Mar 2, 2021

Axios AM

Good Tuesday morning. Smart Brevity™ count: 985 words ... < 4 minutes.

1 big thing: China, Russia make moves on vaccine diplomacy

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

While the U.S. and Europe vaccinate their own populations, China and Russia are sending millions of COVID vaccine doses to countries around the world, Axios China author Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian reports.

  • Why it matters: China's double success in controlling its domestic outbreak and producing several viable vaccines has allowed it to build global power by providing doses abroad.

China has provided vaccines to 20 countries, including across South America and Africa, and has plans to send doses to at least 40 more, according to a Chinese foreign ministry statement sent to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).

  • Chinese companies and government officials have worked with local partners to create cold-chain infrastructure in Ethiopia to help transport and distribute vaccines.

Share this story.

2. ⚡ 6 Dr. Seuss books shelved for racist imagery

Photo: Steven Senne/AP

Six Dr. Seuss books — including "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street" and "If I Ran the Zoo" — will stop being published because of racist and insensitive imagery, AP's Mark Pratt reports.

  • "These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong," Dr. Seuss Enterprises said in a statement that coincided with the 117th anniversary of the birth of the late author and illustrator.

Dr. Seuss books include environmentalism and tolerance. But there has been increasing criticism of the way Asian people, Black people and others are drawn in some of his books.

  • The other books affected are "McElligot's Pool," "On Beyond Zebra!," "Scrambled Eggs Super!," and "The Cat's Quizzer."
3. Axios interview: Eric Schmidt on the tech America needs next

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt tells Axios' Ina Fried that the U.S., which once had a dominant head start in artificial intelligence, now risks dire consequences if it fails to invest more in rapidly evolving technology, and fully integrate AI into the military.

  • "We don’t have to go to war with China," Schmidt said. "We don’t have to have a cold war. We do need to be competitive."
  • Among the technologies that need more U.S. investment: quantum computing, robotics, 3D printing and 5G.

Schmidt chairs the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, which issued findings yesterday after two years of work by 15 commissioners.

  • "China possesses the might, talent, and ambition to surpass the United States as the world’s leader in AI in the next decade if current trends do not change," the report states.

The bottom line: Schmidt said competition can be good for innovation, pointing to PCs vs. Macs, and iOS vs. Android.

4. Axios-Ipsos: Hopes rise after year of COVID
Data: Axios/Ipsos Poll. (Margin of error for entire sample: ±3.1%.) Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Americans finally see some light as we approach the anniversary of the national emergency over the pandemic, managing editor David Nather writes from the latest Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

  • The percentage of respondents who said "stressed/worried" or "frustrated" best described their mood plummeted from 41% over the past year to 20% in the latest survey.
  • 48% now say they are "hopeful."

Share this graphic.

5. Cuomo's "Can I kiss you?" increases calls to quit
Courtesy N.Y. Post

After the N.Y. Times revealed last night that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had asked a stranger, "Can I kiss you?" at a wedding, Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), a former Nassau County D.A., had seen enough.

  • "The time has come," she tweeted with a link to the story. "The Governor must resign."

Anna Ruch, now 33, had never met Cuomo before encountering him at a crowded New York City wedding reception in 2019, The Times' Matt Flegenheimer and Jesse McKinley report (subscription):

Cuomo put his hand on Ms. Ruch's bare lower back, she said in an interview ... "I promptly removed his hand with my hand, which I would have thought was a clear enough indicator that I was not wanting him to touch me," she said.
Instead, Ms. Ruch said, Mr. Cuomo called her "aggressive" and placed his hands on her cheeks."
He said, 'Can I kiss you?'" Ms. Ruch said. "I felt so uncomfortable and embarrassed when really he is the one who should have been embarrassed." (A friend captured the exchange in a series of photographs taken on Ms. Ruch’s cellphone.)
6. More in common than we think
Data: Populace Inc. Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Many Americans assume the rest of the country doesn't share their political and policy priorities — but they're often wrong, Axios' Stef Kight reports from new polling by Populace.

  • Addressing climate change and preserving clean air and water landed in respondents' top 5 personal priorities for the future of the U.S. — but they believe those issues rank closer to the bottom for "most others."

Keep reading.

7. First "Bloody Sunday" without John Lewis

Rep. John Lewis stands on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on Feb. 14, 2015. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Civil rights advocates are preparing to mark the anniversary of Selma's "Bloody Sunday" — Mar 7, 1965 — without the late Rep. John Lewis, and as the first anniversary of George Floyd's death approaches, Axios race and justice reporter Russell Contreras writes.

  • Why it matters: Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) told Axios he hopes the virtual events "rekindle the flame and legacy of John Lewis" for a new generation of advocates, and called for Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Keep reading.

8. Booming field: Space weather

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Advancements in policy and science are expected to lead to space weather being treated in much the same way weather forecasting is treated on Earth, Axios Space author Miriam Kramer writes.

  • Why it matters: The most extreme solar events can overload satellites, harm astronauts in space and bring down electrical grids around the world.

Keep reading.

9. Coming attractions: Kal Penn memoir

Cover: Gallery Books

Kal Penn, the actor and Obama White House official, will be out Nov. 2 with a memoir, "You Can't Be Serious," which he says is "for anyone who has ever wondered if it’s possible to have more than one calling."

Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, says the book is "about growing up as a skinny kid with a funny name and later helping another skinny kid with a funny name become President of the United States":

  • "Mostly, it’s a story about how your life can have more than one story, and knowing you have many more choices than those presented to you."
10. 1 📺 thing: Award shows cool off
Data: Nielsen. Chart: Axios Visuals

The pandemic has sped up the trend of ratings declines for award shows, Axios Media Trends expert Sara Fischer writes.

  • Ratings for the Golden Globes on NBC likely fell to a record low Sunday, according to preliminary ratings from Nielsen.

Why it matters: The Golden Globes typically serves as a litmus test for how ratings will fare for the remainder of the year. The 2021 ratings are a bad indicator for the Oscars, set to air in March, with the Emmys and Grammys later this year.

  • Part of the problem could be bigger than the shows themselves. The pandemic upended the production schedules of Hollywood's biggest studios, reducing the number of hits to debut last year.

The bottom line: The coveted award shows that networks used to rely on to sell lucrative ad sponsorships are less appealing in the digital age.

  • 📡 Sign up for Sara Fischer's weekly Axios Media Trends, out later today.

📬 Thanks for starting March with us. Please urge your friends to sign up for Axios AM/PM.