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October 01, 2023

๐ŸŽƒ Good Sunday morning, and welcome to October. Smart Brevityโ„ข count: 1,393 words ... 5 mins. Edited by Jennifer Koons.

๐ŸŽค 1 big thing: Taylor Swift's world

Photo illustration of Taylor Swift holding the Earth.

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photo: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

Taylor Swift is no longer just a pop icon: She's the next great American dynasty, single-handedly steering some of the country's most vaunted brands and institutions, Axios' Eleanor Hawkins and Shane Savitsky write.

๐Ÿˆ The NFL: Last Sunday, Swift was spotted in a box aggressively cheering the Kansas City Chiefs alongside Donna Kelce, mother of Chiefs tight end, Travis Kelce.

  • Fox panned over to Swift nine times during the game.
  • The NFL flashed images of Swift in their graphics throughout the game, released 10 TikToks on the official NFL account โ€” which changed its bio to read "9/24/23. Taylor was here." NFL on Fox ran an ad capitalizing on her romantic link to Kelce.
  • In the 24 hours after the game, Kelce gained over 300,000 new social media followers, saw a 400% increase in merchandise sales and his podcast ranked #1 on the Apple charts.

๐Ÿงฎ By the numbers: As social media exploded with the spotting, Swift's attendance drove ratings among young, female viewers.

  • The Chiefs vs. Bears game drew 24.3 million viewers, making it the most-viewed show of the week, period.

๐ŸŽž๏ธ Box office: This fall's movie slate was looking pretty bare โ€” until Swift delivered an unexpected jolt with the surprise announcement of her "Eras Tour" film, set for release Oct. 13.

  • Swift and her family directly negotiated a distribution deal with theater chain AMC, leaving out the traditional studio middlemen via an agreement that could upend how concert films are released in the future, Puck's Matthew Belloni reports.
  • The concert film is tracking toward a $100 million opening weekend domestically โ€” and likely much higher, according to Deadline, with one analyst calling it a "unicorn."
  • The announcement forced a last-minute jolt to Hollywood's fall calendar. Blumhouse head Jason Blum moved up the release of the "Exorcist" sequel by a week, declaring "#TaylorWins."

๐Ÿ”Ž Between the lines: Swift has so much influence, clout and engagement for a reason.

  • She has won over the trust of her fandom โ€” Swifties โ€” through authentic and direct communication across social media and through fan experiences.
  • Her penchant for hiding clues and Easter eggs is so well-known that she took over Google Search to reveal new song titles last month.
  • Swift has gained respect from fellow musicians by challenging the way artists were compensated across streaming platforms.

๐Ÿ”ฎ What's next: Swift is expected to attend when the Chiefs play the New York Jets tonight on "Sunday Night Football" (NBC, 8:20 p.m. ET).

2. โฑ๏ธ No shutdown! 32 minutes to spare

Speaker Kevin McCarthy celebrates after meeting with House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries. Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

After entering the weekend without a clear path to avoid a government shutdown, Speaker Kevin McCarthy sided with his party's moderates and Democrats to keep the government open, Axios' Juliegrace Brufke reports.

  • Why it matters: McCarthy dared his party's conservative flank to challenge his leadership. "If somebody wants to make a motion against me, bring it. There has to be an adult in the room," he said after the vote.

McCarthy didn't name Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). But Gaetz had said he would attempt to oust the California Republican if McCarthy brought a clean stopgap funding bill to the floor.

  • The House quickly went to recess until tomorrow โ€” leaving conservative challengers stewing over any potential recriminations or attempts to remove McCarthy.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer walks to the chamber. Photo: Nathan Howard/Getty Images

๐Ÿ”Ž The intrigue: Two senior Democratic sources said it's unlikely members across the aisle save McCarthy if Gaetz moves forward with a motion to vacate, which can remove the speaker with a majority vote.

๐Ÿ”ฎ What's next: The government is funded at current levels for 45 days. So we get to do this again just before Thanksgiving.


At 11:28 p.m., the White House posted a photo of President Biden signing the bill keeping the government open.

3. ๐Ÿš™ Autoworker angst could dog Biden

Photo illustration of Joe Biden and Donald Trump with their faces cut out in an abstract way against a background with a lone picketer in the foreground, surrounded by red rectangles.

Photo illustration: Aรฏda Amer/Axios. Photos: Emily Elconin/Bloomberg, Chip Somodevilla, Scott Olson via Getty Images

DEARBORN, Mich. โ€” Detroit-area autoworkers tell Axios' Sophia Cai they're deeply worried about the industry's future โ€” and some resent both President Biden and former President Trump for using the UAW strike as a campaign backdrop.

  • Why it matters: That dissatisfaction โ€” along with anxiety about inflation and apathy about the 2024 elections โ€” are particularly bad signs for Biden, who won Michigan in 2020 and desperately needs a repeat to win re-election.

State of play: Biden won nearly 60% of union members' votes in 2020, according to AFL-CIO estimates and exit polls.

4. ๐ŸŽ‚ Jimmy Carter @ 99

Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters

Former President Jimmy Carter, who has been in hospice care since February (7ยฝ months ago), today becomes the first U.S. president to turn 99.

  • Above: A boy writes a birthday message on a window of the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta yesterday.
Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Workers set up a wooden cake display on the North Lawn of the White House yesterday.

  • Go deeper: Carter will celebrate at home in Plains, Ga., with Rosalynn and their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

5. โšœ๏ธ New Orleans faces threat to drinking water

Estimated timeline for saltwater intrusion into the New Orleans metro area
Data: Louisiana Governor's Office. Map: Axios Visuals

Saltwater creeping up the Mississippi River is threatening the drinking water supply in New Orleans, Axios' Chelsea Brasted and Carlie Kollath Wells report.

  • Why it matters: The water supply for more than 1.2 million people is expected to become unsafe to drink by late October. It could be weeks or months before freshwater returns, unless there's significant rainfall.

The Army Corps of Engineers expects the saltwater intrusion to reach New Orleans by Oct. 22. Officials are working on plans to mitigate water disruption.

  • President Biden declared a national emergency.

Catch up quick: A drought across the Mississippi River Valley means saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico is coming upriver.

  • Communities south of New Orleans have had salt in their water since June.

A massive reverse osmosis machine that desalinates water is being installed in Plaquemines Parish, just southeast of New Orleans. Two more machines are on the way.

  • But these units won't be able to produce enough water to meet the demand in metro New Orleans.

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6. ๐Ÿ›๏ธ Shutdown Saturday scrapbook

Photo: Nathan Howard/Getty Images

Staff members brought pizza into the U.S. Capitol yesterday for what looked like it'd be a long night.

Photo: House TV via AP

The House passed the package 335-91, with a majority of Republicans for and 90 against.

  • The lone Democrat voting against it was Rep. Mike Quigley (Ill.), co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, who called the bill's lack of Ukraine aid "a victory for Putin."

The Senate vote was 88-9. All nine nays were GOP.

Today's front pages, via New York Times, Washington Post

The House passed the bill at 2:45 p.m. The Senate followed at 9 p.m.

7. ๐Ÿ”ฅ Dem congressman pulls alarm

Photo: U.S. Capitol Police via Jake Sherman

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) faces a GOP-led expulsion effort after he was caught on camera pulling a fire alarm in Cannon House Office Building at 12:05 p.m. yesterday, while members scrambled to avert a shutdown, Axios' Andrew Solender reports.

  • Bowman told reporters he "thought the alarm would open the door" because "the door that's usually open wasn't open."

The U.S. Capitol Police and House Administration Committee announced investigations.

  • Bowman press secretary Emma Simon told Axios: "Congressman Bowman did not realize he would trigger a building alarm as he was rushing to make an urgent vote. The Congressman regrets any confusion."

Speaker McCarthy told reporters: "This should not go without punishment ... This is an embarrassment."

  • Bowman said McCarthy is "trying to weaponize a mistake of me ... rushing to get to a vote as something nefarious when it wasn't."

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8. ๐Ÿ“ท Parting shot: 81 years in the deep

Photo: Ocean Exploration Trust/NOAA via AP

Footage from deep in the Pacific Ocean has given the first detailed look at three World War II aircraft carriers that sank in 1942 in the pivotal Battle of Midway, which marked a shift in control of the Pacific theater from Japanese to U.S. forces, AP reports.

  • Remote submersibles, operating 3 miles below the surface, conducted archeological surveys of the U.S.S. Yorktown (25 years after it was first located) + the Akagi and Kaga, two of the four Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft carriers destroyed in the battle.

Above: The Yorktown's aircraft crane still stands at the aft end of the ship's island.

  • The exploration is in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, about 1,300 miles northwest of Honolulu.

10-min. YouTube ... NOAA announcement.

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