Y. Huh / AP

President Trump and left-leaning lawmakers have excoriated pharmaceutical companies for the rising prices of prescription drugs. But top executives of drug giant AbbVie, including CEO Richard Gonzalez, think the outrage is fading and won't lead to any large-scale changes, according to a meeting AbbVie held with pharmaceutical analysts from investment bank Leerink Partners.

Key quote, from the Leerink report: "AbbVie believes that the intensity of the drug pricing debates and political risks is waning, and ... the company now sees little risk of significant changes in drug price regulation in the U.S., at least for the foreseeable future."

The bottom line: Trump's attacks on the drug industry once again look empty. Lawmakers, the FDA and the drug industry have tossed around some ideas that tinker with drug competition, but anything involving price controls has been a nonstarter for nearly everyone in Congress.

But wait, there's more: AbbVie, which makes the top-selling drug Humira, had committed to limiting price increases to below 10% no more than once a year. But AbbVie executives told Leerink analysts they created that policy due to "the political landscape surrounding drug pricing," and that it could "revert to more than one price increase per year and to double-digit increases in 2018 and beyond."

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Finance pros want in on the cryptocurrency boom

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Bitcoin and Ethereum are no longer just for libertarian geeks and their Reddit pals. That became clear last week when a day-long conference about cryptocurrency hedge funds in San Francisco was filled with suits instead of t-shirts and hoodies. Cryptocurrency is the next "it" thing in trading, and the professionals know it. (Except for Jamie Dimon.)

Why it matters: Regulators around the world are grappling with the rise of cryptocurrencies and, more recently, initial coin offerings. This will become increasingly important as more financial professionals want to make a business out of it.

Key quote: "In this space I think we will soon see one person generate $1 billion of value." — Ethereum co-creator Vitalik Buterin

Hot conference topics:

Security: "I don't think it's realistic to assume that no one at the fund can steal the money," said Ari Paul, BlockTower Capital managing partner. "Security at the moment is about not losing LP funds."

Regulation: "The IRS is really not gonna understand the technology," said Arthur Bell tax advisor Cynthia Pederson, adding that fund managers have to make sure they clearly explain everything to the agency.

Risk management: Common questions from fund investors involve exchange hacks and shutdowns, said some fund managers. Security vulnerabilities in the protocols (or cryptocurrencies) themselves also add risk.

Definitions: Though the Commodity Futures Trading Commission declared cryptocurrencies to be commodities in 2015, some experts think regulators will have to take a more nuanced view as new tech emerges.

ICOs: With some groups now raising hundreds of millions of dollars through initial coin offerings, they'll need to hire people to manage the funds. Unlike traditional startups that usually have an established business by the time they raise such amounts, these issuers rarely have more than a team of developers and an white paper.

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Cassidy-Graham could cause 32 million to lose insurance after 10 years

The Cassidy-Graham bill would cause millions to lose insurance, a new estimate says. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

An estimate released today by the Brookings Institution found the Cassidy-Graham health care plan would cause 32 million people to lose health coverage in 2027 and beyond compared to current law. Over the next two years, 15 million would lose coverage. Then, from 2020-2027, 21 million would lose coverage, which Brookings said is a conservative estimate.

Why this matters: This could give Senate GOP holdouts yet another reason to oppose the bill. Brookings is a liberal think tank, but it has been pretty close to the mark in predicting other Congressional Budget Office estimates. (We won't get an official CBO estimate of coverage losses for Graham-Cassidy because there's not enough time.) Just as importantly, it reiterates the fact that we really don't know how states would react.

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Trump vs. Tillerson on "the Russia hoax"

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

President Trump today: "The Russia hoax continues, now it's ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?"
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last week: "And when countries like Russia threaten their democratic neighbors by attacking the very foundation of our democracies, by meddling in our free and fair elections, we stand with our democratic partners. We call for greater vigilance and we work together to safeguard our democracies from interference in the future."
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The insane news cycle of Trump's presidency in 1 chart

If it feels like the Trump presidency has been hit by non-stop scandals and crises from day one, it's probably because it has been. The Google News Lab looked at the search trends for stories about 40 of the biggest news events of Trump's presidency from Jan. 20 until Sept. 1. You can see how we've all jumped from one four-alarm news fire to another:

Data: Google News Lab; Chart: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Why it matters: The study shows that while Trump's presidency has been action-packed, the public's attention span doesn't seem to last for long.

The visible spikes of increased Googling on a topic indicate that Trump-related news captures the public's interest, but that attention quickly fizzles out or is captured by the next bombshell report or firing. The House health care bill, North Korea and Afghanistan troops are some of the few that have had slightly more steady interest over time, with Robert Mueller's Russia investigation having several mini-spikes of interest.

The most searched for topics of the 40 listed :

  1. Searches related to the "Women's March" the day of the march, January 21.
  2. Searches related to the "Women's March" the day after the march.
  3. Searches related to “covfefe."
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Tom Price's private jet use cost taxpayers more than $300,000

Tom Price listens to Vice President Mike Pence speak during a meeting on healthcare reform. Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has taken "a sharp departure" from his most recent predecessors in private charter plane use, taking at least 24 taxpayer-funded flights totaling over $300,000, according to Politico.

HHS spokesperson Charmain Yoest said: "The Secretary has taken commercial flights for official business...He has used charter aircraft for official business in order to accommodate his demanding schedule. The week of September 13 was one of those times."

But, Politico found at least 17 flights before that week "that did not appear to be for urgent HHS public health priorities."

Why it matters: The flights are funded by taxpayer dollars. And, while Senate Republicans and President Trump are "frantically rallying support to pass an Obamacare repeal bill," a White House official says Price is "nowhere to be found," and many of these trips "aren't related to priorities like Obamacare repeal."