Sep 20, 2021

Axios AM

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  • Smart Brevity™ count: 1,174 words ... 4½ minutes. Edited by Zachary Basu.

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1 big thing: Travel revolution
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Data: TSA. Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky will argue this week that the world is undergoing a "travel revolution," in which some parts of the industry stay shrunk but the sector ultimately comes back "bigger than ever."

  • Why it matters: Chesky, who faced the abyss when the world shut down last year, foresees a significant shift in how people move around, with more intentional gatherings of family, friends and colleagues — even if routine business travel is never what it once was.

Chesky will unveil his "revolution" this week at the Skift Global Forum, a gathering of travel-industry leaders (in-person, of course — vaccinated-only, near JFK airport). Among Chesky's top points:

  • Travel will be back bigger than ever — just not like it was in 2019. After isolating, he'll say, people want to come together.
  • The flexibility created by remote work is driving this shift. Zoom is the latest to disrupt travel, following revolutions by steam engines, mass-produced cars and commercial air travel.

A factor helping the travel business, Chesky will argue:

  • Extended weekends are on the rise. Airbnb says bookings for three- and four- day weekends with families were up 70% from Q2 2019 to Q2 2021.
  • Long-term stays (28+ nights) were Airbnb's fastest-growing trip-length category in Q2 data. Airbnb says its surveys show people plan to continue extended getaways.

✈️ Reality check: New data out today will show the Delta variant is derailing fall travel plans, Hope King reports for Axios Markets.

  • Thanksgiving domestic flight bookings in August were 18% lower this year compared with 2019, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.

The big picture: Domestic flight demand remains far off pre-pandemic levels.

  • Online bookings last month reached $4 billion, a decline of 35% from August 2019.

Share Chesky's preview.

2. Governments hold upper hand online

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Governments around the world are finding it easier than ever to make the internet, and the companies that run it, knuckle under, Axios managing Scott Rosenberg reports.

  • On Friday, Russia forced Apple and Google to remove an app that supporters of dissident leader Alexei Navalny had created to coordinate opposition votes in Russian elections.
  • Also last week, China's government removed nearly all online content connected with one of its top movie stars, as part of a broader campaign against the power of celebrities. "Erased from the Internet," as The Wall Street Journal put it (subscription).

The big picture: Governments are limiting or banning applications, content and connectivity itself — and Big Tech companies, rich and powerful as they are, can't or won't fight back.

  • From the Arab Spring to Black Lives Matter protests, the internet helped organizers build popular movements and even overthrow governments.
  • But the tables have turned: Technology is giving entrenched leaders and parties an effective lever to bolster their power.

Share this story.

3. Roadblock for Dems' immigration plan

Screenshot: CNN

The Senate parliamentarian ruled last night that Democrats can't include pathways to citizenship in the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package, Axios' Stef Kight reports.

  • Why it matters: It's a blow to Democrats' hopes of providing pathways for millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

At issue was how tightly the provision relates to the budget.

  • "Changing the law to clear the way to [legal permanent residence] status is tremendous and enduring policy change that dwarfs its budgetary impact," the parliamentarian wrote in the ruling.

The reconciliation route would have allowed Democrats to pass politically contentious immigration changes with only 50 Senate votes, as opposed to the usual 60 required.

  • The plan would have provided green cards for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status holders and undocumented essential workers.

Context: It's the second time since President Biden took office that the parliamentarian has clipped Democratic efforts to push the limits of reconciliation. The first time stopped efforts to raise the minimum wage.

What to watch: Democrats plan to go back to the parliamentarian to see if there are other routes.

4. Pic du jour
Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

Seen from atop the Washington Monument, 660,000+ white flags form the "In America: Remember" art installation, commemorating Americans lost to COVID.

  • The flags will be on the National Mall through Oct. 3.

Go deeper ... Dedicate a flag.

5. U.S. flies migrants back to Haiti

Migrants board a Coast Guard plane yesterday at Del Rio International Airport in Texas. Photo: Marco Bello/Reuters

300+ Haitians returned home after the U.S. flew them back from Texas, leaving would-be migrants angry about their failed search for a better life outside their impoverished country, Reuters reports from Port-au-Prince.

  • 12,000+ migrants are packed under — and beside — International Bridge in Del Rio, Texas, after wading across the Rio Grande, CNN reports.
Drone's-eye view of the bridge yesterday. Photo: Adrees Latif/Reuters

Plants from the Rio Grande are being used for roofs on the makeshift city sprawling out from the bridge, NBC's Morgan Chesky reported.

  • Border Patrol agent Brandon Judd told ABC News near the bridge: "We’ve never seen anything like this. This is completely and totally out of the norm of anything that we've ever seen."
6. 📊 Stat: Vax-hostile Alabama is literally shrinking

A vaccination event in Birmingham, Ala., on Aug. 28. Photo: Andi Rice/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Alabama, which has one of the country's lowest COVID vaccination rates, recorded more deaths in 2020 than births — a first in state history.

  • Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris says it could happen again in 2021 — the state is literally shrinking, Alabama News Network reports.
  • The Yellowhammer State had 65,000 deaths last year, compared to 58,000 births — a gap of 7,000.

Harris said: "We’re going to have around six or seven thousand more people who died in our state this past year than any year we have ever had, going back to the year 1900. That’s how far I’ve asked our staff to go back." (

7. Alabama tries again on racist constitution

Two female African American students arrive at West End School in Birmingham, Ala., on the first day of the city's desegregation of schools — Sept. 4, 1963. Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Alabama lawmakers are working to strip racist language from the state constitution. Voters will get their say in '22 if the process keeps moving.

  • Efforts to rewrite the constitution have failed twice in the past 20 years. But "jolted partly by racial justice protests across the country," a committee of lawmakers and lay people began the redrafting process this month, The New York Times reports (subscription).

Nearly 70 years after the Supreme Court ruled out segregation in public schools, this language remains in Alabama's governing document, AP notes:

  • "Separate schools shall be provided for white and colored children, and no child of either race shall be permitted to attend a school of the other race."

Alabama's "Committee on the Recompilation of the Constitution" meets again Oct. 13.

8. Streamers win the Emmys
"Ted Lasso" winners (from left): Jeremy Swift, Phil Dunster, Brett Goldstein, Hannah Waddingham, Jason Sudeikis, Juno Temple, Nick Mohammed, Brendan Hunt. Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images

Netflix's "The Crown" and "The Queen's Gambit" combined with Apple TV+'s "Ted Lasso" to sweep top series honors at the Emmy Awards, a first for streaming services that cemented their rise to prominence in the television industry, AP reports.

  • Netflix led with 44 awards, equaling the broadcast network record set in 1974 by CBS.

Reality check: "No performers of color won in any of the comedy, drama or limited series categories despite some of the strongest contenders in years," L.A. Times TV critic Lorraine Ali notes.

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