September 25, 2017

Happy Monday! Tomorrow is 250 days of President Trump; yesterday was 250 days of Axios.

1 big thing: America's great divide

Most of America is deteriorating economically.

  • Economic prosperity is concentrated in America's elite ZIP Codes, but economic stability outside of those communities is rapidly deteriorating.

That's the stark conclusion by Axios tech editor Kim Hart, in one of the most sobering pieces we have run in the eight months since we launched.

  • What that means: U.S. geographical economic inequality is growing, meaning your economic opportunity is more tied to your location than ever before.
  • A large portion of the country is being left behind by today's economy, according to a county-by-county report released this morning by the Economic Innovation Group, a non-profit research and advocacy organization.

Key findings:

New jobs are clustered in the economy's best-off places, leaving one of every four new jobs for the bottom 60% of ZIP Codes.Most of today's distressed communities have seen zero net gains in employment and business establishment since 2000. In fact, more than half have seen net losses on both fronts.Half of adults living in distressed ZIP Codes are attempting to find gainful employment in the modern economy armed with only a high school education at best.The healthier the economy, the healthier the person: People in distressed communities die five years earlier.The map: The fastest growing Western cities (such as Gilbert, Ariz., and Plano, Texas) and "tech hubs" (Seattle, San Francisco, Austin) dominate the list of the most prosperous cities in the country. Cities that were once industrial powerhouses in the Midwest and Northeast, like Cleveland and Newark, are now more likely to be on the distressed end of the spectrum.The cycle: Fewer new companies are forming than ever before, which disproportionately hurts distressed communities. The new businesses that do get started are often located in thriving communities where educated workers are. So talented people are forced to leave places with little economic opportunity — even if they have personal and family reasons to stay — to move to those where there is opportunity.Be smart: This isn't a Republican or Democratic problem. At every level of government, both parties represent distressed areas. But the economic fortunes of haves and have-nots have widened the political chasm, which hasn't been addressed by substantial policy proposals from either side.See how your city stacks up.

2. Our NFL takeaways

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell tells Sports Illustrated's Peter King that yesterday's demonstrations "reflected the frustration, the disappointment, of the players over the divisive rhetoric [from Trump]. ... People love coming together around football. We saw nothing but exciting football."

And President Trump told reporters as he boarded Air Force One in New Jersey last night: "[T]his has nothing to do with race. I've never said anything about race. This has nothing to do with race or anything else. This has to do with respect for our country, and respect for our flag."

Both protagonists were able to claim victory after the weekend's sudden drama.

  • The massive unknown is whether President Trump will drop this topic for another, as he has so often, or make this a crusade.

Our takeaways:

  • The NFL thinks this turned out to be a unifying moment for the league, but hopes Trump moves on.
  • Players were angry but the reaction wound up controlled — there could have been much more chaos.
  • For the NFL, this was a distraction from the core product: People tune in to watch games, not politics.
  • Any time you have to say something's not about race, you have a problem.
  • Republicans think the confrontation ultimately helps them with Middle America — their voters.
  • But I hear from a rising swath that wishes Trump would focus on the country's real problems.
  • We're at least as divided as ever. This weekend showed that no part of our lives is off-limits.

Overheard 1: "My fantasy player kneeled. Now I have to drop him."

Overheard 2: "Fantasy leagues should give a point for kneeling."

Groundhog Day ... "Trump's War With NFL Threatens to Overshadow Rollout of Tax Plan."

3. Tech at war with world

The political environment for Facebook gets rougher with this WashPost tour de force ...

"Nine days after Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg dismissed as 'crazy' the idea that fake news on his company's social network played a key role in the U.S. election, President Barack Obama pulled the youthful tech billionaire aside and delivered what he hoped would be a wake-up call," Adam Entous, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg write:

  • "[H]uddled in a private room on the sidelines of a meeting of world leaders in Lima, Peru, two months before Trump's inauguration, Obama made a personal appeal to Zuckerberg to take the threat of fake news and political disinformation seriously."
  • "Zuckerberg acknowledged the problem posed by fake news. But he told Obama that those messages weren't widespread on Facebook and that there was no easy remedy."
  • Why it matters: "Like the U.S. government, Facebook didn't foresee the wave of disinformation that was coming and the political pressure that followed. The company then grappled with a series of hard choices designed to shore up its own systems without impinging on free discourse for its users around the world."

P.S. "Mark Zuckerberg Can't Stop You From Reading This Because The Algorithms Have Already Won ... And the machines are running the asylum," by BuzzFeed's Charlie Warzel:

  • "[T]he algorithms increasingly appear to have more power to shape lives than the people who designed and maintain them."
  • Why it matters: "[T]he always-learning AI-powered technology behind our search engines and our newsfeeds quietly shapes and reshapes the information we discover and even how we perceive it."


4. Megatrends: A surprise in Europe

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's election to a fourth term was marred by a bigger-than-expected success for her nationalist opponents — the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany.

  • The AfD capitalised on Germany's refugee crisis and will surge into the Bundestag as the first substantial rightwing populist party since the Nazis during the second world war, per the Financial Times (subscription).
  • The anti-immigration, anti-Islam AfD nearly tripled its result from 2013.

How we got here ... "German Results Reflect European Unease Over Identity, Economy," by Wall Street Journal's Marcus Walker in Berlin, on A1:

  • "Germany's election result confirms the overriding trend of European politics in the past year: the crumbling of the Continent's established parties in the face of voter anxiety over economics and identity."
  • "The fragmented vote mirrors this year's elections in other Continental European countries including France and the Netherlands. Established parties have suffered steep losses, especially on the center left, and voters have turned to upstarts on the nationalist right, the anticapitalist left or the liberal center."
  • Why it matters: "The upheavals partly reflect the fallout of a decade marked by economic, security and immigration crises that have tested the cohesion of the European Union."
  • "The future direction of the EU and its major nations is now up for grabs in a fluid contest between internationalists and nationalists, incumbents and insurgents."

Be smart: The nationalist/populist wave that produced Brexit and President Trump faltered in recent European elections, but persists in ways the establishment hasn't yet fully reckoned with.

5. Data du jour: Best investment since 1926

"In the history of the markets since 1926, Apple has generated more profit for investors than any other American company," the N.Y. Times' Jeff Sommer reports.

  • See the 50 companies that created the most wealth from 1926 to 2016.
  • Bonus stat: "30 stocks account for 30 percent of the net wealth generated by stocks in the past nine decades."

6. Air conditioners play catch-up

Today's weekly "Harder Line" energy column by Axios' Amy Harder is born out of her own experience — a consumer-focused yarn about how environmental rules affect air conditioners:

  • Amy's takeaway: If a technician encourages you to replace your A/C because of environmental rules, don't take the bait without first getting a second (and maybe a third) opinion.
  • The problem: "Most air conditioners installed before 2010 use refrigerants that deplete the Earth's ozone layer. In industry talk, it's called Freon R22. Most newer air conditioners use refrigerants that don't hurt the ozone layer but do contribute to climate change because they emit greenhouse gases."
  • What's next: "The air-conditioning industry is researching refrigerants that are friendly to both the ozone layer and climate change, which could be on the market in the next few years. The drawback: They're mildly flammable."
  • What could go wrong? "The manufacturing industry is working to change building codes to allow new air conditioners with the mildly flammable refrigerants."
  • Find out what Amy did with her own A/C.

7. How others live

A sick Rohingya Muslim woman, Amila Khatoon, is carried on a plastic chair by her sons on the way to hospital outside Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh yesterday.

  • "The massive exodus of Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar to escape brutal persecution appears to have slowed down, but several recent refugees say at least tens of thousands more are huddled near beaches or in forests waiting to escape," AP reports.
  • "Over the last month, an estimated 430,000 Rohingya have arrived in Bangladesh as their homes and villages were set on fire by mobs of soldiers and Buddhist monks. They have brought with them accounts of soldiers spraying their villages with gunfire."

Go deeper: "Myanmar's persecution of its Muslim-minority population," by Axios' Shane Savitsky.

8. Long-term tragedy

Hurricane Maria may have set Puerto Rico back decades: "The entire population is still without power and engineers say it could take months to be restored. A dam remains in danger of collapsing. Shipments of food, water and generators are starting to arrive at the main port in San Juan, which has reopened." (BBC)

"In a matter of hours, Hurricane Maria wiped out about 80 percent of the crop value in Puerto Rico."

  • N.Y. Times Quote of the Day ... José A. Rivera, a farmer on the southeastern coast of Puerto Rico, who said Hurricane Maria had knocked down almost all of his 14,000 plantain trees and destroyed his yam and pepper crops: "Sometimes when there are shortages, the price of plantain goes up from $1 to $1.25. This time, there won't be any price increase: There won't be any product."

9. What we can learn from misbehaving generals

After a series of embarrassing episodes involving misconduct and behavior problems among senior officers, the Army is putting together new mental health, counseling and career management programs to shape stronger, more ethical leaders, AP's Lolita Baldor reports.

The tips for the generals are worthy of consideration by all of us, whether we're leading at home or in a massive organization:

  • "[A] key effort is finding ways to build self-control and self-awareness, ensuring officers and their families can quickly recognize and deal with problems."
  • "Other ideas focus on time management, encouraging high-level officers to take longer vacations. ... [E]very general should take 10 to 14 uninterrupted days off each year to unplug, breaking with a military culture making them believe they're too important to disconnect."
  • "[O]fficers [are] urged not to overbook themselves. Packing their calendars with events all day and every evening can increase stress and make it difficult to prioritize."
  • "The role that chaplains, mentors, executive coaches and colleagues can play is being studied, and how individual or group discussions might help."
  • "Too often, three-star and four-star generals working as base commanders are posted in remote locations around the world and have few or no equals in rank to socialize with or ask for advice. They can become isolated, ego-driven or surrounded by subordinates afraid to challenge them on inappropriate behavior."

10. 1 historic thing

Sixty years ago today — on Sept. 25, 1957, two days after a large, white mob turned violent outside Little Rock Central High School — nine black teenagers returned with federal troops, AP recalls:

  • "The troops, armed with bayonets, were there on the orders of President Dwight Eisenhower, who was displeased with the riots that had broken out Monday morning after the teens, six girls and three boys, attempted to attend classes."
  • "The local police could not control the angry mob so the nine teenagers slipped out the back door of the school. Eisenhower ordered the troops there the following day and they were in position by Wednesday morning."
  • "[T]he Little Rock Nine became a symbol of heroism in the throes of racial progress."
  • The lead that day by AP reporter Relman Morin: "Hardened paratroopers, in battle dress and with bayonets at the ready, brought nine Negro students quietly into Central High School Wednesday in a new climax to the hate-filled struggle over integration in Little Rock."
  • Why it matters ... Segregation lingers: "Six decades later, the sacrifice of those black students stands as a symbol of the turbulence of the era, but also as a testament to an intractable problem: Though legal segregation has long ended, few white and minority students share a classroom today."

Our thought bubble: Just 60 years! This astonishing scene was in the lifetime of so many people we know.

  • Go deeper: Historical stories and photos, and video interviews with people who lived through the era.