Sep 21, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🎓 'Morning! Later today, look out for a great Deep Dive on higher ed's existential crisis.

  • 🎙️ NPR will livestream Cokie Roberts' funeral mass at 10 a.m. ET. (About two hours.)
  • From 4 to 5 p.m. ET, Michel Martin hosts "Remembrance of Cokie Roberts."
1 big thing: Reality check on our "New Gilded Age"
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Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

You might have heard that the poverty rate in America has finally fallen below its pre-recession level, Axios chief financial correspondent Felix Salmon writes.

  • But what has been less reported is that the number of Americans living in poverty is still higher than it was in 2007.

Why it matters: It's even higher than it was in 1964, when the War on Poverty began.

  • The number of Americans living in poverty — 38.1 million — is roughly the same as the population of California (nearly 40 million).
  • The poverty line for a family with 2 adults and 2 children is set at an annual income of $25,465.

Flashback: In January 1964, President Lyndon Johnson used his State of the Union address to launch an "unconditional war on poverty." The effort encompassed Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and expanded Social Security benefits.

  • The good news: Johnson's measures worked. The poverty rate in America fell from 19% in 1964 to just 11.1% in 1973.
  • The bad news: The poverty rate stopped falling in 1973, and in no year since then has it been that low.
2. What a difference a year makes
Both photos: Reuters

On the left, 10 months ago, 15-year-old Greta Thunberg holds a sign reading "School strike for the climate" outside the Swedish parliament.

At right, Greta Thunberg, now 16, speaks to a huge crowd in Manhattan yesterday as millions of young people flooded streets around the world to demand political leaders take urgent steps to stop climate change. (Reuters)

Screenshot: MSNBC

Above, New York City officials estimated 60,000 people marched there, as adults swelled the ranks of students. (Reuters)

Below is a march in Melbourne, Australia. Organizers said 300,000 Australians joined rallies across the nation. (Australian Broadcasting Corp.)

Photo: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

6 more pics on 1 page.

3. Trump asked Ukraine for Biden probe
Screengrab: CNN

"President Trump in a July phone call repeatedly pressured the president of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden's son," The Wall Street Journal reports (subscription):

  • Trump urged President Volodymyr Zelensky "about eight times to work with Rudy Giuliani on a probe that could hamper Mr. Trump’s potential 2020 opponent."
  • "Trump in the call didn’t mention a provision of U.S. aid to Ukraine, said [a person familiar with the matter], who didn’t believe Mr. Trump offered the Ukrainian president any quid-pro-quo for his cooperation on any investigation."

Trump yesterday, when asked if he had discussed "Joe Biden, his son, or his family with the leader of Ukraine":

  • "It doesn’t matter what I discuss."
4. Cover du jour
Courtesy N.Y. Post
5. U.S. troops to deploy to Saudi Arabia
The Saudi information ministry held a media tour yesterday to show workers repairing Aramco's damaged oil processing facility. Photo: Amr Nabil/AP

"President Trump has approved the deployment of additional U.S. troops and air defense assets to Saudi Arabia, in a muted military response to last week’s attack on Saudi oil facilities," the WashPost reports.

  • Why it matters: "Word of the deployments, coupled with an announcement of new economic sanctions, indicated that despite Trump’s initial 'locked and loaded' response to the attacks — and the urging of some advisers — he does not plan U.S. military retaliation."
6. 🎧 What we're listening to

Axios CEO Jim VandeHei guests on "Conversations with Bill Kristol" to argue that the digital revolution has transformed not just news, but all of society:

We’re still very adolescent in our usage of these really cool technologies, which if used right, can be transformative in a very positive way. If abused, they could really grind up and grind down our country.
We are still pretty irresponsible in our usage of them — not just our kids; *we’re* irresponsible in our use of them.
My guess is like over time, we figure out better boundaries and different ways to put either government regulation and self-regulation around it.

Watch/listen. Read.

7. 🌍 The number of children who die under 5 has declined steadily

From "Examining Inequality," a report by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, released ahead of next week's UN General Assembly:

Graphics: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Read the report.

8. 🛸 Navy confirms videos of flying objects
In this image from video by U.S. Navy aircraft, an unidentified object moves near the plane. Photo: The Stars Academy of Arts & Science via AP

On the video, a small object streaks across the sky before the U.S. Navy fighter jet's tracking system locks on and follows it, AP's Ben Finley writes from Norfolk.

  • "Whoa. Got it," the pilot yells, laughing as the dot moves on his screen. "Woohoo!"
  • Another pilot asks: "Wow. What is that, man?"

What's new: The Navy isn't offering a public explanation for exactly what that object was. But the service is confirming the authenticity of that video and two others taken from its planes in 2004 and 2015.

  • Why it matters: The footage has prompted the Navy to publicly discuss an ongoing investigation into sightings by its pilots of what it describes as "unidentified aerial phenomena" — or UAPs — in U.S. airspace on both coasts.
  • What's next: Lawmakers are calling for more information on the so-called UAPs, saying some of their movements seem to challenge the laws of physics.

Go deeper: A most-read N.Y. Times story from May, "‘Wow, What Is That?’ Navy Pilots Reported Unexplained Flying Objects."

9. 🎥 How Hope Hicks is doing in Hollywood
In 2018, Hope Hicks, then White House communications director, leaves after eight hours of closed-door House Intelligence Committee testimony. Photo: Leah Millis/Reuters

For Graydon Carter's weekend newsletter, Airmail, Shawn McCreesh talks to entertainment execs and journalists who describe Hope Hicks, now Fox Corp. EVP and chief communications officer, "much the way the Washington press corps does: delightful and delightfully competent. (Just don’t quote them on it!)"

  • Hicks' friends tell McCreesh she misses Washington:
A year ago Hicks was at the white-hot center of the Free World, fielding calls from The New York Times and patching through heads of state. Now excitement comes in the form of tours of Century City back lots. (Though not always. Familiars say she self-deprecatingly describes her pariah status with certain Hollywood stars this way: “No one on the cast of 'Modern Family' wants to see me.”)

Keep reading.

10. 1 🏈 thing
"The Immaculate Reception": On Dec. 23, 1972, Pittsburgh Steelers' Franco Harris (#32) eludes a tackle by Oakland Raiders' Jimmy Warren as he runs 42 yards for a touchdown after catching a deflected pass. Photo: Harry Cabluck/AP

"Pittsburgh running back Franco Harris' scoop of a deflected pass and subsequent run for the winning touchdown in a 1972 playoff victory against Oakland — forever known as the 'Immaculate Reception' — has been voted the greatest play in NFL history," AP Pro Football writer Barry Wilner reports.

  • As part of the celebration of the NFL's 100th season, a panel of 68 media members chose the Immaculate Reception as the top play.
  • "Second in the balloting was Dwight Clark's TD catch from Joe Montana that lifted San Francisco past Dallas to win the 1981 NFC championship."

The call: "With 22 seconds remaining in the first-round matchup, and the ball at the Steelers' 40-yard line, quarterback Terry Bradshaw scrambled under heavy pressure on fourth down. He heaved the ball downfield toward running back Frenchy Fuqua, and Raiders safety Jack 'The Assassin' Tatum arrived at the same time. The ball ricocheted wildly toward Harris near the left sideline. Before it hit the turf, he bent deeply and grabbed it before heading to the end zone."

  • "Game officials weren't sure who deflected the pass. Had it gone off Fuqua, rules of the day would make it an incompletion. Referee Fred Swearingen, after consulting with NFL supervisor of officials Art McNally, ruled a touchdown. Pittsburgh kicked the extra point for a 13-7 lead with 5 seconds remaining — and won a playoff game for the first time in franchise history."
Photo: Gene J. Puskar/AP

Above: In 2012, Franco Harris, then 62 (now 69), stood at the site of the Immaculate Reception, when a marker commemorating the play's 40th anniversary was unveiled where Three Rivers Stadium once stood on the North Side of Pittsburgh.

Mike Allen