April 02, 2024

Hello, Tuesday! Smart Brevity™ count: 1,390 words ... 5 mins. Thanks to Noah Bressner for orchestrating. Copy edited by Bryan McBournie.

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1 big thing: Inside DEI's fall

Data: AlphaSense. Chart: Axios Visuals

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) was the hot thing in corporate America a few years ago. Now the business world barely mentions it, Axios' Emily Peck writes.

  • Why it matters: The business community — long averse to political risk — backed away from DEI programs over the past two years after attacks from lawmakers, high-profile rich guys and conservative activists. Other companies are sticking with these efforts but doing it quietly.

Many business leaders are fed-up with DEI, Johnny Taylor, president of the Society for Human Resource Management told Axios.

  • "The backlash is real," he said. "CEOs are literally putting the brakes on this DE&I work that was running strong" since George Floyd's murder in May 2020.

🔎 Zoom in: Some businesses are cutting back funding, trimming DEI staff and even considering pulling back on employee resource groups comprised of various races, ethnicities or interests.

  • Others are changing programs designed to support women and people of color because of lawsuits. America First Legal, founded by former Trump aide Stephen Miller, has filed more than 20.

🥊 Reality check: There are still companies committed to hiring people from diverse backgrounds, figuring out how to foster inclusive workplaces and treating people fairly.

  • But they're less likely to use those initials. Same with ESG — environmental, social and governance.

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2. New fear of wider war in Middle East

Workers remove debris at the Iranian embassy compound in Damascus, Syria, after an Israeli strike yesterday.
Workers remove debris at the Iranian embassy compound in Damascus, Syria, after an Israeli strike yesterday. Photo: Omar Sanadiki/AP

Tensions in the Middle East spiked to dangerous new highs yesterday after an Israeli airstrike killed seven Iranian officers in Syria — including a senior general who oversaw an allied network of militant proxy groups, Axios' Barak Ravid and Zachary Basu write.

  • Why it matters: The strike could significantly escalate the shadow conflict that has raged in the Middle East since Hamas' terrorist attack on Oct. 7, U.S. and Israeli officials say.

Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi is the most senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officer to be killed since the U.S. assassinated Qassen Soleimani in 2020.

  • Iran has vowed to seek revenge and accused Israel — which flattened a diplomatic building in Syria with its airstrike — of a "breach of all international conventions."
  • Iran hasn't directly intervened in the current conflict and mostly relies on proxies.

👀 Behind the scenes: Israeli intelligence has been following Zahedi, who is in charge of arming and coordinating with Hezbollah and other pro-Iranian militias in Lebanon and Syria, for a long time.

  • An operational window to take him out only opened in recent days, an Israeli official said.

Israel notified the Biden administration a few minutes before its Air Force conducted the strike but didn't ask for a green light, Israeli and U.S. officials said.

An aircraft airdrops humanitarian aid over the northern Gaza Strip yesterday.
Aircraft drop humanitarian aid over the northern Gaza Strip yesterday. Photo: Abdel Kareem Hana/AP

Israeli forces withdrew from the largest hospital in Gaza after a devastating two-week raid killed hundreds of alleged Palestinian militants and left the facility in ruins.

3. World Central Kitchen workers killed

World Central Kitchen worker Zomi Frankcom (left) pictured in a kitchen in Gaza last week.
World Central Kitchen worker Zomi Frankcom, 44, pictured (at left) in a kitchen in Gaza last week, was among those killed. Photo: World Central Kitchen via Reuters

Six international aid workers from chef José Andrés' World Central Kitchen — one of the world's most high-profile relief organizations — and their Palestinian driver were killed in an Israeli airstrike elsewhere in Gaza.

  • An Israeli official said four aid workers who died in the strike were American, British, Australian and Polish nationals.

The organization has been leading the efforts to get food to Gaza via sea and delivered tons of supplies to Gaza twice in a ship from Cyprus over the past few weeks, Axios' Barak Ravid writes.

The Israel Defense Forces said they're conducting a "thorough review at the highest levels to understand the circumstances of this tragic incident."

4. 💡 GE is now three

Data: Yahoo Finance. Chart: Axios Visuals

General Electric — the most valuable public company in the world less than two decades ago — finalizes its split into three independent businesses today, Axios' Javier E. David writes.

  • Why it matters: The house that Thomas Edison built over a century ago, and that Jack Welch expanded into an empire, is officially no more.

GE Vernova, the spinoff focused on the energy transition, begins trading on the New York Stock Exchange this morning as ticker symbol "GEV." GE Vernova, led by CEO Scott Strazik, includes power, wind and electrification, with 80,000+ employees across 100+ countries.

  • GE Aerospace launches today as an independent company and will continue using the classic "GE" ticker.
  • The third unit, GE HealthCare, became a standalone company in 2023.

📉 Between the lines: The former icon of American manufacturing had a market cap that almost hit $600 billion in 2000.

  • GE was worth $191 billion at yesterday's close.

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5. 🗳️ Conservative media sours on RFK Jr.

Minutes spent mentioning Robert F. Kennedy, select cable channels
Data: Stanford Cable TV News Analyzer. (Each mention is treated as one second.) Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Right-wing media has abruptly shifted its volume and tone of coverage of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. now that he's running as an independent instead of as a Democrat, Axios' Alex Thompson and Sara Fischer write.

  • Why it matters: Despite the Kennedy name, RFK Jr. is taking votes from former President Trump as well as from President Biden, polls show.

An analysis of data pulled from the Stanford Cable TV News Analyzer shows mentions of Kennedy by Fox News fell sharply after the environmental lawyer-turned politico declared his candidacy as an independent last October.

  • When Kennedy was running against Biden in the Democratic primary last year, mentions of Kennedy on Fox News were more than four times higher than on CNN and MSNBC.
  • Now, Fox News covers Kennedy approximately as much as CNN does.

Prominent conservative commentators abruptly switched from friendly to hostile after Kennedy went independent:

  • Last summer, Benny Johnson, an influencer on the right and host of "The Benny Show," approvingly posted many clips of Kennedy interviews talking with Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity.
  • Last June, he posted a picture of the 70-year-old Kennedy shirtless and muscular, adding: "RFK Jr. is a living, breathing anti-vaccine ad ... Men, what is stopping you?"
  • Since Kennedy entered the race as an independent, Johnson has turned hostile and said Kennedy's campaign is a "psyop."

Charlie Kirk, founder of the young conservative group Turning Point USA and podcast host, had a similar transformation.

  • Last summer, Kirk wrote that "RFK Jr. is special" and "continues to outclass and outsmart his Democrat detractors."
  • Kirk hosted Kennedy on his show in December, but has also been more critical, writing: "If left unaddressed, RFK Jr. will grant Biden another four years."

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6. ☎️ Congress gets caller ID

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The House is updating its phone system to make it easier for Capitol Police to track down threatening calls to congressional offices, Axios' Andrew Solender reports.

  • Congressional offices will now get the numbers of callers that were connected through the Capitol's switchboard.

Why it matters: After dropping from their historic 2021 high, threats against lawmakers ticked back up last year and remain at vastly higher levels than the pre-Trump years, according to Capitol Police data.

7. 🔋 Tesla's new troubles

Quarterly Tesla vehicle deliveries
Data: Factset, Wedbush Securities, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley. Chart: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

Analysts predict a big Q1 decline in Tesla's deliveries when the electric automaker reports global numbers today, Axios Generate co-author Ben Geman writes.

  • Why it matters: Tesla-watchers will parse how much the slowdown stems from market headwinds hitting everyone vs. problems more specific to Tesla, including an aging lineup and competitors in key markets like China.

🛣️ Between the lines: The ranks of would-be Tesla buyers in the U.S. are shrinking, Reuters reports from a survey by market intelligence firm Caliber.

  • The firm's "consideration score" for Tesla fell to 31% in February — less than half its high of 70% in November 2021 when it started tracking consumer interest in the brand.

Keep reading.

8. 🏀 1 hoop thing: Clark gets revenge

Iowa's Caitlin Clark during the fourth quarter of last night's game against LSU.
Iowa's Caitlin Clark during the fourth quarter of last night's game against LSU. Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP

Iowa and Caitlin Clark knocked defending national champion LSU out of the NCAA Tournament and won a spot in the women's Final Four.

  • Last night's highly anticipated matchup was a rematch of last year's national championship game won by LSU, which drew a record 9.9 million viewers.

Iowa will play Paige Bueckers and UConn in the semifinals on Friday.

  • N.C. State and South Carolina will play in the other game.

📣 March madness doubles: N.C. State and UConn are also in the men's Final Four.

  • The men's betting favorite is UConn, followed by Purdue, Alabama and N.C. State, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Women's schedule ... Men's schedule.

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