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Apr 22, 2021

Axios AM

🌐 Good Thursday morning, and happy Earth Day!

  • Smart Brevity™ count: 981 words ... < 4 minutes. Edited by Zachary Basu.

Breaking: President Biden will unveil an economy-wide target to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by up to 52% below 2005 levels by 2030. Go deeper.

1 big thing: Facebook Oversight Board to rule on Trump's fate
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Facebook's independent Oversight Board will vote soon on whether to allow Donald Trump back on Facebook and Instagram — a monumental decision that has policymakers on edge around the world, Axios' Sara Fischer and Jonathan Swan report.

  • Why it matters: The decision will set a historic precedent for how the tech giant will treat accounts of world leaders moving forward. It’s also an important litmus test of the board’s independence.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) told Axios: "I'm less concerned about the fate of Donald Trump as much as I am about the precedent that this is setting for the removal and de-platforming of everyone else."

  • Khanna argued there should be a long waiting period if Trump is brought back: "[W]e still get threats at the Capitol of people who are inflamed by what he did."

Around the world, leaders have condemned social media giants' banning of Trump's accounts, arguing that having platforms freeze the pages of world leaders is a slippery slope.

  • Republicans are still angry about the decision.
  • Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), chair of the Republican Study Committee, said: "No corporate CEO or their ‘oversight board’ should be more powerful than the leaders you elect."

Sources at Facebook tell Axios the company was initially expecting the board to uphold its decision, especially given that so many other platforms made similar calls in light of the Capitol attack.

2. U.S. COVID cases aren't budging
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Data: CSSE Johns Hopkins University; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

In the last week of February, the U.S. was averaging 65,686 new coronavirus cases per day, Axios' Sam Baker and Andrew Withersppon report.

  • Eight weeks later, we’re averaging 64,814 new cases.
  • Over the same eight-week period, the U.S. administered more than 65 million vaccine doses — roughly doubling the number of Americans who have gotten at least one shot.

Between the lines: Deaths have fallen significantly, to an average of about 700 per day, down from a peak of nearly 3,500 per day.

  • But 65,000 cases per day leaves the unvaccinated at risk of serious illness, and opens the door to more new variants that could prolong the pandemic.

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3. America scrambles for restaurant workers

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Eateries from Miami to Martha’s Vineyard to Los Angeles are facing the same problem ahead of summer: not enough workers, Axios' Erica Pandey reports.

  • The big picture: Millions of restaurants are hiring all at once, and — after a deadly pandemic — the jobs of waiters, cooks, and hosts seem more dangerous than they ever have before.
  • The pandemic wiped out 2.5 million restaurant jobs and forced more than 100,000 eateries to shutter. And now the ones that made it through 2020 can't find staffers.

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4. Exclusive: Inside Chauvin prosecution strategy

Post-verdict celebration at intersection where George Floyd died. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

A well-wired strategic communications firm worked as behind-the-scenes advisers to prosecutors in the Chauvin case — operating without pay, and so under-the-radar that most of its own staff had no idea, Axios' Margaret Talev reveals.

  • Finsbury Glover Hering — successor to the Glover Park Group — conducted media monitoring and analysis, as part of special prosecutor Neal Katyal's vision for a "modern appeal/trial strategy."

Katyal pitched Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison last June on bringing in the firm, which worked with Katyal in civil cases.

  • Katyal believed that with such major repercussions for the country, it'd be essential for the prosecution to simultaneously consider the trial, a likely appeal, and how the verdict would sit with Americans.
  • "To win the trial is one thing," Katyal told Axios. "To win it in the eyes of the American people in the long term is a different thing."

The FGH team boiled down insight on such questions as: Who were the key influencers? Were any errors in media coverage becoming part of the narrative? How was the public consuming what was happening in the courtroom and how did the jury appear to be responding?

5. J&J's vaccine problems look even bigger

U.S. production of the J&J coronavirus vaccine may be in big trouble, at least for now, Axios Vitals author Caitlin Owens reports.

6. Tech shows side effects aren't just for vaccines

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

The debate over extremely rare vaccine side effects highlights questions about how we should account for the unintended consequences of new technology, writes Axios' Bryan Walsh.

  • The big question: What would the world look like if we moved as carefully with all innovations as we do with something like vaccines?

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7. "I've never seen it this frenzied"

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

"Deal flow and valuations are reaching new heights in technology startups, as a flood of cheap cash fuels efforts to find the industry’s next big winners, from software to social media," The Wall Street Journal's Heather Somerville reports (subscription).

  • By the numbers: U.S. startups raised $69 billion from investors in the first quarter of 2021 — 40% higher than the previous record — while the average valuation for late-stage startups more than tripled to $1.6 billion.
8. The global race to regulate AI

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The European Union yesterday revealed a detailed proposal on how artificial intelligence should be regulated, banning some uses outright and defining which uses of AI are deemed "high-risk," Axios' Ashley Gold reports.

  • In the U.S., the federal government has yet to pass legislation specifically addressing AI, though some local governments have enacted their own rules, especially around facial recognition.

Why it matters: Artificial intelligence is no longer in its infancy and already has wide uses.

  • The U.S. and the EU both aim to ensure AI doesn't discriminate against marginalized communities, taking somewhat different paths to get there.
  • Experts warn that if the Atlantic allies aren't on the same page, China and Russia will end up setting terms that give repressive governments free rein.

Keep reading.

9. Pew data: Asian adults fear physical attacks

More than 80% of Asian adults say that violence against them is increasing, Axios' Oriana Gonzelez writes from a new Pew Research Center survey.

  • 32% of Asian adults say they fear someone might threaten or physically attack them, "a greater share than other racial or ethnic groups," Pew writes.
  • 45% of Asian adults say they have experienced at least one of five specific offensive incidents since the start of the pandemic.
10. ⚾ 1 fan thing: Dodgers offer "fully vaccinated" sections

Dodgers host Nats on April 9. Photo: Kelvin Kuo/USA Today Sports via Reuters

Fans 16 and older who show proof that two weeks have passed since a final vaccination dose can purchase tickets ($124 to $154) to sit in two "fully vaccinated sections" at the Dodgers-Padres game on Saturday, the L.A. Times reports (subscription).

  • Masks will be required in those sections, but social distancing will not. Children ages to 2 to 15 will be admitted if they show proof of a negative COVID test within the last 72 hours.

Why it matters: "If Saturday’s test run goes well, the Dodgers will consider adding sections for vaccinated fans at other games."

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