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Feb 18, 2019

Axios AM

🇺🇸 Happy Washington's Birthday. George Washington's Mount Vernon is free today: "Celebrate the first president ... on the most exciting day of the year! ... Timed tickets for Mansion tours will be distributed upon entry." (tricorn hat tip: Colin Reed)

1 big thing: Women now more educated than men, but there's a twist
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Data: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

American women are more educated than ever, Axios data and trends reporter Stef Kight writes.

  • But in a surprising twist, the workforce participation rate for women has plateaued and even fallen over the past few years, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

There are a few theories about this:

  • It could be a result of generational shifts: Women are beginning their careers later. And older people are retiring earlier in the U.S. than in places like Canada, economist Diane Schanzenbach, director of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, told Axios.
  • Some economists and researchers point to a lack of generous family leave or child care assistance policies as a reason the rate of working women has fallen behind other nations, said Lisa Barrow, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve in Chicago. Ivanka Trump has made this her signature issue.

Why it matters: If more women joined the workforce, that would help promote economic growth and help pay for the Social Security and Medicare needs of the large, retiring Boomer generation.

The data: Women with a bachelor's, master's or professional degree are still less likely to be working than men with the same education level, according to BLS.

  • Less educated women are worst off: Workforce participation rates have fallen the most and wages have risen the least among women with only a high school diploma or less, Schanzenbach said.

The big picture: The U.S. used to be a global leader for female workforce participation. But the U.K., Canada and even Japan are now ahead, according to World Bank data.

  • The bottom line: The gender gap in the U.S. workforce is still a big problem — and it will be harder to maintain economic growth and sustain a large, retired generation if it isn't closed.
2. Story of the day
Photo: FBI via AP

"Recent Iranian [cyberattacks] on American banks, businesses and government agencies have been more extensive than previously reported," the N.Y. Times' Nicole Perlroth reports:

  • What's new: "Dozens of corporations and multiple United States agencies have been hit, according to seven people briefed on the episodes."
  • Security experts believe Iranian and Chinese hackers "have been energized by President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal last year and his trade conflicts with China."

Why it matters: "Chinese cyberespionage cooled four years ago after President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping of China reached a landmark deal to stop hacks meant to steal trade secrets."

  • "Federal agencies and private companies are back to where they were five years ago: battling increasingly sophisticated, government-affiliated hackers from China and Iran — in addition to fighting constant efforts out of Russia — who hope to steal trade and military secrets and sow mayhem."
  • "And it appears the hackers substantially improved their skills during the lull."

🇨🇳 Get smarter: We recommend Bill Bishop's Sinocism newsletter.

3. London zaps Big Tech: "digital gangsters"
Photo: Paul Sakuma/AP

British parliament said today in an unsparing report on fake news that Facebook and other big tech companies "should be subject to a compulsory code of ethics to tackle ... the abuse of users' data and the bullying of smaller firms," per Reuters.

  • Key quote from the report: "Companies like Facebook should not be allowed to behave like 'digital gangsters' in the online world, considering themselves to be ahead of and beyond the law."

Why it matters, from The Guardian: "In terms of how lawmakers across the globe .... think about Silicon Valley, the report is a landmark."

  • It's the "first really comprehensive attempt of a major legislative body to peer into the ... economy of data manipulation and voter influence."

The fallout: "The guiding principle of the 'move fast and break things' culture often seems to be that it is better to apologize than ask permission,'" said Damian Collins, chair of the parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

  • "We need a radical shift in the balance of power between the platforms and the people."

Go deeper. ... Read the 108-page paper.

Bonus: Pic du jour
Photo: Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

A wreck-filled running of NASCAR's Daytona 500 in Florida yesterday:

  • "There was an accident on pit road, a 21-car crash, 12 cautions and five wrecks in the final 20 laps of regulation. The race was stopped twice for cleanup totaling nearly 40 minutes in the final stretch." (AP)
4. New wave of "prankster activists"
National Gallery of Art security cover Laura Newman with a blanket Thursday after she removed her clothes to protest the fact that 90% of the art is by white men. (Kevin Wolf/AP)

Confrontational street theater is flourishing in Washington with the Trump administration as its nemesis, AP's Ashraf Khalil reports.

  • Why it matters: It "can be hard for [D.C.] protesters to stand out. Fifty people — or even 500 — holding signs and shouting hardly merits a second glance in this city of protests ... That's why Washington activists have to get creative."

What's new:

  • "In January, a group of activists associated with political pranksters The Yes Men passed out dozens of fake Washington Posts."
  • "Within sight of the White House, a realistic-looking street sign declares the street Khashoggi Way, after Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident Saudi journalist killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. About 10 of these signs have been scattered around Washington."
  • "On Thursday, two female activists disrobed inside the National Gallery of Art to protest what they say is a lack of diversity in the artists being featured. One led security on a brief chase before being subdued."

Act up.

Activists distributed fake Washington Posts in January. (Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
5. The resurgent left
Courtesy The Economist

"A new kind of left-wing doctrine is emerging," The Economist writes in its lead article:

  • 28 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, "socialism is back in fashion."
  • "In America Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a newly elected congresswoman who calls herself a democratic socialist, has become a sensation even as the growing field of Democratic presidential candidates for 2020 veers left. In Britain Jeremy Corbyn, the hardline leader of the Labour Party, could yet win the keys to 10 Downing Street."

Why it matters: "Socialism is storming back because it has formed an incisive critique of what has gone wrong in Western societies."

  • "Whereas politicians on the right have all too often given up the battle of ideas and retreated towards chauvinism and nostalgia, the left has focused on inequality, the environment, and how to vest power in citizens rather than elites."
6. 1 fun thing
Photo: Simone Padovani/Awakening/Getty Images

Costumed rowers lead the Carnival Regatta along the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy, yesterday.

  • "There are few things in Italy as soaked in the aura of tradition and pageantry as the Carnevale di Venezia, a festival of make-believe that has unfolded along the canals of the northern city for nearly a thousand years," Agence France-Presse correspondent Filippo Monteforte wrote last year.

"The first mention of it can be found in 1094 and it was made a public holiday in the then Republic of Venice in 1296."