Oct 27, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🎬 "Axios on HBO" returns tonight at 6 p.m. ET/PT.

  • See a clip of Sen. Kamala Harris talking to Axios' Margaret Talev in Iowa.

Happy Sunday! Thank you to the Axios AM/PM readers who stopped me at Nats Park last night. It was humbling and encouraging — I love our daily conversations.

1 big thing: Why the Baghdadi raid matters
An image from militant video purports to show Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi preaching at a mosque in Mosul, Iraq in 2014. Photo via Getty Images

President Trump's expected announcement at 9 a.m. ET of the death of shadowy ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi makes this one of the most important days of the Trump presidency, Jonathan Swan writes.

  • Why it matters: A man who inspired mass murder and multinational terrorism is now dead.
  • The killing also, ironically, underscores the importance and effectiveness of U.S. special forces stationed in Syria, a couple weeks after Trump said it was time to bring them all home and end the endless wars.

The big picture: The al-Baghdadi raid demonstrates value of continued U.S. engagement in the region, and helps explain why Iraq’s president and others are so worried about Trump’s planned retreat.

  • 🎥 See a clip of Iraqi President Barham Salih talking to Swan in Baghdad on tonight's edition of "Axios on HBO."

The story began emerging late last night, with Trump tweeting at 9:23 p.m.: "Something very big has just happened!" Here are the overnight details from AP:

  • Al-Baghdadi, who presided over ISIS' global jihad and became arguably the world's most wanted man, is believed dead after being targeted by a U.S. military raid in Syria.
  • Al-Baghdadi and his wife detonated explosive vests they were wearing during the U.S. commando operation, a U.S. official told AP. He added that other IS leaders were killed in the attack.
  • The operation's success could prove a major boost for Trump. The recent pullback of U.S. troops he ordered from northeastern Syria raised a storm of bipartisan criticism in Washington that the militant group could regain strength after it had lost vast stretches of territory it had once controlled.

The backstory, from AP: The Islamic State group erupted from the chaos of Syria and Iraq's conflicts and swiftly did what no Islamic militant group had done before, conquering a giant stretch of territory and declaring itself a "caliphate."

  • Its territorial rule, which at its height in 2014 stretched across nearly a third of both Syria and Iraq, ended in March with a last stand by its militants.
2. Axios 2020 Attention Tracker: The Warren-Sanders turning point
Expand chart
Data: RealClearPolitics. Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

In the first week of April, the tide of the Democratic primary flipped, leading to the emergence of Elizabeth Warren — not Bernie Sanders — as the clear progressive favorite in the 2020 field, Axios' Neal Rothschild writes.

  • Why it matters: That week coincides with the release of her student debt cancellation plan — the story that has generated more interactions on social media than any other piece about Warren this year, according to data from NewsWhip provided exclusively to Axios.
  • While Warren's other plans, including the wealth tax, may get cited more frequently, none pulled in more interactions on social media (likes, comments, shares) than Forbes' writeup of the student debt plan (493,000 interactions).
  • The student debt plan and the polling shift are correlated, but that doesn't prove causation.

Warren's move on student debt and subsequent rise in national polls coincides with a major polling surge among young voters.

  • Sanders also got a massive wave of interest from his student loan cancellation plan, but he might have been late to the punch.

Go deeper: The Axios 2020 Attention Tracker library.

3. Next robot frontier: Vision

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Machine vision is a crucial missing link holding back the robotization of industries like manufacturing and shipping, Axios' Kaveh Waddell writes in the twice-weekly Axios Future newsletter.

  • Why it matters: Machine vision can help robots navigate spaces previously closed to them, like a crowded warehouse floor or a cluttered front lawn. And it's critical for tasks that require dexterity, like packing a box

In a report first shared with Axios, LDV Capital, a venture firm that invests in visual technologies, predicts an upheaval in manufacturing and logistics, driven primarily by computer vision.

  • In China, some "lights-off" factories have been built to operate without a single human present.

A big unsolved problem is imbuing robots with a deeper understanding of the world around them, so that they can interpret what they see.

  • Even if we see a cloud perfectly shaped like a horse, we never actually think it's a flying horse, because we get how clouds work.
  • "You can do Roomba, but not Rosie the Robot," says Gary Marcus, co-founder of robotics company Robust.ai.

Share this story.

4. 🌍 Frustration over inequality boils into protests around globe
In Beirut, Lebanon, a riot policeman removes an anti-government protester who was blocking a main highway with her body yesterday. Photo: Hussein Malla/AP

This month's mass protests in Asia, Europe, South America, the Caribbean and the Middle East were fueled by local grievances, but reflect worldwide frustration at inequality, corrupt elites and broken promises, AP's Joseph Krauss reports:

  • Where past waves of protests, like the 2011 Arab Spring or the rallies that accelerated the breakup of the Soviet Union, took aim at dictatorships, the latest demonstrations are rattling elected governments.
  • These are the "last straw" riots: In Hong Kong, it was an extradition dispute involving a murder suspect. In Beirut, it was a proposed tax on WhatsApp. In Chile, it was a 4-cent hike in subway fares.

Why it matters: The unrest on three continents, coupled with the toxic dysfunction in Washington and London, raises fresh concerns over whether the liberal international order, with free elections and free markets, can still deliver.

5. ⚖️ Impeachment probers take a Saturday deposition
House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff enters a closed session yesterday. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Phil Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, told House impeachment investigators Saturday "that top officials stymied a show of solidarity for the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine after President Trump had her removed," the Wall Street Journal reports (subscription).

  • "The House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Mr. Reeker’s testimony after the State Department directed him not to appear."

Reeker said he was disturbed by the effort to oust Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and had supported efforts by some officials in the department to put out statements of support that weren't allowed to be released. (AP)

6. The talk of the Series: Games running 4 hours
Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa slides into home at Nationals Park on Friday. Photo: Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images

"The Late Show" ... So far, games in this Fall Classic are averaging 3 hours, 54 minutes, meaning they end at midnight, AP's Ben Walker writes:

  • In 2017, nine-inning World Series games averaged 3:16.
  • Last year, nine-inning games took 3:30.

The break between half-innings is now 2 minutes, 55 seconds, up from the 2:05 for most regular-season games.

Photo: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

At Nationals Park and Minute Maid Park, there have been plenty of empty seats at the end.

  • And on TV, Wednesday's Nats blowout was the lowest rated Game 2 ever.
📺 Bonus: 1 tube thing
Screenshot via NBC

The "Saturday Night Live" cold open was a rally by "President Trump," played by Alec Baldwin, with Darrell Hammond playing President Clinton (but looking like Al Gore, to be honest) as he crashed the podium:

  • When "Trump" said he was getting impeached, Hammond replied: "You are? You dirty dog!"
  • "No, it’s not for that," Baldwin replied.
  • With a "Mark Zuckerberg" cameo: "Hello. Project. Eye contact. Friendly laugh."
  • Video.

Michael Che during "Weekend Update" (via N.Y. Times' Dave Itzkoff):

  • "Somehow Giuliani went from the mayor of 9/11 to the 9/11 of mayors."
  • Video.
Mike Allen

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