❄️ Good Monday morning. NFL's final four ... Super Bowl LIII race is down to L.A. Rams vs. New Orleans Saints for NFC crown, and Pats vs. Kansas City Chiefs for AFC.
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios
A huge challenge for 2020 candidates will be navigating these tandem trends:
It's a fact that humans are living longer, healthier, safer, more comfortable lives.
Several journalists have recently made a similar case:
All that euphoria is based on data and reality. But it sounds tone-deaf if you're part of the majority of America, which isn't enjoying the escalating affluence inside the bubbles along the coasts.
CFR President Richard Haass — whose most recent book title, "A World in Disarray," sends a very different message — tells me that the super-optimists are fooling themselves: "[T]he trends are bad ... And third, global security is eroding."
Haass said the many examples "where things are getting worse is much more extensive and significant." He rattled off quite a list:
Here's how Axios future editor Steve LeVine put it when I asked him about this conundrum: "The trouble is that these very long arc analyses look mindless against the chaos and unhappiness in front of all our eyes."
Be smart: Howard Wolfson — who advised Hillary Clinton in her first presidential campaign, and has spent a lot of time thinking about the country as he revs up for a potential run by Mike Bloomberg — warns that the loss of opportunity in major swaths of the U.S. is "more relevant to Americans than the rise of living standards in the developing world or space exploration."
House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff clearly will escalate "his effort to obtain notes or testimony from the interpreter" in a Trump-Putin meeting, per the N.Y. Times.
Be smart ... Trump's presidency has been consumed with one simple question: Did he collude with Russia? So he not only only meets privately with Putin, he then goes and tells the interpreter to hand over the notes and stay silent.
P.S. "White House aides expressed regret that the president did not more clearly and forcefully deny being a Russian agent when asked by the usually friendly Fox News host" Jeanine Pirro when he called into her show Saturday night. (AP)
📈 Datapoint: The N.Y. Times says that half of last week's 20 most-read stories online "concerned the government shutdown and/or what caused it."
Here's a fascinating example of how President Trump has not only transformed basic beliefs of Republicans, but has also moved opinion among Democrats:
Remarkable new polling data on Syria shows "that the vast bulk of support for keeping troops there comes from Democratic Party voters, while Republicans and independents overwhelming favor their removal," Glenn Greenwald writes on The Intercept.
"With Trump rather than Obama now advocating troop withdrawal," that's changed:
P.S. ... WashPost: "A multipronged effort by alarmed U.S. national security officials, foreign allies and Republican hawks in Congress to significantly alter or reverse Trump’s decision [to pull out of Syria] was effectively a bust."
Above: A snow family greets D.C.'s first major snowfall since 2016.
Below: Morgan Miller carries her 1-year-old daughter, Mia Jennings, as she shovels the stairs to her home in Springfield, Ill.
Above: Noah Shober makes a snow angel outside his home in Terre Haute, Ind.
Below: A man uses a kite to snowboard on the National Mall yesterday.
Last year's tax reform spurred stronger-than-expected car sales by giving consumers more disposable income, but the payback will come this spring when many Americans could discover they're not getting the tax refund they had expected, Axios' Joann Muller reports.
The bottom line: The U.S. auto industry sold 17.2 million cars and light trucks in 2018 — the fourth-best year in history. Cox Automotive sees U.S. auto sales falling to 16.8 million units in 2019 — a drop of 400,000 vehicles, or about 2%.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
⚡ Breaking: PG&E CEO Geisha Williams, who led California’s largest investor-owned utility for less than two years, stepped down last evening. (S.F. Chronicle)
A battle between California politicians and PG&E, the state's largest utility, is being waged over who should have to pay the price of wildfire damage in recent years, Axios' Courtenay Brown and science editor Andrew Freedman write.
Be smart: PG&E's predicament could be repeated elsewhere as the impacts of climate change hit increasingly hard.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Sure, we all share this one planet. But the warming Earth is poised to divide — not unite — us, Amy Harder writes in her weekly energy column, "Harder Line":
What’s next: As the world warms more and the renewable-energy transition increases, other divisions could emerge:
"The U.S.’s biggest public companies are warning that their earnings may not be as strong as they hoped this year," the Wall Street Journal's Akane Otani reports (subscription):
Why it matters: "The drop-off in estimates ... is the latest sign that U.S. corporations, from retailers and airlines to phone makers, are losing momentum after several quarters of standout growth."
HBO Films has a fast-turnaround Brexit movie, debuting Saturday at 9 p.m. (in partnership with BBC Studios, Channel 4 and House Productions):
"The film is [an] insider’s look at the political disruptors and the war room antics behind the Leave campaign."
⚡ HBO announced that the eighth and final season of "Game of Thrones" will kick off on Sunday, April 14.
As The Atlantic's Taylor Lorenz reports, these "world record" accounts aren't a new phenomenon on Instagram — this just happens to be the one that achieved massive, viral success.