Feb 11, 2021

Axios AM

Good Thursday morning. Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,149 words ... 4½ minutes.

🏀 Never mind! The day after news broke that the Dallas Mavericks weren't playing the national anthem at home games, the NBA decreed: "[A]ll teams will play the national anthem in keeping with longstanding league policy."

1 big thing: States take reins on tech regulation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

States across the U.S., unwilling to wait for the slower gears of the federal government to turn, are moving aggressively to regulate the tech industry, Axios' Ashley Gold writes.

  • Why it matters: States famously serve as "laboratories of democracy." But their experiments can sometimes be half-baked or have unintended consequences, and their regulations can run afoul of the courts.

Maryland's House of Delegates today is expected to override the veto by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) of a tax of up to 10% on digital advertising. The state Senate is expected to do the same tomorrow. Democrats control both chambers.

  • The measure, which would be first of its kind in the country and resembles similar taxes passed in the EU, would tax revenue that large tech companies generate from showing online ads to Maryland residents. Money raised from the tax would help bridge budget gaps, largely going to public schools.

In Virginia, a digital privacy bill supported by some tech trade groups and companies like IBM is set to pass and be signed into law. It would make Virginia the second state to pass a major data privacy bill, after California's 2018 law.

What we're watching: Growing polarization guarantees more party-line tech bills that wouldn't stand a chance in the narrowly divided Congress.

  • It's likely, for instance, that we'll see more proposals out of red states aimed at punishing tech for perceived censorship of conservatives, while blue states may follow Maryland's lead on digital taxes, among other tech priorities.

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2. Harrowing audio, video shake impeachment trial

Photo: Senate TV via AP

Yesterday's presentation by House Democratic impeachment managers — methodical and time-stamped — left senators from both parties visibly shaken.

  • They watched harrowing scenes of rioters tearing apart the very desks where they sat, Axios' Glen Johnson and Alayna Treene report from the gallery.

In the halls outside the chamber during short breaks, GOP lawmakers had difficulty defending their stubborn stance on acquittal.

  • It was clearly more of a challenge for them to justify than it was during Trump's first impeachment trial, when so many were eager to share their disdain for the proceedings with reporters.
Security video, played at the impeachment trial, shows Vice President Pence being evacuated as rioters breach the Capitol. Photo: Senate TV via AP

The new evidence presented yesterday included Capitol security videos that showed Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer narrowly escaping the mob, and Vice President Pence evacuating the Senate chamber as insurrectionists chanted for his death, AP reports.

  • The rioters were "58 steps" from senators, impeachment manager Eric Swalwell told them.
Photo: Senate TV via AP
Photo: Senate TV via AP
3. Streetlights grab data for smart cities

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Cities are rushing to replace street lights with "smart" LED fixtures that could one day be able to find you a parking space, monitor air quality, and announce an oncoming thunderstorm, Axios Cities author Jennifer A. Kingson writes.

  • Why it matters: Despite a bumpy and controversial start to some smart street light programs, cities are saving tons of money on energy by banishing halogen bulbs — and may soon be able to turn a profit by monetizing data from smart LED sensors or leasing space on light poles.

Keep reading.

4. Real progress: Virus infections plummet
Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments. Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New coronavirus cases continued their sharp decline over the past week — progress that could help the U.S. find its way out of the pandemic faster and more safely, if it keeps up, Axios Sam Baker and Andrew Witherspoon report.

  • An average of 108,000 Americans were diagnosed with COVID-19 infections each day over the past week.
  • That’s a 24% decline from the week before.
  • Hospitalizations were also down last week, by about 8%, and deaths fell by 3%. The virus is still killing an average of roughly 3,000 Americans per day.

Between the lines: 108,000 new cases and 3,000 deaths per day is still a very bad situation, and shouldn't be considered a sustainable level of infection.

  • But after the horrific winter outbreak the U.S. experienced, the only way to have a small number of cases is to keep climbing down week after week.

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5. Living history: How the U.S. botched COVID
Graphic: The Lancet

"In an unprecedented expression of distrust, many states did not follow CDC's recommendations and instead joined multi-state coalitions to make policy for reopening the economy and schools," concludes The Lancet Commission on Public Policy and Health in the Trump Era — a group of 33 experts in the U.S., U.K. and Canada assembled by one of the world's oldest medical journals.

6. 🇨🇳 Biden warns China

Biden and Xi in 2012, when both were vice president. Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

President Biden last evening held his first post-inauguration call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and raised thorny issues including human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian and Dave Lawler report:

  • The leaders also discussed the pandemic, climate change, nuclear proliferation, and seeking areas of engagement when it serves their countries' mutual interests, according to a White House readout.

Between the lines: A senior administration official told reporters ahead of the call that Biden's approach to his first conversation with Xi as president would be "practical, hard-headed, clear-eyed and rooted in a deep familiarity with his counterpart on the other end of the line."

  • The official said Biden's strategy will be driven by awareness that "the lion’s share of the history of the 21st century is going to be written in the Asia-Pacific."

Keep reading.

7. Bidenomics' roots in electric cars

Snow over the White House last night. Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters

President Biden's jobs plan is rooted in a 2018 research paper by the UAW, arguing that the American automobile industry could continue providing well-paying jobs if the government invested huge sums in electric vehicles, Noam Scheiber writes in the N.Y. Times Magazine:

When aides ... described the ideas in the U.A.W. paper, Biden became animated. The notion that spending billions to upgrade plants and subsidize car-buying could save the livelihoods of today’s workers — not merely create jobs for their kids — excited him. It promised a marriage of present and future. "His view matched up so well with the U.A.W. paper," says Gene Sperling, a former top White House economic adviser who helped Biden develop his economic plan.

Keep reading (subscription).

8. 💰 Brexit winner: Amsterdam tops London for stocks

A trading gong and statue of Mercury, Roman god of trade, stand beside a stained glass window inside the Amsterdam Stock Exchange. Photo: Yuriko Nakao/Bloomberg

"Amsterdam surpassed London as Europe’s largest share trading centre last month as the Netherlands scooped up business lost by the UK since Brexit," the Financial Times reports (subscription).

  • "Paris and Dublin also had small increases."
9. New from Ben Sherwood: MOJO youth sports app

Photos: MOJO

An app called MOJO aims to reduce the stress of youth sports with a "coach-in-a-box," Axios Sports editor Kendall Baker writes.

  • "Youth sports is broken," MOJO CEO Ben Sherwood, former co-chair of Disney Media Networks, tells Axios. "So much of the attention and money goes to elite teams, leaving the rest with very little."

What's happening: Youth sports participation in the U.S. is declining.

  • COVID has made the situation worse: Three in 10 kids have no interest in returning to the primary sport they played pre-pandemic, according to an October report by The Aspen Institute.

How it works: With MOJO, which has free and paid ($19.99/year) versions, a coach can run a practice from the palm of his or her hand.

  • MOJO is launching with soccer, and will be available to hundreds of thousands of coaches through a partnership with U.S. Youth Soccer.
  • The plan is to expand to all major sports. "We're focused on under-13, when about 80% of coaches are moms and dads," Sherwood said.

The app builds personalized practices customized to age and skill level.

  • Video: MOJO on "Good Morning America."
10. 1 smile to go: The catch! Brady's trophy toss
Photo: @brookeskelley/Instagram via Reuters

During a boat parade celebrating the Tampa Bay Bucs' Super Bowl title, Tom Brady tossed the NFL's Lombardi Trophy to tight end Cameron Brate in another boat. Of course, the shirtless Brate caught the 10-yard, underhanded pass.

Photo: @brookeskelley/Instagram via Reuters

"If I had dropped that? I think I would've had to retire,” Brate told the Tampa Bay Times. "He pointed it at me. We talked about it earlier. It was a great throw. I mean, what do you expect from Tom Brady?"

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