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Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

Vice President Pence's remarks at a Department of Homeland Security cybersecurity conference in New York contained a throated call to better defend elections and American democracy.

Why it matters: His comments included an unambiguous acceptance of the intelligence community's assessment that Russia tampered with the 2016 election — something President Trump has wavered on — as well as praise for state and federal efforts thus far to protect elections. But he noted there was room for improvement.

One key quote: "It concerns us some states still don't have plans to update their voting systems," Pence said, noting that many states still have at least some voting machines that do not keep a harder-to-hack paper trail.

  • "You owe your constituents that and the American people expect nothing less," he later added.

Pence blamed a cybersecurity crisis on previous administrations — particularly the Obama administration — despite mentioning a wide array of threats that took place under his watch, including the North Korean Wannacry and Russian NotPetya attacks.

Pence also announced the administration was "putting the finishing touches on a national cyber strategy" that would deploy all resources to meet an attack.

  • He later backed a longstanding Homeland Security request to rename the vaguely titled National Protection and Programs Directorate, to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Go deeper

38 mins ago - World

Jimmy Lai among Hong Kong pro-democracy leaders sentenced to prison

Students standing under a banner during a flag raising ceremony on the first annual National Security Education Day in Hong Kong. Photo: Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A Hong Kong court sentenced a group of the city's most prominent pro-democracy activists to up to 18 months in prison Friday for organizing a massive unauthorized protest in August 2019 that drew an estimated 1.7 million people, AP reports.

Why it matters: Critics say the sentences send the message that even peaceful pro-democracy activism will be severely punished. They mark a continuation of Beijing's overhaul of Hong Kong's political structure, designed to crack down opposition to the Chinese Communist Party.

Local news moves to the inbox

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A slew of new companies are launching platforms for local newsletters, a shift that could help finally bring the local news industry into the digital era.

Driving the news: Substack, the email publishing platform for independent journalists, on Thursday announced a new local news platform.

J&J vaccine pause hurts its reputation

Reproduced from Economist/YouGov poll; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans' confidence in the safety of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine took a big dip this week after the pause in its use, per new YouGov polling, even though the risk of blood clots following the shot is extremely low, if it exists at all.

Why it matters: For the majority of people, particularly high-risk Americans, getting the J&J shot is almost certainly less dangerous than remaining vulnerable to the coronavirus.