Jul 16, 2020

Axios AM

🇮🇳 Breaking: 400 million people re-enter lockdown in India. (CNN)

🎧 "Axios Today," our 10-minute podcast, is ready for you.

  • This is the first time we swapped out every single story for breaking news!

💻 Ina Fried hosts an Axios virtual event on remote education tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. ET with Rep. Grace Meng of New York, Stand for Children CEO Jonah Edelman, and Mei Kwong, executive director of the Center for Connected Health Policy. Register here.

1 big thing: Trump's summer shakeup
President Trump speaks in the Rose Garden last week. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Trump demoted campaign manager Brad Parscale and replaced him with his deputy, hours after a brutal new round of polls showed Trump losing five of six swing states — and sinking into a double-digit hole nationally.

  • Why it matters: Trump's announcement — on Facebook, in the midst of a Twitter outage — shows that he knows he's losing.
  • It's obvious to all around him: All the data shows it. The family knows it. And with 110 days until the election, the president now admits it.

A recent spate of Fox News polls particularly infuriated Trump, Axios' Alayna Treene hears.

  • One official said Trump still brings up a warning by Fox News' Tucker Carlson last month that Trump "could well lose."
  • Look for more changes to come.

The towering Parscale is a longtime Trump family digital guru who engineered the online side of Trump's 2016 upset.

  • He gets to stay, demoted to senior adviser. Trump really can't fire Brad: He knows too much, and he built the digital infrastructure the campaign relies on.
  • He was replaced by his deputy, Bill Stepien, a Trump loyalist and longtime Republican operative. Stepien worked on Trump's 2016 campaign, then was White House political director before moving to the campaign.

One top Republican told me Stepien, who once was Chris Christie's top aide, is an expert at a vital skill in Trumpworld — candidate management.

  • Another power center is senior adviser Jason Miller, effectively the campaign's chief strategist, who has frequent conversations with Trump.

Behind the scenes: Trump lost confidence in Parscale after the Tulsa debacle, Axios' Jonathan Swan reports.

  • The switch is partly cosmetic: Jared Kushner — who gave Parscale the news that he was out — was calling the shots before, and calls them now.

What's next: A Trump confidant tells me the campaign believes it can make up ground with suburban voters by trying to tie Joe Biden to calls to defund police.

  • "I look forward to having a big and very important second win," Trump said on Facebook. "This one should be a lot easier as our poll numbers are rising fast, the economy is getting better, vaccines and therapeutics will soon be on the way, and Americans want safe streets and communities!"

The best text I got when the news broke: "The real campaign manager reports to the Oval every day, anyways."

  • That, of course, is Donald Trump.

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2. The burden on teachers

Illustration: AĂŻda Amer/Axios

The debate over whether and how much to reopen schools in the fall has put teachers in the precarious position of choosing between their own safety and pressures from parents and local officials, Axios' Kim Hart and Marisa Fernandez write.

  • Why it matters: The people we depend on to educate our society's children may end up bearing the brunt of both the risk and the workload.

Michelle Albright, a second grade teacher from northwest Indiana, said: "We as teachers prepare for active shooters, tornadoes, fires — and I’m fully prepared to take a bullet or shield a child from falling debris during a tornado."

  • "But if I somehow get it and I’m asymptomatic and I get a student sick and something happens to them or one of their family members, that's a guilt I would carry with me forever."

Among the worries for teachers:

1. Exposure: Despite a child's overall low health risk if they contract COVID-19, scientists still do not conclusively know if schools could become hotspots for more vulnerable populations.

  • Schools are on a time and money crunch for better ventilation, more disinfectant and masks and proper social distancing techniques. If a cluster of cases do occur, teachers and parents are short on answers about how to isolate students and contact trace.
  • Districts were already facing staffing shortages before the pandemic.

2. Difficulty of a hybrid approach: Many teachers will have to prepare virtual and in-person lessons, and ensure the same learning outcomes for students in both settings — a tall order.

  • In-person contact with a teacher can make a big difference for students struggling with a concept.

3. Child care: Teachers with children of their own are concerned about how to care for them when they are teaching.

4. Concerns of other school staff: Bus drivers, custodians, classroom aides, administrative staff, cafeteria workers, school nurses and substitute teachers may come in contact with more children throughout the day, because they are less likely than teachers to be confined to a single classroom.

3. Twitter hack points to bigger danger

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Twitter's security failure last evening — with hackers taking over the accounts of Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and others to push a bitcoin scam — stunned the worlds of politics and tech, Axios chief tech correspondent Ina Fried writes from S.F.

  • Why it matters: As bad as the rampage was, the real fallout came as business leaders, politicians and everyday users realized that their chosen network for real-time information is vulnerable to being hijacked.
  • Twitter tweeted: "We detected what we believe to be a coordinated social engineering attack by people who successfully targeted some of our employees with access to internal systems and tools."

The accounts of high-profile individuals and corporations were compromised within a short period of time, allowing the posting of a message luring people to deposit bitcoin in a specific account.

  • Aiming to contain the problem, Twitter for a time prevented all verified accounts — the blue check marks of journalists, politicians, celebrities and other public actors — from posting new messages.

Between the lines: Experts pointed out that the plot to steal bitcoin was small potatoes compared with the much worse things a malefactor could do with access to Twitter's highest profile accounts.

  • President Trump essentially governs via the social network, dictating policy and threatening world leaders. In the wrong hands, that account could start a war. (Trump's account did not appear to be compromised.)

Some of the deeper problems relate to Twitter's structure.

  • The blue check mark next to a name is supposed to indicate that you can trust the identity of the account.
  • But those are exactly the accounts that were compromised.

Deprived of their main accounts, many prominent Tweeters turned to old secondary accounts, friends' accounts or all-new accounts to keep posting.

  • Some news outlets, including NBC News, posted to temporary accounts, while others sent out news from less prominent accounts.
  • This workaround created new long-term problems for Twitter's information climate, since impersonators could use that method to spread misinformation.

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4. Our weekly map: Virus rises in 37 states
Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments. Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Danielle Alberti, Sara Wise/Axios

The coronavirus continues to spread nearly unchecked across almost the entire country: 37 states saw bigger caseloads over the past week, Axios' Sam Baker and Andrew Witherspoon report.

  • New infections rose by at least 10% last week in 37 states, spanning every region. Six states and D.C. experienced spikes greater than 50%.

Why it matters: Our map has shown persistent, widespread deterioration for several weeks.

What's next: Experts hope this outbreak won't be as deadly as the virus' initial attack on the New York area, in part because more young people are getting sick.

  • But deaths are a trailing indicator, and these new waves of infection will undoubtedly kill thousands of people.

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5. Trump's war on public health experts

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A pandemic would normally be a time when public health expertise and data are in urgent demand — yet President Trump and his administration have been going all out to undermine them, Axios managing editor David Nather writes.

  • Why it matters: There's a new example almost every day of this administration trying to marginalize the experts and data that most administrations lean on and defer to in the middle of a global crisis.

The administration has repeatedly undermined the CDC.

  • It has repeatedly undermined Anthony Fauci. Trump distanced himself from a USA Today op-ed attack by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro. But longtime aide Dan Scavino posted a cartoon on Facebook mocking Fauci as "Dr. Faucet."
  • Fauci, in an interview with The Atlantic, said of efforts to discredit him: "Ultimately, it hurts the president. ... [I]t doesn’t do anything but reflect poorly on them."

The bottom line: The history of the pandemic will show that public health experts also had to deal with political fights that made their jobs harder.

6. Poll question of the day: "No chance"
Screenshot via MSNBC
Screenshot via MSNBC
7. Graphic du jour
Screenshot via MSNBC
8. First Vanity Fair cover shot by a Black photog
Photo: Dario Calmese for Vanity Fair. Cover via Twitter

The July/August issue of Vanity Fair, featuring a powerful image of Oscar-winning actor Viola Davis, marks the first time the publication has featured the work of a Black photographer on its cover, AP reports.

  • The historic image of Davis, shot by photographer Dario Calmese, shows the 54-year-old in profile, her back facing the camera.

Radhika Jones, the magazine's editor-in-chief, writes in the issue that 17 Black people were on the cover in the 35 years between 1983 and 2017.

  • "Calmese describes his cover concept as a re-creation of the Louis Agassiz slave portraits taken in the 1800s — the back, the welts," she writes.
  • "This image reclaims that narrative, transmuting the white gaze on Black suffering into the Black gaze of grace, elegance and beauty."

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