Jun 17, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🎧 You asked for it! On Monday, we'll launch a morning pod, "Axios Today," hosted by Niala Boodhoo, an alumnus of Chicago public radio and the Miami Herald.

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1 big thing: Protests' digital dominance
Data: NewsWhip. Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

No other social change movement in the Trump era has come close to the intensity of social media attention forged in the wake of the George Floyd killing, Axios' Neal Rothschild writes from data provided exclusively by NewsWhip.

In the past month — counting the week before the movement began with Floyd's killing — there were 1.04 billion social media interactions (likes, comments, shares) on stories related to police conduct, police reform, racial inequality, Black Lives Matter and the cases of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.

  • That's far more than the next biggest social change movement over a 28-day period during the Trump era: the fight for gun control following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. in February 2018. That event drew 153 million interactions.

Searches related to Black Lives Matter during the week of May 31 dwarfed the peak for all of these topics, according to Google Trends.

  • There were 64% more searches than the second-most searched issue — abortion and reproductive rights in May of last year after conservative Southern states passed restrictive laws.

The bottom line: For many social movements, there is a short period of passion, but that enthusiasm often fizzles and change doesn't get enacted.

  • But already we've seen a host of reforms to police departments across the country, as well as an executive order from a Republican president.

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2. Virus can hit minorities as much as 10x higher
Adapted from Brookings; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Black and Hispanic/Latino Americans have coronavirus mortality rates as much as 10x higher than white Americans' when age is taken into account, according to a new analysis by the Brookings Institution, reports Axios' Caitlin Owens.

  • Why it matters: We've known that minorities are being hit harder by the coronavirus, but we didn't know it was this bad.

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3. COVID 101: How it really spreads

Medical workers stand outside NYU Langone Health hospital in Manhattan in May as people applaud. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

As COVID-19 enveloped us, there were so many basic uncertainties about the virus. Now, the front page of today's Wall Street Journal reports "a growing consensus about a central question: How do people become infected?":

  • "It’s not common to contract COVID-19 from a contaminated surface, scientists say. And fleeting encounters with people outdoors are unlikely to spread the coronavirus."
  • "Instead, the major culprit is close-up, person-to-person interactions for extended periods. Crowded events, poorly ventilated areas and places where people are talking loudly or singing ... maximize the risk."

Why it matters: "Enough virus has to make itself over to you or build up around you over time to trigger an infection," the Journal writes.

  • A rule of thumb: Prolonged exposure is "generally defined as 15 minutes or more of unprotected contact with someone less than 6 feet away."
  • Of course, "it could take much less time with a sneeze."
4. Pic du jour: North Korea explodes building
Photo: Korean Central News Agency via AP

This photo provided by the North Korean government shows the explosion of an inter-Korean liaison office building yesterday in Kaesong, North Korea.

  • Why it matters: It's a "death knell" for North Korean relations with South Korea, the N.Y. Times reports — "a message aimed at President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, who had brokered failed talks between the North and the Trump administration. But it was also a message for Washington."
5. Trump fuels a new bestseller

John Bolton tapes an interview about his book with ABC's Martha Raddatz, airing as a prime-time special Sunday at 9 p.m. ET. Photo: ABC News

President Trump sure is good at selling books — even when they attack him.

  • He's done it again: The president made a bestseller out of a critical book by attacking it before it's published.

Trump said this week that "a lot of people are upset" that John Bolton, his former national security adviser, had written the 592-page book — "The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir," out Tuesday.

  • "I will consider every conversation with me, as president, highly classified," Trump said.
  • "So that would mean that if he wrote a book and if ... the book gets out, he's broken the law.  And I would think that he would have criminal problems."

For an author and publisher, that's gold.

  • Then yesterday, the Justice Department sued to block publication of the book (which has already been shipped).
  • Trump's opposition to publication vastly increases the book's value, and reader interest around the world.

Sure enough, a week before publication, Bolton's book hit #1 on Amazon's bestsellers list.

What's next: Bolton plans a ton of interviews.

  • And we're told that Attorney General William Barr has a starring role in the book.
6. Scoop: Republicans launch pro-Biden super PAC

Joe Biden speaks in Philly last week. Photo: Matt Slocum/AP

Prominent Republican operatives, including former officials from the Trump and Bush 43 administrations, are launching a super PAC to turn out GOP voters for Joe Biden in November, Axios' Alayna Treene and Jonathan Swan report.

  • The Right Side PAC aims to identify former Trump supporters who have cooled, and convince them to vote for Biden, says founder Matt Borges, a former chairman of the Ohio Republican Party.
  • Anthony Scaramucci, who was fired after 10 days as President Trump's communications director, is a major donor.

How it works: The PAC will initially target voters in the battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, North Carolina and Florida.

  • The group sees itself as a complement to The Lincoln Project, the anti-Trump group with leaders who include Steve Schmidt, John Weaver and George Conway.

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7. Exclusive: Hawley unveils bill targeting Big Tech shield

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) today will introduce legislation that would give consumers grounds to sue companies like Facebook or Twitter over accusations of selective censorship of political speech, Axios' Margaret Harding McGill reports.

  • Why it matters: The legislation is the latest attack on online platforms' legal protections from liability over content posted by users.

New overnight … Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote an op-ed for USA Today saying the company's 2020 goal is "to help 4 million people register to vote."

  • He said he believes the tech giant "has a responsibility not just to prevent voter suppression — which disproportionately targets people of color — but to actively support well-informed voter engagement, registration, and turnout."

Why it matters, via Axios' Sara Fischer: Facebook has faced scrutiny for the way its platform was used in spreading misinformation during the 2016 election. Now, it's doing everything in its power to bolster civic engagement ahead of November.

8. New hope from old pill

Dexamethasone is on the World Health Organization's "essential medicines" list. Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

The new best hope for treating seriously ill coronavirus patients may come from dexamethasone — a synthetic steroid that has been around for roughly 60 years, Axios health care business reporter Bob Herman writes.

  • Why it matters: Because it's an old, inexpensive drug, it may have a leg up on remdesivir and other new, potentially costly treatments.

🥊 Good point: The encouraging news was another example of what Politico described as "science by press release" — a persistent problem during this pandemic.

9. 🏀 NBA smart rings

The NBA will restart at ESPN's Wide World of Sports at Disney World. Photo: John Raoux/AP

When NBA teams move into the league's bubble at Disney World around July 7, players and staff will be offered wearable rings that track temperature, heart rate and respiration, Axios Sports editor Kendall Baker writes.

  • The ring will give an "illness probability score."

Anyone who tests positive will be placed in isolation housing for at least 14 days, the league said yesterday in a document sent to players.

  • During games, players, referees, bench players and coaches in the first row won't be required to wear masks.
  • Players will have access to game rooms, golf courses, cabanas with misters to combat heat, fishing, bowling and salons.

Pro tip: Players will be told not to spit or pick their noses, wipe the ball with their jerseys, lick their hands or touch their mouths unnecessarily while playing.

  • Good luck with that!

Sign up for Kendall Baker's daily newsletter, Axios Sports.

10. 1 smile to go: Police capture 65-pound turtle
Photo: Fairfax County Police Department via AP

A 65-pound alligator snapping turtle with a face only its mother could love has found a new home at a Norfolk zoo after freaking out residents in northern Virginia, AP reports.

  • The turtle, dubbed Lord Fairfax, was repeatedly crossing a residential road in the Alexandria area, according to Fairfax County Police.

State fisheries folks say the turtle is just a juvenile and could eventually grow as big as 200 pounds.

Mike Allen

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