March 14, 2024

๐Ÿฅง Happy Pi Day (3.14)!ย To tell your kids: A man in India memorized pi to 70,000 digits. But even NASA only needs pi to the 15th decimal place (3.141592653589793).

  • Smart Brevityโ„ข count: 1,394 words ... 5.2604 mins. Thanks to Noah Bressner for orchestrating. Copy edited by Bryan McBournie.

Breaking: Gerald Levin, the visionary HBO executive who orchestrated the disastrous merger of Time Warner and AOL, died at 84. Keep reading.

1 big thing โ€”ย Axios Vibes: Free speech blowup

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

More than two-thirds of college students believe universities should protect free speech โ€” even if it extends to physical threats or inciting violence, according to a new Axios Vibes survey by The Harris Poll.

  • Free speech was students' third-most-cited concern about their institutions (32%), after tuition (50%) and safety (46%).

Why it matters: The stunning finding reveals a desire to push the limits of free expression on campus. It hints at deep divides over how to advocate for Palestinian civilians while protecting the safety of Jewish students, Axios' Margaret Talev and Noah Bressner write.

๐Ÿงฎ By the numbers: A clear majority of students โ€” 68% โ€” argued for pushing the limits of speech on campus even if there's some risk of violence.

  • That's much higher than the 43% of non-students with that view.
  • 77% of respondents said campus speech should be protected even if some feel the language is deeply upsetting.
  • 86% said their institutions should make them feel safe sharing their opinions on tense social issues and global conflicts.

Between the lines: There was no difference between Democratic students and Republican students. But there was a gender gap: 74% of men, but just 61% of women argued for expanded speech.

๐Ÿ˜Ÿ Axios Vibe Check: Students are worried. They increasingly view their colleges as hypocritical, and think administrators are prioritizing big donors over free speech.

  • 55% of students said their school's administration is more concerned with protecting endowments and donors than protecting expression.
  • "They just don't feel like they have any control," The Harris Poll CEO John Gerzema tells Axios. "They feel these powerful people can come in and dictate the terms of when they can talk and when they can't."

๐Ÿ”Ž The intrigue: The survey found a big gap between students' view of their administration's response to the war in Gaza, and how non-students see universities' response.

  • 70% of students said their institution is addressing antisemitism well. Just 37% of those not enrolled in higher education institutions think they're doing a good job.
  • 64% of students said their institutions are handling those who support pro-Palestinian issues well. Just 37% of non-students agreed.

Share this story.

2. ๐Ÿ’ฐ Students to Biden: Help pay our loans

Share who say the government should have some responsibility to help pay student loans
Data: The Harris Poll. Chart: Axios Visuals

Huge majorities of students in both parties say the government should do more to help them pay off their student loans, Axios' Margaret Talev and Noah Bressner write from a survey by The Harris Poll.

  • Why it matters: Among all adults, party ID drives deep differences of opinion on this question. But the gap all but disappears among U.S. students currently enrolled in undergraduate, graduate and professional institutions.

๐Ÿ”Ž Zoom in: 89% of Democratic students surveyed โ€” and 81% of Republicans โ€” said the government should offer some relief.

  • Compare that with the general population: 76% of Democrats โ€” but only 62% of independents and 47% of Republicans โ€” say the government should help.

๐Ÿคฏ Axios Vibe Check: The trends could spell trouble for President Biden as he tries to turn out younger voters.

  • "Biden's popular student loan program was struck down, but the genie is out of the bottle. ... In courting young voters, taking things away is not usually a good campaign strategy," Harris Poll CEO John Gerzema said.

Keep reading.

3. ๐ŸฅŠ TikTok trap: Biden chance to bully Trump

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

With an anti-TikTok bill passing the House by a huge margin (352-65), Senate Democrats are debating whether to give Biden what he's wanted for three years: a chance to bully former President Trump on China, Axios' Hans Nichols writes.

Why it matters: Biden has used his presidency to stake out hawkish positions toward Beijing. But he's never had the chance to clearly distinguish his approach from Trump's.

Dems' pros and cons on deleting TikTok:

  • The party learned from Trump that there's little downside to hitting Beijing. Trump started a trade war. Biden has extended it.
  • But some Democrats fear a backlash among young voters if they mess with the popular platform.
  • The decision is now in the hands of a 73-year-old senator โ€” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) โ€” who uses a flip phone. Biden says he'd sign the bill.

๐Ÿ”ฌ Between the lines: Schumer is signaling that he doesn't want to step in front of the anti-TikTok train and will defer to his committee chairs.

Keep reading.

4. ๐Ÿ“ˆ New this morning: Florida rising

Change in population, 2020 to 2023
Data: Census Bureau. Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

The country's top four fastest-growing metro areas are all in the Sunshine State, according to census figures out today.

  • ๐Ÿ—ฝ New York City lost nearly 78,000 residents in 2023, shrinking its population to 8.26 million. But city officials say that doesn't account for the influx of tens of thousands of asylum seekers last year. (NYT)

Explore the data.

5. โšก Historic first: Harris to visit abortion clinic

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at a rally in Denver on Tuesday.
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at a rally in Denver on Tuesday. Photo: Jason Connolly/AFP via Getty Images

Vice President Harris will visit an abortion clinic in Minnesota's Twin Cities area today โ€” a dramatic and symbolic move to emphasize the Biden administration's commitment to reproductive rights, Axios' Hans Nichols writes.

  • Why it matters: Harris will become the first president or vice president to tour an abortion clinic while in office, according to the White House.

Between the lines: Her visit is another indication that the Biden-Harris campaign considers reproductive rights to be one of the most potent and salient issues favoring Democrats in the 2024 election.

  • It's also a sign of the key role Harris is taking in trying to generate enthusiasm for the Democratic ticket among Black, Hispanic and young voters.

Keep reading.

6. ๐Ÿฆพ AI robot wars heat up

A Figure robot handing a person an apple.
Screenshot: Figure AI

Walking, dexterous robots are gradually making the leap from the science lab to the workplace with more sophisticated AI-driven software, Axios' Jennifer A. Kingson writes.

  • Why it matters: There's intense competition among humanoid robot manufacturers to get their products into the production lines of companies like Amazon and BMW.

๐Ÿค– Zoom in: An OpenAI-powered robot from a company called Figure was filmed using "common sense" to pick up an apple and hand it to a person who asked: "Can I have something to eat?"

  • The wild demonstration video for Figure 01, released yesterday, also showed the robot explaining in plain English why it acted in the way it did: "So I gave you the apple because it's the only uh edible item I could provide you with from the table."

Figure garnered a massive investment from Jeff Bezos and OpenAI. It's currently staffing a BMW production line.

  • A robot from Agility โ€” a Figure competitor โ€” is being tested by Amazon and GXO Logistics, which recently deployed it at a Spanx warehouse in Georgia.

Watch Figure's demo ... See Agility's robot ... Share the story.

7. ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Scoop: Biden's West Bank sanction plan

Israeli right-wing activists and settlers protest in the West Bank outpost of Homesh in 2021. It's unclear which outposts the expected second round of sanctions would target.
Israeli right-wing activists and settlers protest in the West Bank outpost of Homesh in 2021. It's unclear which outposts the sanctions would target. Photo: Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance via Getty Images

The Biden administration is expected to impose new sanctions as soon as today on two illegal outposts in the occupied West Bank that were used as a base for attacks by extremist Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians, Axios' Barak Ravid scoops.

  • Why it matters: The Biden administration is ratcheting up pressure on the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over a range of issues, including settler violence against Palestinians and the war in Gaza.

This will be the first time U.S. sanctions are imposed against entire outposts and not just against individuals.

  • There were nearly 500 Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians between Oct. 7, 2023 and Jan. 31 of this year, according to the UN humanitarian office.

Keep reading.

8. ๐Ÿ›๏ธ 1 fun thing: Mini totes go viral

Trader Joe's mini canvas tote bags are selling for inflated prices on third-party marketplaces. Photo: Courtesy of Stacey Tyko
Trader Joe's mini canvas tote bags are selling for inflated prices on third-party marketplaces. Photo: Stacey Tyko

Move over, Stanley cups. Trader Joe's mini tote bags are the latest product to go viral and end up on the resale market at hugely marked-up prices, Axios' Kelly Tyko writes.

  • The mini canvas bags โ€” which retail for $2.99 and come in four colors โ€” quickly sold out in stores across the country. They're listed on eBay for $18 to $500.

๐Ÿ‘€ Between the lines: More mini tote bags are coming and expected in late summer or September, Trader Joe's marketing exec Matt Sloan said on a company podcast.

๐Ÿ“ฌ Thanks for starting your morning with us. Please invite your friends to sign up.