Sep 14, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Breaking: President Trump confirmed in an old-school White House "Statement from the President" (not a tweet) that Osama bin Laden's son, Hamza bin Laden, as first reported in July, "was killed in a United States counterterrorism operation in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region":

  • "The loss ... not only deprives al-Qa’ida of important leadership skills and the symbolic connection to his father, but undermines important operational activities of the group."
1 big thing: Big Tech's 2020 news push
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tech companies are ramping up efforts to support news companies as they face pressure to elevate quality news and information ahead of the 2020 election, Axios media trends expert Sara Fischer reports.

  • Why it matters: Tech titans, particularly Google and Facebook, have been blamed for their role in spreading misinformation during the 2016 election that may have impacted voter turnout or results. They've also been blamed by publishers for cutting into media ad revenues.

Google says it has adjusted its algorithms and the guidelines used by the people that rate its searches to elevate original reporting in search results. It says it's doing more to help train search raters to reward high-quality reporting.

  • There have been multiple reports about Facebook investing millions to pay publishers to provide quality news content for its platform, both via its video tab "Watch" and on a tab dedicated specifically to news that will launch in the U.S. early next year.
  • Snapchat is creating a dedicated news channel specifically for the 2020 debates. The company is doing more to increase civic and political engagement on its platform as it readies a more aggressive push into news, sources tell Axios.

Our thought bubble: The public relations fallout from reports that fake news may have contributed to President Trump's surprise 2016 victory spooked Big Tech, inspiring fundamental changes in how the companies think about news.

2. Don't miss

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Axios' Felix Salmon posted a raft of stunning reporting — including screenshots of emails — on how Jeffrey Epstein gamed the establishment in plain sight.

  • Go deeper, "Exclusive: MIT and Jeffrey Epstein's billionaire enablers."
3. Behind the scenes: Bolton's final fight
Screenshot: CNN

A person close to John Bolton says the national security adviser resigned the day after a Monday discussion about Iran policy in which President Trump raised the possibility of relieving some sanctions, Axios' Margaret Talev reports.

  • The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Bolton did not favor giving the Iranians relief and believed the maximum pressure campaign was working.
Bonus: Photo du jour
Photo: Mary F. Calvert for The New York Times (Licensed from N.Y Times)

Ethan Hanson, 29 — shown above hugging his wife, Katie, in their kitchen in Austin, Minn. — has avoided taking showers since he left the Marine Corps in 2014, the N.Y. Times' Dave Philipps reports.

  • Why it matters: "Mr. Hanson was one of a group of Marine recruits who were sexually assaulted in the showers during boot camp ... [I]t was a hazing exercise, meant to humiliate and intimidate young troops."

A shocking stat from The Times: "On average, about 10,000 men are sexually assaulted in the American military each year, according to Pentagon statistics."

  • "Overwhelmingly, the victims are young and low-ranking."
  • Keep reading.

Our thought bubble: We have to do a better job of protecting women and men who protect us. Washington should pay attention to this exposé.

4. Varsity Blues parent: "I was frightened, I was stupid"
Courtesy the N.Y. Post

"Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman, 56, "who paid $15,000 to a consultant to inflate her daughter’s SAT scores, was sentenced to two weeks [not a typo] in prison," the Boston Globe reports.

  • Why it matters: "Huffman was the first parent sentenced in the nationwide college admissions bribery scandal."
  • U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani said the cases exposed a college admissions world that was "already so distorted by money and privilege in the first place."
  • Huffman's prison sentence "signaled that 14 other parents who have pleaded guilty in the scandal will likely be sent to prison as well."
5. ✈️ Climate protesters threaten to disrupt flights with drones

Police in London arrested 18 people believed to be involved in a climate-change protest at Heathrow Airport, where activists had threatened to fly drones into an illegal zone, BBC reports.

  • The group claimed the airport used "signal jamming to frustrate" the plan.

Why it matters: Drone incursions this year briefly interrupted service at airports in London, Newark and Dubai, revealing a potential guerrilla tactic that authorities so far have managed to thwart.

6. The last word
The Washington Post

Here's how the 20 journalists who have been laid off from Express — the 130,000-circulation, free commuter paper from The Washington Post — said good-bye with their final issue.

  • "I’ve always known this day would come," executive editor Dan Caccavaro wrote in the final issue.

How the world changed in 16 years (What were you doing in 2003?):

When we launched in 2003, there was no such thing as an iPhone. It would be another year before Harvard students would start using a novel social network called Facebook to keep tabs on their classmates.
No one was tweeting anything — or Insta-gramming or Snapchatting. And most of us still mocked our CrackBerry-addicted friends who just couldn’t wait till they got to work to check their email.

See 15 Express sports covers.

Mike Allen

📱 Thanks for reading Axios AM. Please invite your friends and co-workers to sign up here.