Aug 12, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🇭🇰 Breaking ... "Hong Kong airport authorities canceled [all] flights ... after protesters swarmed the main terminal building for a fourth day, the biggest disruption yet to the city’s economy since demonstrations began in early June." (Bloomberg)

Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,401 words ... ~ 5.5 minutes.

  • Do your leadership team get Axios AM and PM? Invite 'em to sign up!
1 big thing: The rural America death spiral

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Many of the nation's current pathologies are centered in the majority-white population of rural America, heavily hit by the opioid crisis and facing falling populations, job losses and rising suicide rates, Axios' Stef Kight writes.

  • Why it matters: The malaise and discontent that President Trump taps into goes beyond the racism of the past few weeks, and includes anger at a changing world and frustration at dwindling opportunities close to home.
  • These trends are further entrenching the rural-urban schism that came to light in the 2016 election.

The big picture: Political and economic power is shifting to the cities, and 20% of the population — 46 million people — is being left behind in the middle of America.

  • These communities face increasingly higher barriers to education, wealth and health.
  • And if you're African American or Hispanic, your chances of success and survival at every turn are even worse.

Let’s say you were born, grew up, and now reside in rural America:

  • Throughout your life, you have been more susceptible to poverty, lower education, illness and even death than your urban counterparts.
  • As a kid, chances are, you lived farther away from a doctor or hospital and got less exercise.
  • You were more likely to live in a school desert, having to travel long distances to make it to school.
  • Say you did get a college degree. You'd likely end up so saddled with debt, that returning to your rural hometown wouldn't be an option if you hoped to get a job that would enable you to pay it off, according to Federal Reserve research.

As an adult, you’re more likely suffer from obesity, mental health issues, diabetes, cancer and opioid addiction.

  • You are more likely to know people who took their own lives.
  • If you keep working in your hometown, your job is more likely to be taken over by AI, according to a Brookings Institution study — especially if you live in Indiana, Kentucky, South Dakota, Arkansas or Iowa.
  • Your community's economy still hasn't fully recovered from the 2008 recession, according to Fed data.

As you get older, you are more likely to die a preventable death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • If you do make it into old age, you may not have a place to grow old near your friends, family and the place you called home your whole life.

What's next: Technological advancements such as 5G and automated vehicles won't directly make life harder for rural America, but instead will fuel inequality by making life that much easier for urban America.

  • The rural-urban divide will continue to play a central role in politics and elections for the next several years — unless and until rural America's population declines enough that their political power dwindles.
2. El Paso gunman echoed conservative media
Mourners pay tribute to Jordan Anchondo in El Paso. Authorities say she was shielding her 2-month-old son, who lived, while her husband — Andre, who was also killed — shielded them both. Photo: Jorge Salgado/AP

"The overlap between the El Paso killer's rhetoric [in his online rantings] and what's considered mainstream conservative rhetoric will make you stop cold," the N.Y. Times' Jeremy Peters tweets about the "word map" he co-authored:

  • The findings include "three dozen instances on Fox News when immigration along the Mexican border was discussed in terms of an invasion."
  • Rush Limbaugh "has repeatedly described the flow of migrants across the Mexico border as a flood that will overtake America with cheap labor and dilute the country’s identity."

P.S. WashPost front page: "President strains to shake label of ‘racist.'"

3. Trump's tech pretzel

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Trump administration's policy toward Big Tech moved in two opposite directions late last week, as the White House sought the big platforms' help in predicting mass shootings while it was also reportedly drafting plans to punish them for perceived bias, Axios' managing editor Scott Rosenberg writes.

On Friday, the administration invoked the help of Google, Facebook and other companies to detect and deter mass shooters before they act.

  • Between the lines: One reason the administration wants to collaborate with social platforms to identify mass shooters is that this is a step it can take to respond to this month's massacres without offending gun-rights supporters.

Meanwhile, the White House has circulated a draft of an executive order aimed at imposing new restrictions on tech platforms' freedom to moderate the content users contribute, according to CNN's Brian Fung.

  • The draft order would put the FCC in charge of determining whether large online platforms are moderated in a politically neutral way.
4. Cover of the day
Courtesy N.Y. Post

Jeffrey Epstein's guards were working extreme overtime shifts to make up for staffing shortages the morning of his apparent suicide, AP reports:

  • The unit was staffed with one guard working a fifth straight day of overtime, and another who was working mandatory overtime.
5. Focus group: Trump's vulnerabilities with Minnesota swing voters

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump's approach to health care and Social Security — compounded with anxiety about recession — could make him vulnerable with some swing voters, Axios' Alexi McCammond reports from Edina, Minn.

  • That was the main takeaway from an Engagious/FPG focus group last week, which included seven people who flipped from President Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016, and four who switched from Mitt Romney to Hillary Clinton.
  • Why it matters: These voters don't feel like Trump is talking about the issues they care about most.

Between the lines: The problem for Democrats is that most of these swing voters (seven of the 11) don’t believe the presidential candidates running against Trump are talking about the issues they care about most, either.

  • They would like to hear 2020 Democrats talk about how to continue the country’s economic success and their plans for infrastructure.
6. Lead of the day
Twitter helps the powerful discover their worst selves ...
— N.Y. Times' John Herrman, "Why Aren’t We Talking About LinkedIn?"
7. What it's like to cover energy and climate
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Axios' Amy Harder writes in her "Harder Line" column: "People often ask me how I decide what to cover in this noisy and disparate energy and climate change beat. My answer: I stay focused on the puzzle."

  • "I look at the various factors that go into reducing greenhouse gases in a world that depends upon the energy resources that emit them."
  • "Like puzzle pieces, these numerous factors work in tandem, not in isolation."

Read the column.

8. 50 years ago this week
Photo: AP

This photo from Aug. 15, 1969 — 50 years ago Thursday — shows people abandoning trucks, cars and buses, backed up for 10 miles, as some 300,000 festival goers tried to reach the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in Bethel, N.Y.

Amazingly, N.Y. Times chief popular music writer Jon Pareles was there:

  • "Fifty years later, I still have what’s left of a pair of three-day tickets, ... numbered 39731 and 39732. They had cost all of $18 each."
  • "[M]y brother (who, unlike me, was old enough to drive) and I had trudged to the site from the car we’d abandoned by the side of a clogged country road."

Pareles captures why Woodstock matters:

It was entertainment that felt momentarily rebellious ... It [gathered] an unexpectedly large, unexpectedly amiable community ... But Woodstock also partied while people died in Vietnam ...
[T]he scale of Woodstock showed people who had considered themselves "freaks" that they weren’t as small a minority as they had thought. ...
Woodstock ... identified a big, promising segment of the youth market, ready for the commercial exploitation that would ensue almost immediately. "Woodstock Nation," despite Abbie Hoffman’s hopes when he coined the term, turned out to be a demographic rather than a political force.

Below: The ground today ... Carol Laura and George Acquaire walk barefoot toward a peace sign mowed in the grass at the Woodstock site.

Photo: Seth Wenig/AP
9. J.D. Salinger's books finally going digital
In January, a previously unseen photo of J.D. Salinger was displayed at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H. Photo: Holly Ramer/AP

Longtime J.D. Salinger publisher Little, Brown and Company said all four of his works will be made available as e-books tomorrow, marking the first time that the entirety of his published work will be available in digital format, AP reports.

  • The e-books are: "The Catcher in the Rye," "Nine Stories," ''Franny and Zooey" and "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction."
  • His son, Matt Salinger, said the digital holdout ended because many readers use e-books exclusively and some people with disabilities can only use them.

What's next: "[B]efore long, decades worth of Salinger’s unpublished writing will be released, a project [Matt] Salinger estimated will take another five to seven years to complete," the N.Y. Times' Alexandra Alter writes.

  • Matt Salinger told her: "I wanted people to know that, yes, he did keep writing, there’s a lot of material, and yes, it will be published."
10. 1 fun thing

Wellesley, Mass. has seen its street signs on Old Town Road disappear over the last few months, thanks to the hit song, reports MassLive.

  • The signs have been stolen from both ends of the street three times — and Wellesley said that it's "waiting for the song's popularity to fade before replacing the signs again."
  • "The replacement costs can add up to $280 and that doesn’t include installation labor, the town said."
Mike Allen

📱 Thanks for reading Axios AM. Invite your friends, relatives, co-workers to sign up here.