Sep 1, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🍂 Good Sunday morning, and welcome to September. (I know!)

  • Dramatic entrance: "Pope Francis arrived late for his weekly address in St. Peter’s Square, explaining that he had been stuck in an elevator in the Vatican for 25 minutes and had to be freed by firefighters." (Reuters)

🇨🇳 Situational awareness ... As of today, the Trump administration's tariffs on China are real for U.S. consumers: A 15% duty hit "goods ranging from footwear and apparel to home textiles and ... the Apple Watch." (Bloomberg)

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  • Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,352 words ... ~ 5 minutes.
1 big thing: Trump allies plot new war on media

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

President Trump's campaign and key allies plan to make allegations of bias by social media platforms a core part of their 2020 strategy, officials tell me. 

  • Look for ads, speeches and sustained attacks on Facebook and Twitter in particular, the sources say. 
  • The irony: The social platforms are created and staffed largely by liberals — but often used most effectively in politics by conservatives, the data shows. 

Why it matters: Trump successfully turned the vast majority of his supporters against traditional media, and hopes to do the same against the social media companies.

  • Republicans' internal data shows it stirs up the base like few other topics. 
  • "In the same way we've seen trust in legacy media organizations deteriorate over the past year, there are similarities with social media companies," a top Republican operative involved in the effort told me. 

Between the lines: The charges of overt bias by social media platforms are way overblown, several studies have found. But, if the exaggerated claims stick, it could increase the chances of regulatory action by Republicans.

  • "People feel they’re being manipulated, whether it's by what they're being shown in their feeds, or actions the companies have taken against conservatives," the operative said.
  • "It's easy for people to understand how these giant corporations could influence them and direct them toward a certain favored candidate."

How tech execs see it: They know the escalation is coming, so they are cranking up outreach to leading conservatives and trying to push hard on data showing that conservative voices often outperform liberal ones. 

Reality check, from Axios chief tech correspondent Ina Fried: What is real is that most of the platforms have policies against bias that some conservative figures have run afoul of. 

  • Managing editor Scott Rosenberg notes that Twitter is Trump's megaphone, while Facebook is often his favorite place to run ads. 

What's next: By the time 2020 is over, trust in all sources of information will be low, and perhaps unrecoverable.

  • A nation without shared truth will be hard-to-impossible to govern. 
2. August toll for mass killings: 51
Photo: Tim Fischer/Midland Reporter-Telegram via AP)

"The month of August ended as it began: with a shooting rampage and a significant death toll," the N.Y. Times' Neil Vigdor writes.

  • Four people are dead in Texas oil country (Midland-Odessa) after a man stopped by state troopers for failing to signal a left turn opened fire and fled, shooting more than 20 people as he drove before being killed by officers. (AP)

That brings the August death toll for mass shootings to at least 51, per The Times.

  • Why it matters: "The spate of gun violence has left the country on edge and catalyzed a more intense debate over gun control."

🏈 Also this weekend ... Nine teens were injured when gunfire erupted at 9:30 p.m. Friday at a high school football game in Mobile, Alabama.

  • A 17-year-old student at one of the schools is charged with nine counts of attempted murder. (Mobile Press-Register)
3. New blue tactic in Hong Kong
Photo: Kin Cheung/AP

On the 13th straight weekend of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, hardline protesters pointed laser beams at the heads of officers guarding the Chinese government office, AP's Ken Moritsugu and Raf Wober report:

  • Police responded with blue water, which makes it easier to identify protesters for arrest later.
  • A water cannon truck fired repeated bursts of colored water, staining protesters and nearby journalists and leaving blue puddles in the street.

🇭🇰 Breaking: Train service to Hong Kong's airport was suspended today as pro-democracy demonstrators gathered there.

4. Pic du jour
Photo: Lynne Sladky/AP

Above, Lisa Vance helps her husband, Stephan, go up the mast of their sailboat in Vero Beach, Florida, in preparation for Hurricane Dorian.

Lingo ... The N.Y. Times says professional meteorologists have a term for amateurs who share misleading information online: "social mediarologists."

  • Chris Smith, a meteorologist at the NBC affiliate in Panama City Beach, Florida, tells the Times about the intense public demand for storm details: "It used to be, 'Hey, I heard there’s a storm out there,' and now it’s like, 'What’s that cloud doing coming off of Africa?'"
Dorian, as seen from the International Space Station. (NASA via AP)

🌬️Latest: Now a Category 5 storm, Dorian is closing in on the Bahamas as millions from Florida to the Carolinas get ready, amid indications the hurricane will veer sharply northeastward after passing the Bahamas and track up the U.S.' southeastern seaboard.

  • Even if its core doesn't make U.S. landfall and stays offshore, the storm will likely hammer U.S. coastal areas with powerful winds and heavy surf.
5. 80 years ago today
German invasion of Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. Photo: Universal History Archive/Getty Images

World War II started 80 years ago today — on Sept. 1, 1939 — when Hitler's Nazi Germany invaded and bombarded Poland, triggering a nearly six-year world conflict that left more than 70 million people dead.

An International Herald Tribune editorial the next day, "Hitler Draws the Sword," nailed it:

The curtain seems to have lifted on what may be the worst drama in the history of our modern civilization.

🇩🇪 Breaking: At a commemoration in Warsaw today that's being attended by Vice President Pence, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier recalled World War II as a "German crime."

In Poland and across Eastern Europe, many feel that their people’s suffering has never been adequately recognized, or that they have been unfairly tarnished for their behavior at that time, AP's Vanessa Gera reports from Warsaw.

  • Why it matters: Politicians are now exploiting those grievances in a new era of nationalism.

For Americans and others, AP continues, World War II might seem a black-and-white story of good defeating evil, with the Allies fighting far from home to defeat Adolf Hitler’s genocidal regime and open a new era of peace and liberty.

  • But from the Baltics and Poland to Hungary and Russia, where fighting, deportations and mass executions happened, there are many shades of gray: heroic resistance and martyrdom, but also collaboration.

Keep reading.

6. Jay Carney on 9/11: "We were at war"
Jay Carney ends his last White House briefing, on June 18, 2014. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Graydon Carter, the legendary Vanity Fair editor who this summer started the weekend newsletter Air Mail, recently asked Jay Carney to write for publication for the first time in a decade.

Carney — my boss at TIME, press secretary to President Obama and now Amazon's SVP for global corporate affairs — reviews Garrett Graff's "The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11," out Sept. 10:

  • "[M]ost of the voices in the book belong to survivors," Carney writes. "That may explain, at least in part, why 'The Only Plane in the Sky' manages to feel hopeful."

18 years on ... In Air Mail's "The Longest Day," Carney tells his own story from 9/11/01, when he was a TIME White House reporter among the 13-journalist pool on Air Force One with President George W. Bush:

From the press section aboard Air Force One, we caught televised images of mayhem ... The president had announced he was returning to Washington, but we could tell we weren’t. Instead of heading north, we had banked west, flying high and fast over the Gulf of Mexico.
Secret Service agents asked us if we knew our destination, because they didn’t.
Ari Fleischer ... came back to the press cabin and told us to remove the batteries from our phones — in case we were being tracked. We looked through our windows and, finally, saw fighter jets flying, escorting us.

Keep reading.

7. In Steeltown U.S.A., a final edition
Via The Newseum
8. 🍷 1 fad thing: Wine in a can

Trending, per the Wall Street Journal: Wine in a can, which "comes with a liner whose exact composition is a closely guarded secret." (Subscription)

  • Sales of canned wine rose by nearly 80% this year over last, per Nielsen.
  • The idea is to extend vino to beaching and other outdoor activities.
  • "Still, wine in bottles saw over $15 billion in sales this year and wine in boxes $1.4 billion, while sales of wine in cans amounted to about $90 million."
Mike Allen