Feb 25, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

⚜ Today is Mardi Gras!

  • 🥞 Happy Fat Tuesday — or, for Jon Meacham, Shrove Tuesday.
  • Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,194 words ... 4½ minutes.

🇪🇬 Breaking: Hosni Mubarak — the Egyptian strongman who had been likened to a modern-day pharaoh, then was deposed in 2011 by the popular unrest known as the Arab Spring — died today at 91. (N.Y. Times)

1 big thing: Sanders' historic Jewish fight

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Bernie Sanders would be the first Jewish nominee of a major American political party — but that milestone is being overshadowed by his conflicts with America's Jewish leaders and Israel's leadership, Axios' David Nather writes.

  • That's partly because we're all focusing on the implications of Democrats nominating a self-described democratic socialist. It's also because a candidate's religion no longer seems to matter as much to voters or the media, making the potential milestone of a Jewish nominee more of a non-event.

The intrigue: Sanders' policies toward Israel — and now his fight with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — are causing his critics on the right to argue that the potential first Jewish nominee might not be sufficiently pro-Israel.

  • The source of conflict is Sanders' determination to condition aid to Israel on better treatment of Palestinians. "What U.S. foreign policy must be about is not just being pro-Israel. We must be pro-Palestinian, as well," he said during the December Democratic debate.
  • That would be a major break from past U.S. policy, one that Sanders would probably have a hard time getting through Congress.
  • He's also a fierce critic of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom he's called a "racist."
  • But he told the liberal Jewish group J Street in October that his Judaism might be "helpful" if Republicans try to go after him for being anti-Israel or even anti-Semitic: "It’s going to be very hard for anybody to call me, whose father’s family was wiped out by Hitler, who spent time in Israel, an anti-Semite."
Screenshot via CNN

🗞️ The (Columbia) State, South Carolina's second-biggest paper, endorses Pete Buttigieg, citing his "aspirational yet realistic plans." (Go deeper.)

2. Virus "infodemic"
A barber cuts hair near a disinfection notice at a salon in Beijing. Photo: Olivia Zhang/AP

The coronavirus spread is being matched, or even outrun, by the spread on social media of both unintentional misinformation and malicious disinformation, Axios' Eileen Drage O'Reilly writes.

  • Why it matters: The bad information is undermining trust in governments, global health organizations, nonprofits and scientists — the very institutions organizing the global response to what may be turning into a pandemic.

What's new: This is one of the first times the public has been able to see an epidemic unfold in real time.

Three main actors are driving misinformation:

  1. People trying to inform friends and family without vetting the info.
  2. Entities aiming to harm China's government.
  3. "Longer-term actors in the disinformation space that find this an extremely useful vehicle ... to undermine trust in governments, NGOs and fact-based media," University of Washington professor Carl Bergstrom says. These include Russian and other trolls or bots that rile up anger and confusion.

Platforms' response: Twitter and Facebook say they try to place authoritative information up top. But it's still pretty easy to go down conspiracy rabbit holes.

3. #MeToo milestone: Harvey in handcuffs
Harvey Weinstein is handcuffed after his guilty verdict in Manhattan. Courtroom sketch: Jane Rosenberg for Reuters

Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, the N.Y. Times reporters who helped ignite the #MeToo movement in 2017 with the first Harvey Weinstein exposé, write that his conviction for two felony sex crimes "delivered what many people declared a victory for the global movement against sexual misconduct."

  • "It’s a perfect test case of what happens when a culture begins to shift," said Deborah Tuerkheimer, a law professor at Northwestern.
  • "Weinstein’s more than 90 accusers ... reacted to the verdict with relief, tears and gratitude that the law had spoken for them."
Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP

Corps of women covered Weinstein trial ... Much of what the world has seen and heard about Weinstein’s rape trial came from women journalists — the regulars at the Manhattan courthouse who would be there reporting regardless of whether a celebrity was involved, AP's Mary Altaffer writes.

  • They’ve put their natural journalistic competitiveness aside to go through their notes to ensure they’re accurately quoting testimony, despite the courtroom’s shoddy sound system and the constant wail of sirens outside.
  • Keep reading.
4. Pics du jour: Trump's 36 hours in India
Photos (clockwise from upper left): Rajesh Kumar Singh/AP, Alex Brandon/AP, Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images (2)

President Trump said in New Delhi today "that India will buy $3 billion worth of military equipment, including attack helicopters, as the two countries deepen defense and commercial ties in an attempt to balance the weight of China in the region," Reuters reports.

  • Trump said India and the U.S. are making "tremendous progress" on a big trade deal.
  • More than 100,000 people filled the world's largest cricket stadium yesterday for a "Namaste Trump" rally.

Below, Trump offers floral respects at Raj Ghat, the Mahatma Gandhi memorial:

Photo: Alex Brandon/AP
5. New data: Tech's growing trust gap
Graphic: Edelman 2020 Trust Barometer

The backlash against Big Tech has flourished among pundits and policymakers, but a new survey suggests it's beginning to show up in global popular opinion as well, Axios chief tech correspondent Ina Fried writes from S.F.

  • New data from Edelman, the global communications firm, finds a global decline in trust in tech companies — plus a gap between how people feel about the industry as a whole and how they feel about cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence.

Edelman's 2020 Trust Barometer, which surveyed 34,000+ people in 28 countries, found that tech is still one of the most trusted industry sectors.

  • Far more people trust the tech industry broadly than AI specifically.
  • Similarly, more trust the food-and-beverage industry overall than cell-cultured meats and gene editing.
6. Historic Antarctic melt

Photo: Rodrigo Jana/AP

Eagle Island, near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, lost "about 20 percent of the seasonal snow accumulation in the region" during a heat wave this month, the Washington Post's Andrew Freedman reports.

  • Why it matters: Temperatures on the peninsula, "one of the fastest-warming parts of the globe," topped 69 degrees on Feb. 9, "which if verified would be the ice-covered continent’s hottest temperature on record."

JPMorgan Chase said yesterday that it won’t directly finance new oil and gas development in the Arctic and will significantly curtail its financing of the extraction and burning of coal, writes Axios' Amy Harder.

7. America's flawed addiction treatment

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Drug overdoses kill tens of thousands of Americans a year, but addiction treatment is often inaccessible, Axios' Caitlin Owens writes.

  • Only 15% of patients in residential drug treatment centers received medication-assisted treatment in 2015, although it's widely agreed that anti-addiction medicines are the most effective treatment for opioid abuse.
  • Fraud has also been a problem. For example, in Florida, "sober homes" for people in recovery have been caught scamming insurance companies time and again.
  • Insurance companies are required to cover mental health on par with their physical health coverage, but have often ignored those rules. That can result in families paying huge out-of-pocket costs for treatment, or people suffering from addiction simply going untreated.

The bottom line: Providers, insurers and regulators all need to do a lot more if we're going to have a functioning addiction treatment system.

8. 🎬 Netflix debuts top 10 lists

Netflix, always tight-lipped about the popularity of its shows, is taking a step toward transparency with country-by-country top 10 lists, Bloomberg reports.

  • Netflix announced: "In addition to the overall top 10 list, you’ll also be able to see the top 10 most popular series and top 10 films when you click on the movies and TV shows tabs."
9. 🏀 L.A. thanks Kobe
Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images
For two decades, Kobe Bryant owned the Staples Center court with courage under pressure. For 20 minutes Monday morning, Vanessa Bryant did the same.
— L.A. Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke

Keep reading.

  • Watch: Kobe and Gianna Bryant eulogized by Vanessa Bryant and Michael Jordan.
Courtesy N.Y. Post
10. 1 social thing: Leaning Tower of Dallas
Photo: LM Otero/AP

Megan Dority poses for a photo with the so-called Leaning Tower of Dallas yesterday as a crew works to topple the 11-story building, which found a second life online after surviving a demolition attempt.

  • The building was compared to Italy's Leaning Tower of Pisa after a Feb. 16 implosion failed to bring down its core. Some explosives didn't go off. (AP)
Mike Allen

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