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Nov 29, 2021

Axios AM

Welcome back, and happy Cyber Monday. Smart Brevity™ count: 1,170 words ... 4½ minutes. Edited by Zachary Basu.

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1 big thing: GOP courts anti-vaxxers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Republican officials are using unemployment benefits to build loyalty with unvaccinated Americans and undermine President Biden's mandates.

  • Florida, Iowa, Kansas and Tennessee have changed rules to allow benefits for workers who are fired or quit over vaccine requirements, Axios' Andrew Solender, Alayna Treene and Stef Kight report.

Why it matters: Extending benefits to the unvaccinated is the latest in a series of GOP efforts to court people who won't get a COVID shot.

  • Republicans see a prime opportunity to rally their base ahead of next year's midterms.

What's happening: Two states with Republican governors — Montana and Tennessee — have banned mandates, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy.

  • Seven GOP-controlled states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Texas, Utah and West Virginia — have passed laws requiring opt-outs and/or exemptions for the Biden administration's vaccine mandate.

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2. New urgency to vaccinate world

COVID testing at Sydney International Airport yesterday. Photo: James D. Morgan/Getty Images

Omicron overnight: Portuguese soccer team finds 13 cases ... Canada reports 2 cases. Go deeper.

  • Markets: Stocks, oil rebounded in Europe. Asian stocks fell further.

The Omicron variant is bringing new urgency to vaccinating developing countries, Axios health care editor Tina Reed reports.

Why it matters: New variants can emerge anywhere, and can spread everywhere. Vaccination efforts have lagged outside rich countries.

  • "We will only prevent variants from emerging if we are able to protect all of the world’s population, not just the wealthy parts," said Seth Berkley, CEO of the Gavi vaccine alliance.

What's next: Major COVID vaccine makers — including Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson — said they're working to adapt their shots for Omicron, CNBC reported.

3. D.C. faces homicide spike
Expand chart
Data: Metropolitan Police Department. Chart: Axios Visuals

Major cities across the country, including D.C., are suffering a disturbing spike in homicides, reports Paige Hopkins of Axios D.C.

  • D.C. reached 202 homicides yesterday — the highest number in the District since 2003

A common thread in the rising homicides in the D.C. and Baltimore areas is the increasing number of young victims and suspects.

  • Outside D.C. in Prince George's County, Md., 11 juveniles have been charged with murder this year — more than double last year, Fox 5 reports.

Philadelphia hit 500 homicides in a year for the first time since 1990, at the height of the crack-cocaine epidemic. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

4. Web3 sparks online culture war

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A well-funded and intensely motivated chunk of tech's hive mind is rebuilding the web on a foundation of cryptocurrency and blockchain. They call it "Web3," Axios managing editor Scott Rosenberg writes.

  • Why it matters: Developers, investors and early adopters imagine a future in which the technologies that enable Bitcoin and Ethereum will break up today's concentrated tech power, and usher in a golden age of individual empowerment and entrepreneurial freedom.

Zoom out: Web 1.0 (in the 1990s) brought us online publishing and the first incarnation of e-commerce.

  • Web 2.0 (in the 2000s) brought new ways for users to share content and platforms to distribute it.
  • Web3 aims to reorganize the economy around digital assets — new currencies, tokens and forms of property (like NFTs) secured by math rather than law, custom or force.

Reality check: Each previous web generation believed it had found the key to new forms of digital organization that would be immune to the domination of giant gatekeepers.

What's next: Web3 is all about digital property rights, where Web 2.0 followed an ethos of community sharing. That's pitting these movements' true believers against one another in an online culture war.

5. First look: Biden summons top CEOs on supply chain

Santa to the rescue. Cover: "Ever Giving," by Mark Ulriksen for The New Yorker. Used by kind permission

President Biden will meet this afternoon with CEOs of big retailers, grocers and consumer-products firms to send this message, according to the White House:

  • Products will be on shelves for holiday shopping.

Zoom out: Black Friday sales rebounded from 2020.

In-person participants for Biden's roundtable are scheduled to include the CEOs of Best Buy, Food Lion, Samsung North America, Qurate Retail Group, Todos Supermarket, Etsy, Mattel and Kroger.

  • Virtual participants are scheduled to include Walmart CEO Doug McMillon and CVS Health CEO Karen Lynch.

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6. First look: CEO "talking trap"
Data: Brunswick survey of 301 executives at U.S. companies with at least $50 million in annual revenue, Sept. 29-Oct. 7. Graphic: Brunswick

This graphic shows the range of issues U.S. executives are tempted to sound off on. A new report from the advisory firm Brunswick warns about "The Talking Trap" — the danger of speaking out impulsively on issues that aren't core to the business:

  • "Reflexive messages fall flat. ... If your organization decides to respond to an emerging issue, engage with humility, vulnerability, and enthusiasm on the issues and in ways that are most relevant to your organization."
  • "Organizations need to be ready to back it up with an investment that is as tangible as it is earnest — donations of cash, donations of product, donations of your employees’ paid time, and with your daily business practices."

Read the report.

7. Remembering legends
Virgil Abloh during Men's Fashion Week in Paris in 2020. Photo: Charles Platiau/Reuters

Virgil Abloh — a barrier-breaking Louis Vuitton artistic director whose fusions of streetwear and couture made him one of the top tastemakers in fashion — died of a rare form of heart cancer at 41. Read his obit.

  • Abloh told The New York Times at a Paris show in 2018: "There are people around this room who look like me ... The people have changed and so fashion had to."
  • In 2019, he said on BBC: "[D]ifferent genres are just made to be jumped over."
Frank Williams talks to Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve at the Brazilian Grand Prix in São Paulo in 1999. Photo: Gianni Giansanti/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Frank Williams, a Briton who founded a Formula One team that remains one of the most dominant in motor sports, died at age 79, Reuters reports.

  • Williams — paralyzed since 1986 when his rental car crashed as he sped away from a track in the south of France — steered his team to ever greater success from his wheelchair in the team garage.
8. 🎞️ 1 for the road: Thanksgiving box office

Photo: Disney's "Encanto."

Box-office sales over Thanksgiving show moviegoing is slowly returning, but not enough to restore the industry to pre-pandemic levels anytime soon — if ever, Axios Media Trends author Sara Fischer reports.

  • Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian expects this year's domestic box office total to be about $4 billion, which would be down nearly $7 billion from 2019.
  • Theater stocks sank Friday on fears that another COVID wave could pummel moviegoing and studio production.

Ticket sales for the five-day Thanksgiving holiday were down around 46% from 2019, Comscore estimates.

  • Disney's "Encanto" was the clear holiday weekend winner, bringing in $40 million over the five-day weekend, followed by MGM's "House of Gucci," which brought in $21 million.
  • "Encanto" and other children's movies, including "Clifford the Big Red Dog," are benefiting from kids' new vaccine eligibility.

What we're watching: Sony's "Spider-Man: No Way Home," which debuts in theaters exclusively on Dec. 17, could be the pandemic era's first $100 million North American opener, Dergarabedian said.

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