Feb 6, 2021

Axios AM

🧤 Happy Saturday! Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,123 words ... 4½ minutes.

🎬 Tomorrow on "Axios on HBO" (debuting 6 p.m. ET/PT, then lives on all HBO platforms): I socially distance with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

1 big thing: Racial divide returns to classroom

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

There's a significant racial gap in whether parents are ready to send their children back to school, Bryan Walsh writes in Axios Future:

  • In city after city, survey after survey, parents of color — fueled by a higher rate of COVID infections and deaths, and historically underfunded schools — are more worried about reopening classrooms than are white parents.

In the most recent Axios/Ipsos coronavirus poll, 55% of Black parents and 40% of Latino parents reported they were extremely or very concerned about schools in their community reopening too quickly — compared with 25% of white parents.

  • For planned or partial reopenings, white pupils are returning at higher rates than Black and Latino children in Detroit, New York, D.C. and Nashville.

Parents' decisions are grounded partly in personal experience:

  • Black and Latino Americans are more likely to have contracted COVID-19, more likely to have been hospitalized for it, and more likely to know someone who has died from it.
  • While children have proven far less vulnerable to COVID than adults, studies last year, reported by the N.Y. Times, indicated that children of color have been infected, been hospitalized and have died at much higher rates.

But the longer children of color remain in remote education — which experts overwhelmingly view as inferior to in-person schooling — the further they risk falling behind, perhaps for their entire lives.

  • A November report from the academic assessment nonprofit NWEA found that Black and Latino students and those from high-poverty schools experienced declines in reading test scores this fall, while white students and those from wealthy schools did better than expected.
  • The true results are likely worse, as 1 in 4 students who typically take the NWEA's assessment didn't do so this year, possibly because they're among the estimated 3 million children — who are more likely to be Black or Latino — who have gone missing altogether during the pandemic.

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2. Super Bowl ads seek connection amid crisis

Super Bowl ad for Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's, via YouTube. Watch the 1-min. ad.

Tomorrow's Super Bowl ads feature socially distanced characters — and people staying home. Some try to keep it light, but the pandemic's gravity is pervasive, Axios Media Trends author Sara Fischer writes.

  • Mercari, an e-commerce platform, will run its first-ever Super Bowl ad featuring a couple sitting at home selling unused home goods on their phones. (Watch the ad.)
  • Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's will run a spot showing ways the outdoors can be a relief during the pandemic. (Watch the ad.)
  • Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade (new in January) spoofs 2020 as "a lemon of a year," with citrus pelting a wedding, a baseball game — even a shutdown haircut. (Watch the ad.)

The big picture: The Super Bowl has always been a moment for brands to make a statement, but increasingly, the game has become an opportunity for brands to talk more about their values than their products.

A slew of first-time advertisers that have seen pandemic-related business gains are joining the big game (about $5.5 million for 30-second spots):

  • Chipotle says burritos can change the world by bringing environmentally friendly jobs to farmers. (Watch the ad.)
  • Vroom, an online car-buying app, pushes contact-free car delivery. (Watch the ad.)

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Photo: Stella Artois via AP

Above: Lenny Kravitz in "Heartbeat Billionaire," the Super Bowl ad for Anheuser-Busch's Stella Artois.

  • Kravitz told Billboard: "This campaign is about investing in each other, using our 2.5 billion heartbeats to spread love, to nurture the relationships in life that are important to us during this time."

Watch the ad.

3. ✈️ Axios aloft: Biden's first Air Force One flight as president

President Biden departs Joint Base Andrews. Photo: Margaret Talev/Axios


President Biden's maiden flight on Air Force One as commander-in-chief lasted 25 minutes — one-third the time it takes the Acela to go from D.C. to Wilmington, reports Margaret Talev, Axios managing editor for politics, who was aboard.

Behind the scenes ... Margaret's first ride on Air Force One, when she was with McClatchy Newspapers, was President Obama’s first — in 2009, to Williamsburg. She reports from Biden's sunset flight:

  • At Joint Base Andrews, Biden tucked a challenge coin into the palm of the female colonel who greeted and saluted him before he boarded at 5:31 p.m. The flight was wheels up at 5:42 p.m. and landed at 6:07 p.m.
  • The weekend family visit comes between his son Hunter's 51st birthday (Thursday) and the Super Bowl — and between a crucial COVID-19 budget framework vote and the impeachment trial of former President Trump.
  • TVs aboard the flight showed ESPN — and CNN, a departure from the Fox-a-thon of the past four years.
Photo: Margaret Talev/Axios

Everyone, including the president, wore masks.

  • Yesterday's short jump was on the "baby plane," not the 747-200B used for longer flights. (Fun fact: "Air Force One" designates any Air Force aircraft carrying the president.)
  • "A great plane," Biden said. "It’s the same plane that we had as vice president — only it’s much nicer."

Go deeper about Air Force One.

4. Insane financial world's new fixation: Dogecoin

Visual representation of Dogecoin, displayed over Bitcoin. Photo: Yuriko Nakao/Getty Images

Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency that started in 2013 as a joke is suddenly worth more than $6 billion, due partly to a flurry of tweets from Elon Musk, The Wall Street Journal reports (subscription):

  • "Dogecoin is named after an internet meme that surfaced nearly a decade ago ... centered around an image of a Shiba Inu dog with bad spelling habits (thus doge instead of dog)."

Dogecoin posts surged on WallStreetBets, the Reddit forum that propelled GameStop, after Musk tweeted a faux cover of DOGUE magazine on Jan. 28.

  • Last night, he kept the mania going by tweeting:
Via Twitter
5. One month on: Tallying arrests in Capitol siege

Photo: John Minchillo/AP

The Capitol siege was one month ago today ... A N.Y. Times tally finds that federal prosecutors have announced criminal charges against at least 176 people, from at least 39 states — "less than a quarter of those involved in the melee, but enough to provide a rough portrait of the mob" (subscription):

  • "26 are charged with conspiracy crimes or assault."
  • "43 are charged with interference with law enforcement, weapons crimes, threats or property crimes but not conspiracy or assault."
  • "107 are charged with trespassing or disrupting Congress."

Who they are ... The Times finds: "At least 21 of those charged so far had ties to militant groups and militias, according to court documents and other records."

  • "At least 22 said they were current or former members of the military. More than a dozen were clear supporters of the conspiracy theory QAnon."
6. 🏈 The greats on Brady

Tom Brady during Super Bowl 55's virtual Opening Night on Monday. Photo: NFL via AP

Ahead of Tom Brady's tenth Super Bowl appearance, AP sportswriter Jim Litke asked champions in other sports for their takes on the bionic 43-year-old:

  • 🏀 LeBron James, 36: "No matter how many miles, how many games. No matter how many doubters. No matter the statistics in our prospective professions at our age, we can still dominate our sport."
  • 🎾 Serena Williams, 39: "It must be so inspiring to be either a wide receiver or a lineman for him … [T]hey must be like, 'Oh, my God, this is our chance, we're with the greatest.'"
  • 🚴 Lance Armstrong, 49: "This has nothing to do with genetics or luck. He must spend an incredible amount of time focusing on this: flexibility, mobility, pliability, and simply put, longevity."
  • ⚾ Derek Jeter, 46, through a spokesman: "We have received a few of these requests over the last week. Mr. Jeter has deferred to allow others a chance to speak about Mr. Brady."

Go deeper: Brady mindmelds from Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretsky and more.

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