Jan 1, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🎩 Happy 2020 from Orlando, where the Allen family is watching Alabama's Crimson Tide roll over Michigan in the Citrus Bowl.

1 big thing: 2020 flashpoints

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Ralph Morse, Kirn Vintage Stock via Getty Images

2020 will be a momentous year for America and the world, with the very real possibility that an impeached U.S. president will be re-elected for the first time.

  • Here’s what else the Axios subject-matter experts will be covering — from tech regulation to climate change to job automation. (Sign up for each expert's newsletter here.)

Politics: To what extent will President Trump and his campaign be able to convert a Republican-led Senate trial into enduring political advantage? By November, will impeachment be just another forgotten series of Trump news cycles, or will it have given him additional tools to wield, or weaknesses to manage? — Jonathan Swan

Business: People can't stop talking about it: Will 2020 finally be year the next recession hits? As a Magic 8 Ball might say: "Reply hazy." — Jennifer A. Kingson

Tech: Will the techlash hand-wringing actually lead to greater regulation or antitrust enforcement? On the pure tech front, 2020 will be a little early for truly consumer-ready augmented-reality glasses — but expect to see more experimentation, in smartphones and beyond. — Ina Fried

Media: How will Big Tech companies police their systems for malicious content and political manipulation ahead of the 2020 election? — Sara Fischer

Health care: Trump keeps promising radical steps to lower prescription drug prices, spooking drugmakers. Will he actually do it? Will Democrats really embrace Medicare for All as their party’s position for the 2020 election? It backfired on Elizabeth Warren, and some worry it could cost Dems the election. — Caitlin Owens

Energy: Will the world’s biggest oil companies, under pressure from advocates, make more concrete and deeper climate commitments? — Ben Geman

World: Will the U.S. and North Korea return to "fire and fury" after missing Pyongyang's end-of-year deadline for a breakthrough in the nuclear talks? How will the U.S. election factor into that, and the U.S.-Iran standoff? — Dave Lawler

China: 2020 is a make-or-break year for Huawei — and for U.S. attempts to limit the China-based company's presence in global 5G networks. Will Canada and European nations follow U.S. warnings and send 5G contracts elsewhere, or will the promise of cheap Chinese 5G prove too alluring? — Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

Future: As robots and machines continue to gnaw away at jobs, experts predict that 2020 will be the year that the economy really starts to feel the impact of automation-fueled job losses. Look for these waves of disruption to hit the American heartland the hardest, as big cities keep getting the bulk of new job creation. — Erica Pandey

Cities: The Census will be top of mind for city leaders, who will try to ensure residents are counted appropriately. The frequency of cybersecurity attacks on state and city governments will likely continue to increase, forcing more officials to make the hard choice between paying ransom demands by hackers, or spending the millions it takes to rebuild systems. — Kim Hart

Transportation: Electric vehicles are beginning to enter the mainstream, with more models to choose from in dealer showrooms. But widespread adoption will depend on how quickly battery prices fall and charging stations spread. The industry is working hard on both. In the meantime, buyers are finding that hybrids are a good placeholder. — Joann Muller

Space: SpaceX and Boeing aim to get NASA astronauts to the International Space Station this year. Will 2020 finally be the year when humans finally get back to orbit from U.S. soil for the first time since the end of the space shuttle program? — Miriam Kramer

Sports: Ahead of the Tokyo Summer Games, who will emerge as the face(s) of Team USA — and the Olympics as a whole — now that global/generational superstars like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt have retired? — Kendall Baker

2. 🚨 Trump's twin war threats
A member of the Iraqi paramilitary group Hashd al-Shaabi yesterday. Photo: Wissm al-Okili/Reuters

President Trump suddenly faces two global crises, both with the real possibility of U.S. military action, if not war: 

  • Iran-backed militiamen attacked the U.S. embassy in Baghdad today for the second day in a row. Marines guarding the embassy fired tear gas after the protesters lit a fire on the roof of the reception area, per AP. The militias later called on the protesters to withdraw, reports Reuters.
  • "Little Rocket Man," North Korea's Kim Jong-un, is threatening to resume nuclear-missile testing, and said he'll soon introduce "a new strategic weapon." The momentum of the past few years has stalled, as Washington refuses to lift sanctions until Pyongyang fully abandons its nuclear program, BBC reports.

Why it matters: Trump has benefited from relative peace abroad and prosperity at home. But these twin challenges will truly test his diplomatic mix of bluster and buddying up to bad guys on the world stage. 

  • On New Year's Eve, Trump ordered the deployment of 750 soldiers from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division from Fort Bragg, N.C., to the Middle East. 3,000 more prepared for possible deployment in the next several days. (AP)

At the same time, Russia said it had deployed a hypersonic nuclear missile that Vladimir Putin claims is in a class of its own, "fueling concerns of a new arms race with the U.S.," per Bloomberg.

  • Go deeper: From Axios PM, Jonathan Swan goes inside Trump's thinking on one of the biggest foreign policy crises of his presidency.
Ospreys drop off reinforcement U.S. Marines at the embassy in Baghdad yesterday. Photo: Defense Department via Reuters
3. California's new privacy law kicks in

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Starting today, Californians can find out what data certain companies have collected about them, and even ask for it to be deleted, under the new California Consumer Privacy Act, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports from S.F.

  • Why it matters: The law covers residents of the most populous state, but it also has national repercussions. Other states tend to follow California when it introduces firm rules that don't exist on the federal level.
  • Some companies, including Microsoft, have already said they'll extend practices required under the law to all their customers and users.

The law applies to any company that has California-based customers and ...

  • Has at least $25 million in annual gross revenue.
  • Has personal information on at least 50,000 people.
  • Earns at least half its money selling California consumers' personal information.

How it works: The California attorney general is in charge of enforcing the law against companies that break it. But A.G. Xavier Becerra's office is expected to only have the resources to handle a limited number of cases.

4. Pics du jour
Photo: Frank Franklin II/AP

Above: A fisheye lens shows confetti dropping over Times Square at midnight.

Below: Phones'-eye view of the Arc de Triomphe, on the Champs-Élysées, Paris.

Photo: Christophe Ena/AP
Photo: Bruna Prado/AP

Above: Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Below: On the Vegas strip, an eight-minute Fireworks by Grucci show.

Photo: Bryan Steffy/Getty Images
5. Wall Street's best year since 2013
Expand chart
Data: FactSet. Chart: Axios Visuals

Wall Street finished the year with its biggest annual gain in six years, Axios' Courtenay Brown reports.

  • Why it matters: U.S. stocks rebounded from 2018's year-end meltdown to log impressive gains, despite uncertainty stemming from the trade war and a slowdown in economic growth.

Apple and Microsoft were the biggest contributors to the S&P's gains both this year and over the past decade, according to Howard Silverblatt, a senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

6. FDA to ban teens' favorite vapes
President Trump speaks to the media at Mar-a-Lago before a New Year's celebration. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

"The Trump administration is expected to announce this week that it will ban mint-, fruit- and dessert-flavored e-cigarette cartridges popular with teenagers, but allow menthol and tobacco flavors to remain on the market," the N.Y. Times reports (subscription).

  • Why it matters, per the Wall Street Journal (subscription): "The action is seen as a compromise between Trump administration officials who want to address a rise in teen vaping and those concerned about the impact on small businesses and the possible political fallout for President Trump."

💬 Trump told reporters at Mar-a-Lago last night: "We have to protect our families. At the same time, it’s a big industry. We want to protect the industry. ... It’s become a very big industry. We’re going to take care of the industry."

7. Trail pic du jour
Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

This is an official Bernie Sanders sign, waved at a New Year's Eve event in Des Moines.

8. 🍾 1 hot thing: Hangover cures

The "hangover remedy" business has exploded in the past three years, "a surprising counterpoint to decreased alcohol consumption among American millennials and Generation Z," the WashPost's Laura Reiley reports (subscription).

  • "There are capsules and patches and beverages."
  • Buzzwords include milk thistle and prickly pear.

"A raft of these remedies has cropped up on .... 'Shark Tank' ... and nabbed up to $10 million of Silicon Valley venture capital money," the Post adds.

  • Hangover-hack start-ups "have rocketed out $1 million in sales in three months."
Mike Allen

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