Sep 12, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🧪 Situational awareness: Anthony Fauci said on MSNBC yesterday: "If you're talking about getting back to a degree of normality which resembles where we were prior to COVID, it's going to be well into 2021, maybe even towards the end of 2021." (Vide0)

  • Today's Smart Brevitycount: 1,165 words ... 4½ minutes.
1 big thing: A screaming, spreading wake-up call
Drone's-eye view: Two people hold hands while walking through a mobile home park destroyed by fire Thursday in Phoenix, Ore. Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images

All the biggest threats to America — most of them predicted, if not known, well in advance — are unfolding before our eyes, in real-time, in unmistakable ways, Axios CEO Jim VandeHei writes.

  • Why it matters: It's as if God or the galaxy, or whatever you believe in, are screaming for politicians and the public to pop our bubbles and pay attention — and believe our eyes.

Misinformation: Every day brings new stories of other nations manipulating social media — and Americans refusing to believe scientists or experts about factual news, coronavirus prevention, global warming, vaccines and established truth.

  • Think about the number of educated people in your own life who share fake stories or believe B.S.

Racial reckoning: Protests in America are the biggest since 1968, after literally decades of warnings about needed policing and economic reforms.

  • Social media has illuminated the injustices, and exacerbated the anger.

Global warming: It's nearly impossible to find a scientist who doesn't agree that a warming planet has contributed to the wildfires destroying big slices of California, Oregon and Washington.

  • "Combined, the states have seen nearly five million acres consumed by fire — a land mass approaching the size of New Jersey," the N.Y. Times reports.
  • The record-setting blazes have been "made worse, scientists say, by the climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil. Such disasters will only become worse as the planet continues to warm."
  • Let this sink in: 18 of the warmest 19 years have occurred since 2001, according to NASA. We just experienced the warmest decade ever. And six of the biggest 20 fires in California history are burning now.

A fast-rising China: Every year, China grows bigger and more powerful, most recently seizing control of Hong Kong and trying to buy allies at U.S. expense.

  • Xi Jinping said this week that China's progress in fighting the virus, including reopening schools, has "fully demonstrated the clear superiority of Communist Party leadership and our socialist system." (N.Y. Times)
  • This is the message Beijing is spreading to other world leaders and their own people, as China seeks to displace America as the great global power.

The pandemic: Our response, infection rate and death count show in irrefutable terms that America, despite the best universities and innovators, is far from the top in controlling the coronavirus.

What's next: The good news is that America still produces and attracts many of the world’s brightest minds.

  • Somehow, these minds need to reclaim a shared definition of truth, and help adapt our biggest institutions to combat fast-growing collisions of politics + technology/science + misinformation.

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2. Oregon fears "mass fatality event"

60 people are unaccounted for in Oregon, and state emergency director Andrew Phelps said officials are preparing for a "mass fatality event."

  • Scary stat: "Wildfires affecting tens of thousands of Oregonians have burned more than 1 million acres, or nearly twice the yearly average over the last 10 years, in just the past week," The (Portland) Oregonian reports.
Ellie Owens, 8, from Grants Pass, Ore., looks at fire damage 37 miles away in Talent, which lost 600 homes. Photo: Paula Bronstein/AP
3. Locked-in election

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The undecided voter is an endangered species: The presidential election features a shrunken pool of undecided voters after four years of a polarizing, ubiquitous presidency, Axios' Neal Rothschild writes.

  • "Not sure" was just 4 points in the most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, and is in the low single digits in most Trump v. Biden head-to-heads.

Why it matters: Entrenched views mean there's less reason for campaigns to try to change voters' minds. Instead, the money goes to trying to convince those already with them to vote.

  • It makes for a loud, angry, backward-looking campaign.

A wealth of evidence suggests more Americans have made up their minds by this point compared with years past:

  • The conventions had practically no impact on the shape of the race: Biden's national polling lead (+7.5 in FiveThirtyEight's average of polls) is just a half-point smaller than a month ago.

There're still reasons the outcome is uncertain:

  • While the polls tell a consistent story, we don't know how accurate they are.
  • Election systems have never dealt with anything close to the expected level of mail-in votes.

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4. A place without COVID
Tom Hammond climbs out of an ice crevasse at Adelaide Island, Antarctica, in March. Photo: Robert Taylor/British Antarctic Survey via AP

A vast world exists that's free of coronavirus — where people mingle without masks and watch the pandemic unfold from thousands of miles away, AP reports.

  • That world is Antarctica, the only continent without COVID-19.
  • Now, as nearly 1,000 scientists and others who wintered over on the ice are seeing the sun for the first time in weeks, a global effort wants to make sure incoming colleagues don't bring the virus.

🍦Scoop du jour ... "Trump officials interfered with CDC reports on Covid-19," Politico's Dan Diamond reports:

  • "[E]mails from communications aides to CDC Director Robert Redfield and other senior officials openly complained that the agency’s reports would undermine President Donald Trump's optimistic messages."
  • "[S]ince Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign official with no medical or scientific background, was installed in April as the health department's new spokesperson, there have been substantial efforts to align ... reports with Trump's statements ... or stop the reports altogether."

Keep reading.

5. Of 922 powerful Americans, 180 are people of color
Via The New York Times

"A review by The New York Times of more than 900 officials and executives in prominent positions found that about 20 percent identify as Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, multiracial or otherwise a person of color. About 40 percent of Americans identify with one of those groups," The Times reports in a three-page, five-byline "Faces of Power" spread:

  • "Of the people at the top of the 25 highest-valued companies, 6 are Asian or Black."
  • "Of the people who head universities ranked in the top 25, 1 is Hispanic."
  • "15 people direct major news organizations. 3 are Black or Hispanic."
  • "The 5 people who have the most influence over book publishing are all white."
  • "The people who edit the 10 most-read magazines are all white."
  • "14 people influence most of the music that is produced and played. 2 are Black or Hispanic."
  • "25 people run the top TV networks and Hollywood studios. 3 are Black or Hispanic."
  • "Of the people in charge of the 25 highest-valued fashion companies, 3 are Asian or Hispanic."
  • "99 people own professional baseball, basketball and football teams. 6 are Asian, Black or Hispanic."

Tomorrow: Government and public life.

6. 1 smile to go: Raise your house value instantly
Via Airbnb

Give it a name! Sounds more posh ... "Owners touch up properties by christening them; ‘Beachy Keen’ on the lakefront, ‘Final View’ overlooking a cemetery," The Wall Street Journal's Alina Dizik writes (subscription):

  • A vacation rental in Oregon becomes: "The Dacha."
  • A rental a few blocks' walk from the beach in Galveston is now: "Flip Flop Manor."
  • A modest rancher around the bend from a mansion? "The Maids’ Quarters."

This one sounds like a boat name: On Cape Cod, "Tudi Thiele, 48, bought a three-bedroom home with a yard and named it Bigger Britches."

Mike Allen

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