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Happy Saturday! Smart Brevity™ count: 1,192 words ... 4½ minutes.

🎬 Tomorrow on "Axios on HBO" (6 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max) ... Sara Fischer talks with Cameo CEO Steven Galanis about how his idea for personalized celebrity videos grew into a $1 billion company.

  • Plus I visit the Rev. Franklin Graham in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. (See a clip.)
1 big thing: Slowing population growth limits U.S. future

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The sharply declining rate of population growth in the U.S. threatens to put an expiration date on a country built around a vision of endless reinvention, Bryan Walsh writes in Axios Future.

  • Why it matters: Fewer people means fewer workers to support an aging population, fewer innovators with new ideas, less economic growth — and more of one thing: political fights over a shrinking pie.

The Census Bureau reported last month that between 2010 and 2020, the U.S. population grew at its slowest rate since the Great Depression and the second-slowest rate in any decade since the country's founding.

  • Recent data from the CDC indicates the U.S. birth rate fell for the sixth straight year. Births fell precipitously in December, around when any babies conceived during the start of the pandemic would have been born.

The impact: Countries with falling population growth — and eventually population decline — face serious economic, political and even cultural challenges.

  • Fewer births combined with longer lifespans mean fewer productive young workers to balance those in retirement.

The bottom line: Put those two trends together, and you have a formula for corrosive generational conflict and a country in long-term decline.

2. 😷 Fauci: Unvaccinated kids must mask this fall
A new ritual: Darren Ford presents his vaccine card to gain admission to Liberty Theatre in Camas, Wash. Photo: Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that children who haven't been vaccinated for COVID will need to wear masks in schools this fall "when they're out there playing with their friends and ... particularly in an indoor situation."

  • Fauci said children younger than 12 will likely not be vaccinated until the end of the calendar year.
  • He added that he can "almost guarantee" that most schools will require students who have not been inoculated to wear masks.

Axios latest.

3. ⚾ Saturday trivia question

How many total players have there been in the entire history of Major League Baseball?

  • Hint: The list begins in 1871.

🔎 Answer, Kendall Baker-style, at the end of this newsletter.

4. China makes history with successful Mars landing

A model of China's Mars probe, shown in 2020. Photo: Costfoto/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

A Chinese lander carrying a rover successfully touched down on Mars — the first time China has landed a spacecraft on another planet, Axios Space author Miriam Kramer writes from state media reports.

  • Why it matters: This launches China into an elite club of only a few space agencies to successfully make it to the Martian surface.

The big picture: Beijing is building a space station, and is aiming to develop a research station on the Moon with Russia.

  • The rover is reportedly designed to search for water, ice and signs of life.

Context: The U.S. has had nine successful landings on Mars since 1976. The Soviet Union landed on Mars in 1971, but the mission failed after the craft stopped transmitting information soon after touchdown. (AP)

5. Airstrike levels high-rise that housed media offices in Gaza
11-story building housing AP office and other media in Gaza City, moments after Israeli warplanes demolished it today. Photo: Hatem Moussa/AP

Axios from Tel Aviv author Barak Ravid reports: An Israeli airstrike today flattened a high-rise building housing media offices for Al Jazeera, the AP and others in the Gaza Strip.

  • The attack came nearly an hour after the Israeli military warned the building's owner that it was going to bombed and asked for it to be evacuated.

The Israeli military said it bombed the building, which it claimed houses Hamas military facilities, in retaliation for the rocket attack on Tel Aviv earlier Saturday that killed at least one Israeli civilian. Hamas said it fired more than 40 rockets.

What's next: Israeli security officials said a successful strike on Hamas' tunnel system on Thursday could signal a possible shift by the Israeli government toward ending the operation.

  • U.S. envoy Hady Amr will meet tomorrow with Israeli officials to discuss the de-escalation efforts.

Share this story.

6. Gaza dispatches
Satellite view of the Gaza Strip on Thursday. Photo: Planet Labs Inc. via AP

2:15 a.m. ET today ... "The Associated Press office is the only place in Gaza City I feel somewhat safe," Fares Akram, AP’s correspondent in Gaza since 2014, wrote in a "Diary" on the wire.

  • "The Israeli military has the coordinates of the high-rise, so it's less likely a bomb will bring it crashing down. But on a deeper level, it's speaking to people in Gaza, working to get their voices out of a territory they themselves cannot leave, that keeps me sane. When I tell the world what's happening here, I find some small solace."

7:31 a.m. ... GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Owner of Gaza high-rise that houses AP office says army warned it would target building.

8:19 a.m. ... GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli airstrike flattens high-rise building housing AP offices in Gaza City.

7. Why GOP govs fight anti-trans bills

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg; Drew Angerer, Stephen Yang/Getty Images

Some Republican governors have found themselves at odds with their own party over a record number of bills targeting transgender children, Axios' Orion Rummler reports.

  • Why it matters: Social conservatives see a winning issue in bills to restrict trans students' participation in sports and access to health care. But the sudden push has met resistance even from some staunch conservatives.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) vetoed a bill to criminalize gender-affirming care for trans kids last month, calling it an "extreme" government overreach. The state's GOP-controlled legislature later overrode his veto.

  • Hutchinson told Axios he was concerned about the harm the bill could cause and also wanted to send a message to his Republican colleagues that they need to get back to a restrained government: "This one, it was important to draw the line ... it's the most extreme law in the country."

Between the lines: Anti-trans bills are "just an election strategy in general to instill fear in others, whatever that 'other' is," said Dan Zwonitzer, a Republican member of the Wyoming House, who came out as gay several years ago. "That's a great political tactic to help win elections. It just sucks that you're the target."

  • Two freshman Republicans in the state legislature said at the beginning of their session that trans youth in junior high sports are Wyoming's most important issue, Zwonitzer told Axios.

Keep reading.

8. 🛸 UFOs get the "60 Minutes" treatment

Photo via CBS News

After years of American military members documenting sightings, unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs) — aka UFOs — will be addressed formally by the U.S. government in an upcoming intelligence report, with this preview by Bill Whitaker, tomorrow on "60 Minutes":

Former Navy Lt. Ryan Graves says he and other members of his F/A-18 fighter squadron detected strange, maneuverable and unidentified objects flying in the restricted airspace southeast of Virginia Beach nearly every day for two years beginning in 2015. 
The sightings were so common, he says, pilots and their crews began to take them for granted. Graves is calling those objects a threat to security ...
Graves is one of several current and former military members who have spoken publicly about what the Pentagon now calls unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAP. These documented sightings of UAP, recorded on gun camera video and photos taken by U.S. servicemembers, have been analyzed by the Defense Department for years. But the government only grudgingly acknowledged the internal efforts after unclassified videos of UAP were leaked to the New York Times in 2017. 

A spokesperson told CNN's "Reliable Sources" newsletter that this is the first time "60 Minutes" has devoted a segment to UFOs: "A 1996 story about Area 51 was mostly about a lawsuit over personnel hurt on the base that was tossed because the base is classified."

⚾ Trivia answer

The total number of Major League Baseball players, dating back to 1871, is nearing 20,000, AP reports:

  • There have been 19,989 players in MLB history going into the weekend, according to baseballreference.com.
  • The A-to-Z list runs from pitcher David Aardsma, who moved into the top spot ahead of Hank Aaron when he debuted in San Francisco in 2004 ... to pitcher Tony Zych, who joined the Seattle Mariners in 2015.

266 reached the Hall of Fame.

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