Sep 10, 2018

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good Monday morning, and happy new year to our Jewish brothers and sisters — Shana Tova! Jake Tapper says he's still writing 5778 on his checks.

Two additions to the Axios newsletter family, both worthy of your time:

  • Starting Sunday, Axios Edge, written from New York by chief financial writer Felix Salmon, will be a weekly lookahead to trends in business and markets. Sign up here
  • And on Sept. 21, we'll launch Axios Autonomous Vehicles, a weekly briefing on auto tech and its impact on cities, policy and the economy. Sign up here
1 big thing: Zuckerberg strains to corral his baby
The New Yorker

As Facebook grew, Mark Zuckerberg and his executives adopted a core belief, Evan Osnos writes in The New Yorker after spending hours with Zuckerberg: "[E]ven if people criticized your decisions, they would eventually come around."

  • For years, that was true. And Facebook reveled in its power: "Zuckerberg was convinced that he was ahead of his users, not at odds with them."
  • It no longer is, of course, as Facebook faces blowback from users and government around the world: "As Facebook expanded, so did its blind spots."

Evan had a series of conversations with Zuckerberg over the summer (at his home, at his office, and by phone) and came away with unsparing insights into the challenges facing this most consequential of creations — and its creator:

  • "I found Zuckerberg straining, not always coherently, to grasp problems for which he was plainly unprepared."
  • "These are not technical puzzles to be cracked in the middle of the night but some of the subtlest aspects of human affairs, including the meaning of truth, the limits of free speech, and the origins of violence."
  • "Zuckerberg is now at the center of a full-fledged debate about the moral character of Silicon Valley and the conscience of its leaders."
  • "To avoid further crises, he will have to embrace the fact that he’s now a protector of the peace, not a disrupter of it."

Evan's bottom line: "Zuckerberg is not yet thirty-five, and the ambition with which he built his empire could well be directed toward shoring up his company, his country, and his name. The question is not whether Zuckerberg has the power to fix Facebook but whether he has the will."

  • Leslie Berlin, a historian of technology at Stanford: “[T]he question Mark Zuckerberg is dealing with is: Should my company be the arbiter of truth and decency for two billion people? Nobody in the history of technology has dealt with that.”

P.S. How his life has changed: "For many years, Zuckerberg ended Facebook meetings with the half-joking exhortation 'Domination!' Although he eventually stopped doing this (in European legal systems, 'dominance' refers to corporate monopoly), his discomfort with losing is undimmed."

2. Ronan gets results
Courtesy N.Y. Post

Hours after The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow published a second wave of vivid, on-the-record accounts of sexual assaults from women who have worked for him over the years, CBS Corp. announced that longtime leader Les Moonves will depart as chairman, president, and CEO.

  • Farrow's article says Moonves forced the women to perform oral sex on him (one at 10 a.m.), exposed himself to them, and that he retaliated when rebuffed.

Why it matters, from Axios' Sara Fischer: Moonves is the highest-profile executive to be brought down by the #MeToo era.

  • His departure comes after weeks of inaction from CBS' board, which had drawn a great deal of criticism from advocacy groups.

The details:

  • The replacement: CBS COO Joe Ianniello will now serve as president and acting CEO.
  • Board shakeup: CBS is getting rid of six board members and is adding six new board members, including three women.
  • No payday: Moonves has been stripped of his $100 million-plus severance package due to the allegations. In a statement, Moonves and CBS said that they will donate $20 million of Moonves' severance to advocacy groups who support the #MeToo movement.
  • The terms: CBS also announced a settlement to end its legal battle with majority shareholder Shari Redstone and her holding company National Amusements Inc. NAI reaffirmed that it won't continue to push CBS to merge with its former sister company Viacom.

Be smart: CBS will conduct an extensive CEO search. But we're told that a leading internal candidate is David Nevins, president and CEO of Showtime, which is part of CBS Corp.

3. Teenagers confess
Expand chart
"Social media, social life," Rideout, V., and Robb, M. B. (2018). Chart: Axios Visuals

Teens admit that digital distractions interfere with homework, personal relationships and sleep, according to a new survey of 13- to 17-year-olds.

  • 33% of teens say they wish their parents would spend less time on their devices, up from 21% in 2012.

Key findings from the study by Common Sense Media, a non-profit group focused on tech and media's impact on kids, via Axios' Kim Hart:

  • 72% of teens believe that tech companies manipulate users to spend more time on devices.
  • 13% of teens say they've been cyber-bullied.
  • In 2012, 68% said their go-to social site was Facebook. That number fell to 15% in 2018, with Snapchat and Instagram the new favorites.

Go deeper.

4. Trump's new midterm math problem

Axios Video

"Trump’s turbulent summer appears to have put many moderates and independents out of reach for Republican candidates," AP's Julie Pace writes:

  • "One internal GOP poll ... showed Trump’s approval rating among independents in congressional battleground districts dropped 10 points between June and August."
  • "A GOP official who oversaw the survey attributed the drop to negative views" to the Putin summit and the border separation policy.

New Axios-MSNBC video: Democrats are already planning their opening moves against the GOP if the House flips in November.

  • Watch here: "Democrats’ blue wave could crash over GOP agenda in Congress."
5. Florence on track for direct, dangerous strike

Hurricane Florence is going through an astonishingly rapid intensification process, and could hit anywhere from the Carolinas to the Mid-Atlantic by Thursday or Friday.

Axios science editor Andrew Freedman has this cheat sheet:

If Florence follows current model projects and official forecasts, it would:

  • Be capable of producing 20-30+ inches of rain in the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic, possibly including the D.C. area. This is a nightmare inland flood scenario.
  • Bring hurricane-force winds for more than a day to a swath of land about 350 miles in diameter or greater, extending well inland from the landfall point. 
  • Drive one of the largest potential storm surges on record onto the Carolina coast.
  • Be one of the strongest hurricanes on record to make landfall in the Carolinas or Mid-Atlantic.
  • Make landfall or come closest to land on Thursday-Friday before stalling for up to three days.

Be smart: This could be a major test of how President Trump handles another multifaceted crisis, this time one that is possibly at his literal doorstep. 

This enhanced satellite image provided to AP by NOAA shows Hurricane Florence (third from right) in the Atlantic Ocean yesterday. At right is Tropical Storm Helene, and second from right is Tropical Storm Isaac:

6. Blue-collar jobs surge in Trump strongholds

"Blue-collar jobs are growing at their fastest rate in more than 30 years, helping fuel a hiring boom in many small towns and rural areas that are strong supporters of President Trump ahead of November's midterm elections," the WashPost's Heather Long and Andrew Van Dam report:

  • "Jobs in goods-producing industries — mining, construction and manufacturing — grew 3.3 percent in the year preceding July, the best rate since 1984, according to a Washington Post analysis."

Why it matters: "Blue-collar jobs, long a small and shrinking part of the U.S. economy, are now growing at a faster clip than those in the nation's much larger service economy."

  • "The rapid hiring in blue-collar sectors is delivering benefits to areas that turned out heavily for Trump in the 2016 election, according to the Brookings Institution, a shift from earlier in this expansion, when large and midsize cities experienced most of the gains."
7. Chinese officials burning Bibles
Catholic religious paintings and figures are displayed behind bars at an underground Catholic church in China's Guangdong province. (Andy Wong/AP)

"China's government is ratcheting up a crackdown on Christian congregations in Beijing and several provinces, destroying crosses, burning Bibles, shutting churches and ordering followers to sign papers renouncing their faith, according to pastors and a group that monitors religion in China," AP's Christopher Bodeen reports from Beijing:

  • Why it matters: "Under President Xi Jinping, China's most powerful leader since Mao Zedong, religious believers are seeing their freedoms shrink dramatically even as the country undergoes a religious revival."
  • "Experts and activists say that as he consolidates his power, Xi is waging the most severe systematic suppression of Christianity in the country since religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1982."

And it's not just Christians: "1 million Uighurs and other members of Muslim minority groups in the country's northwest have been arbitrarily detained in indoctrination camps where they are forced to denounce Islam."

8. Drilling, suburbia collide in Colorado fracking fight
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A fight in Colorado over a ballot initiative curtailing oil and gas drilling is NIMBYism at its most stark, Axios' Amy Harder reports from Denver in her weekly "Harder Line" column:

  • Coloradans are set to vote on a ballot initiative on Election Day that would ban drilling within 2,500 feet — nearly a half-mile — from buildings and some green spaces. That’s up from a current limit of 500 feet.

Why it matters: NIMBYism — "not in my backyard" opposition — is as old as time and often has a negative reputation. But in the case of Colorado, it shouldn’t.

  • It’s the surprisingly simple result of a growing population and oil drilling encroaching on each other. It's a national symbol of both the economic benefits of drilling and its understandable drawbacks to nearby neighborhoods.

Drill down.

9. New podcast: Imagining the Oval

Coming Friday ... The first podcast from R.J. Cutler, the documentary filmmaker behind "The War Room":

  • "What if that soccer ball Vladimir Putin gave to President Trump was covered in microscopic transmitters? And what if President Trump insisted on keeping the ball in a place of great honor in the Oval Office? R.J. Cutler and Blumhouse Television present The Oval Office Tapes."
  • The 10-episode series imagines being a fly on the West Wing wall.

Click here for iTunes preview.

10. 1 shop thing

Convenience shops go healthy as millennials choose wellness, AP's Kelli Kennedy reports:

  • "In convenience stores spawned by the wellness wave, kombucha slushies take the place of corn-syrupy treats infused with red dye, tortilla chips are made of cassava flour instead of corn and there are vegan ice cream bars and a dizzying selection of organic produce and craft beer on tap."

"[A] new crop of niche stores aimed at millennials who can afford to pay more have completely overhauled the shelves, making gluten-free and organic products their staples, not just the side dish, along with compostable straws and on-demand delivery."

  • "These shoppers also like to see their stores support what they consider worthy causes."
Mike Allen

Thanks for reading. See you all day on