Mar 2, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🎓 Happy Saturday from Harvard Yard, where a friend is immersed in a program for young executives.

  • Cambridge is such an inspiring place just to stroll around and hang out: I always think how many epic narratives and history-changing life adventures start here.
1 big thing: Fears rise about kids online

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A series of scary headlines, legal actions and pranks this week remind us of the internet's increasing perils for children, Axios' Sara Fischer and Kim Hart write.

  • Parents and teachers struggle to keep tabs on every new game, social media and video fad targeting kids — and they have a hard time separating real threats from perceived ones.

This has been the case for generations, but online culture is fragmented and constantly morphing.

  • Their anxiety about what children are exposed to online can be exploited by misinformed media reports about viral pranks, playing to parents' worst fears.
  • Policymakers are frustrated. While many bipartisan efforts have attempted to create guardrails for kids, enforcing rules across the rapidly proliferating media platforms can feel like whack-a-mole to regulators.

Some parents respond to these dangers by dropping free platforms like YouTube that host user-generated content and instead opting for subscription streaming services like Netflix, Nickelodeon, Hulu or Disney that vet kids' content.

  • But many lower-income families can't afford those. So families that rely on free, ad-supported video are disproportionately exposed to nefarious content.

The bottom line: Online platforms like YouTube and Facebook were created to capture the data and attention spans of adults. Now their youngest users need the opposite: more privacy and protection from bad actors.

Share this story.

2. I testified against Nixon. My advice for Michael Cohen
In 1973, John Dean, takes the oath from the Senate Watergate committee chairman, Sam Ervin. (Bettmann Archive via Getty Images)

John W. Dean, age 80, who was fired as White House counsel by President Nixon, writes for the N.Y. Times:

  • What's new: "There are several parallels between my testimony before Congress in 1973, about President Richard Nixon and his White House, and Michael Cohen’s testimony this week about President Trump and his business practices. ... [W]e both found ourselves speaking before Congress, in multiple open and closed venues, about criminal conduct of a sitting president."
  • Why it matters: "I was surprised by the number of people who surfaced to support my account. The same, I suspect, will happen for Michael Cohen. The Mafia’s code of omertà has no force in public service. I have heard no one other than Roger Stone say he will go to jail for Donald Trump."
3. Smart Brevity for CEOs

Fewer buzzwords ... Here's how GE CEO Larry Culp’s first shareholder letter, released this week, compares with those of his two immediate predecessors, Jeff Immelt and John Flannery, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription):

  • 2017: 7,760 words
  • 2018: 4,951 words
  • 2019: 2,788 words

Why it matters: "The shorter missive reflects changes in GE itself, which has had three CEOs in three years, can only afford to pay a token dividend and is breaking itself apart."

4. Pic du jour
NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

This selfie was taken on Mars yesterday by NASA's InSight Mars lander, using a camera mounted on a robot arm.

NASA's Mars lander has started digging into the red planet to measure the internal temperature, AP reports:

  • "The German drilling instrument on the InSight lander struck what appeared to be a couple of stones. It only managed to burrow" about a foot.

The team is shooting for 16 feet, which would set an otherworldly record.

  • InSight landed on Mars in November. It is stationary, but has a robot arm.
5. Oops: North Korea's arsenal grows
President Trump waves to Vietnamese President Nguyễn Phú Trọng after meeting at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi. (Dien Bien/Getty Images)

Forget the happy talk. North Korea is steadily adding to its nuclear stockpile, the L.A. Times' Victoria Kim writes from Seoul:

  • What's new: "U.S. intelligence last summer estimated North Korea may have anywhere from 20 to 60 nuclear weapons. In 2018, North Korea probably produced enough plutonium and uranium for an additional five to seven nuclear weapons, researchers at Stanford have estimated."
  • Why it's happening: "Many of the country’s nuclear facilities are camouflaged, tucked away in mountains or hidden underground. Analysts scouring satellite imagery spotted signs of continued buildup at a network of at least 16 secret missile operating bases never acknowledged by North Korea."
6. Weekend read: How Bezos went Hollywood
Bezos in L.A. on Feb. 23 (Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

"Jeff Bezos amassed the world’s greatest fortune by relying on what he has called a 'regret minimization framework.' He built an $800 billion company with 14 codified principles," the N.Y. Times' Amy Chozick writes on the cover of Sunday Business (headline: "He’s Come Undone"):

  • "But then Mr. Bezos went to Hollywood."
  • "In the [seven] weeks since the Amazon founder tweeted that he and his wife of 25 years were divorcing, he has gone to war with a grocery store tabloid and escalated a conflict with the president of the United States."

"Bezos is at the center of an honest-to-God melodrama, full of salacious revelations, family betrayals and international intrigue."

  • "In Seattle, Amazon’s senior vice president for global corporate affairs, the former White House press secretary Jay Carney, has recently tried to get the story back under control."
  • "But in Hollywood, the swirl around Mr. Bezos’s love life refuses to be contained, churning through an ecosystem of gossip and favors, where dish on the rich and powerful is currency."

Treat yourself.

Mike Allen