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February 05, 2023

🥞 Good morning! Axios' Erica Pandey, at [email protected], is your Sunday steward.

  • Smart Brevity™ count: 1,149 words ... 4½ minutes. Edited by Donica Phifer.

1 big thing: China crashes Biden's State of the Union

The balloon drifts toward the ocean off the coast of Surfside Beach, S.C., after being shot down. Photo: Randall Hill/Reuters

China will be an uninvited guest at President Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, as he takes credit for a resilient economy, celebrates record-low unemployment, and previews a broader domestic agenda, writes Axios' Hans' Nichols.

  • Why it matters: The stakes are high for Biden as he emphasizes a series of accomplishments and tries to control the narrative about his administration as it faces investigations by House Republicans.
  • Now, a balloon from China has complicated that.

What we're watching, via Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahamian in Taipei:

  • The spy balloon incident has derailed months of careful planning between Washington and Beijing to reach some kind of diplomatic detente.
  • In recent months, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has adopted a softer tone in his dealings with western countries, in what appears to be a strategic turn away from direct confrontation as he faces serious domestic challenges. 
  • Sending a spy balloon directly over the continental U.S. is a remarkable provocation and would seem to fly in the face of this new strategy.

Biden and his speechwriters are prepared to be nimble — and likely rewrite — the China sections of the speech, as officials weigh Beijing's response to the U.S. military's downing of the surveillance balloon after it drifted across North America.

  • The president's challenge is to signal to Beijing that violating America’s airspace won’t be tolerated, while also convincing Americans — and skeptical Republicans — that he did enough to protect U.S. airspace.
  • Biden said that on Wednesday he ordered the balloon to be shot down and that national security officials thought it safest to wait until it was over water. China insisted the flyover was an accident involving a civilian aircraft and threatened repercussions, AP notes.

The president also wants to preserve his administration’s ability to cooperate with China on everything from the global economy to climate change.

2. Black entrepreneurship booms

Illustration of a dollar sign made out of signs saying "open."

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

In 2020, Black-owned small businesses were closing twice as fast as other businesses. But now they've bounced back harder, Axios' Erica Pandey writes.

The big picture: The last couple of years have ushered in a Black entrepreneurship boom.

  • In 2021, Black-owned businesses were started at the fastest clip in 26 years, The Washington Post reports.
  • The number of Black business owners was 28% higher in the third quarter of 2021 than it was pre-pandemic, per U.S. News and World Report.
  • Other groups are starting more businesses, too. The number of white business owners was 5% higher in 2021's third quarter than pre-pandemic, and the number of Latino entrepreneurs was 19% higher. But the biggest change is in Black communities.

What's happening: Many Black entrepreneurs across the country used federal stimulus checks to start businesses.

  • The top sector where Black owners are creating businesses is health care, Andre Perry of the Brookings Institution tells NPR. Many of the startups are in home health care, contact tracing, or vaccine distribution.

Reality check: Although many Black entrepreneurs are starting businesses, most of these startups are micro-businesses, where the owner is also the sole employee, Perry tells Axios.

  • Black people represent 14% of the U.S. population, but just 2% of owners of employer firms, which are businesses that employ people, he says.
  • "Wealth is the major driver," Perry says. Employer firms are bigger and require more capital than many Black small business owners have access to due to racial disparities in who gets loans.

But the effect of the stimulus investment in Black communities can be a lesson, he notes. We shouldn't just say we need to invest in people during a pandemic."

3. Biden barrels ahead with '24 changes

Biden, with Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), after winning South Carolina's 2020 primary. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The DNC voted in Philadelphia yesterday to barrel ahead with President Biden's plan to give Democrats' first 2024 primary slot to South Carolina, and to boot Iowa from the list of early contests.

  • Why it matters: Biden's plan has faced fierce resistance from New Hampshire Democrats. They fear his makeover could single-handedly put the blue-leaning state in play, by upending a calendar tradition that has put Iowa and the Granite State up front for 48 years, Axios' Josh Kraushaar and Andrew Solender report.

Here's how the switch-up could change the 2024 race:

  • It empowers Black voters — in South Carolina and Michigan, another new early primary state — and sidelines one of the most homogeneous states on the map, Iowa, where 90% of 2020 caucus voters were white.
  • It creates two different maps for the two parties. Iowa and New Hampshire are still key for the Republicans. Case in point: Nikki Haley is headed to both states after she kicks off her campaign.

President Biden proposed the new calendar in December, saying the order of Democratic primaries should be adjusted to allow states with racially diverse populations to have more of a say in early presidential contests, which can set the tone for the rest of a campaign.

Between the lines: Biden is polling poorly in New Hampshire and could have been vulnerable to a primary challenger exposing some of his weaknesses.

  • “Black Democrats narrowly prefer nominating Biden (47%) over someone else (41%), while 64% of white Democrats want someone other than Biden," per a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

But keep in mind we may never see this map in action if Biden runs and doesn’t face a credible primary challenger.

4. ✈️ Big planes are back in

An Emirates double-decker Airbus A380 lands. Photo: Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Airlines grounded their biggest planes during the pandemic, but big is back in as demand for long-haul international travel rebounds.

📈 Stunning stat: Boeing and Airbus saw a 64% jump in orders for bigger jets between 2021 and 2022, The Wall Street Journal reports.

  • That included a mega order from United Airline for 100 Boeing 787s.
  • And airlines like British Airways and Lufthansa are once again flying their double-decker aircrafts, which were largely left to collect dust over the last few years, The Journal notes.

5. ⚖️ Rethink weighing

Illustration of a pattern of stethoscopes.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

What would you change about your doctor's office? The New York Times asked readers.

  • “Rethink the constant weighing," Katherine Stanford from Alexandria, Virginia wrote to The Times.
  • "For doctors who insist on weighing you at every visit, even for strep throat, move that scale out of the hallway and into an exam room. (One of my doctors has you weigh yourself in the exam room on a manual scale, and then leave it for a nurse to record.) And don’t weigh someone and then immediately take their blood pressure!”

One doctor's office went viral on Twitter recently for placing cards that say, "Please don't weigh me unless it's (really) medically necessary," for patients to grab and show their doctors during visits.

6. 🌬️ Record-setting winds

Photo: Robert F. Bukaty/AP

Arctic sea smoke rises from the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Portland, Maine, on Saturday.

  • Dangerously cold sub-zero temperatures swept the Northeast yesterday, and the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire hit a new record low wind chill of minus 108 degrees Fahrenheit.