Monday’s top stories

DeSantis threatens to issue "millions" in fines over local vaccine mandates

Ron DeSantis. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday that the state will fine cities and counties $5,000 for each employee required to get vaccinated, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Why it matters: It is the Republican governor's latest threat against local officials who have implemented mask or vaccine mandates in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

Updated Sep 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Blinken on Afghanistan: "We inherited a deadline. We did not inherit a plan"

Photo: Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered an unwavering defense of the Biden administration's withdrawal from Afghanistan on Monday, insisting it was "time to end America's longest war" and praising the evacuation from Kabul as "extraordinary."

Why it matters: Blinken, who is appearing Monday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Tuesday before Senate Foreign Relations, is the first senior Biden official to testify on Afghanistan in the wake of the chaotic withdrawal. Tempers flared in the first session, with House Republicans accusing Blinken of lying and demanding his resignation.

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Sep 13, 2021 - Technology

Apple releases emergency security update to block spyware vulnerability

Apple store front. Photo: Wang Gang/VCG via Getty Images

Apple released emergency security updates Monday after it was discovered that an Israeli cyber surveillance company's spyware could infect iPhones and other devices without the owner even clicking on a link.

Why it matters: The fix to the intrusion by the NSO Group's Pegasus software came the day before Apple is expected to introduce its latest crop of iPhones. The company touts the security and privacy of its smartphones among its key selling points.

Sep 13, 2021 - Economy & Business

WarnerMedia sells TMZ to Fox Entertainment

TMZ co-founder Harvey Levin. Photo: Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

TMZ, the online tabloid co-founded and operated by Harvey Levin, has been sold to Fox Entertainment, in a deal reportedly valued around $50 million.

Why it matters: The deal points to Fox Corp.'s ambitions to include more entertainment programming across its digital and TV channels.

Sep 13, 2021 - World

U.S. spy chief: Other countries pose greater terror threat than Afghanistan

Photo: Graeme Jennings - Pool/Getty Images

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said Monday that terrorist groups operating in Yemen, Somalia, Syria and Iraq currently pose a greater threat to the U.S. homeland than those in Afghanistan.

Why it matters: The Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan has prompted new warnings from military and intelligence officials about the possibility that al-Qaeda will reconstitute.

Texas judge blocks anti-abortion group from enforcing new law

An abortion rights activist holds a sign in support of Planned Parenthood at a rally at the Texas State Capitol on Sept. 11 in Austin, Texas. Photo: Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

A Texas state judge issued an injunction on Monday blocking anti-abortion group Texas Right for Life from enforcing the state's new law against Planned Parenthood in Texas.

Why it matters: Texas' restrictive new law, which bars abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, incentivizes people to sue anyone suspected of helping a pregnant person obtain an abortion — and awards at least $10,000 to plaintiffs who succeed.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Sep 13, 2021 - Economy & Business

Intuit to buy Mailchimp for $12 billion

Photo illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

Intuit, the maker of TurboTax and QuickBooks, on Monday said that it has agreed to buy email marketing company Mailchimp for $12 billion in cash and stock.

Why it matters: This would be the largest-ever acquisition of a privately-held bootstrapped company, as Mailchimp didn't take any outside funding since its 2001 founding. It's also a huge windfall for the founders of Mailchimp, which opted for profit-sharing instead of stock-based compensation for employees.

Sep 13, 2021 - World

Biden to host "Quad" summit with leaders of Australia, India and Japan

The virtual Quad gathering in March, with (clockwise from top-left) Biden, Suga, Modi and Morrison. Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg

President Biden will host the leaders of Australia, India and Japan at the White House on Sept. 24 — the first time the leaders of the "Quad" countries will gather for an in-person summit.

Why it matters: Elevating the Quad is a key aspect of Biden's strategy for competing with China. All four countries have butted heads with Beijing in recent years, making them increasingly willing to cooperate in a forum that Beijing rejects as an anti-China bloc.

Sep 13, 2021 - World

Leaders of Egypt and Israel hold rare public meeting

Bennett (L) with Sisi. Photo: Israeli govenrment press office

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett became the first Israeli prime minister in 11 years to pay an official visit to an Egyptian president on Monday, meeting Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the coastal resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Why it matters: This was an effort by Sisi to establish good relations with the new Israeli government, and the Egyptians made every effort to give Bennett an unusually warm and public welcome.

Media firms linked to Chinese billionaire settle SEC charges for $539 million

Guo Wengui holds a news conference on Nov. 20, 2018. Photo: Don Emmert/AFP via Getty Images

Three media businesses linked to exiled Chinese businessman Guo Wengui have agreed to pay more than $539 million to settle charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The companies are accused of illegally selling stock and digital assets between April and June 2020.

Why it matters: Guo has been linked to pro-Trump allies and groups, including Steve Bannon and Gettr, the social media network founded by former Trump aide Jason Miller.

Police to reinstall fence around U.S. Capitol ahead of pro-Capitol riot rally

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said Monday that the protective fence that was put in place around the Capitol following the Jan. 6 riot will be reinstalled ahead of a rally scheduled for Sept. 18.

Driving the news: Law enforcement has been "closely monitoring" the rally, which is planned in support of individuals arrested for storming the Capitol in January.

First look: Biden orders new panel on Hispanic education

Biden speaks while meeting with Latino community leaders in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington. Photo: Shawn Thew/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Image

President Biden is creating a new initiative on Hispanic education as the percentage of Latino students in U.S. public schools continues to grow.

The big picture: Latinos make up around 27% of all public school students and about 20% of college students. They are expected to be the majority of U.S. residents by midcentury but now lag behind in graduation rates and student achievement.

Scoop: Biden to tap privacy hawk for FTC post

Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

President Biden will nominate Georgetown University law professor Alvaro Bedoya to be a Democratic commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission, people familiar with the matter told Axios.

Why it matters: Bedoya, founding director of the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown, will bring a bevy of experience on privacy issues to the FTC's work on tech.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Sep 13, 2021 - Technology

Epic may not benefit from Apple's App Store changes

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

"Fortnite" creator Epic Games' Apple lawsuit failed to level the walls of the App Store, though it did leave some cracks in Apple's fortress.

Yes, but: The modest changes Apple now has to make are more likely to benefit other iOS developers than to help Epic itself, unless the game-maker backs down from an all-or-nothing approach.

Sep 13, 2021 - Health

Vaccine experts: COVID-19 booster shots aren't needed now

Photo: Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

COVID-19 vaccine booster doses are not necessary right now based on the current evidence, international public health experts — including two FDA vaccine leaders who are leaving the agency this year — wrote a new paper in The Lancet.

Why it matters: The paper is a rebuke of the Biden administration's push to open up booster shots for everyone.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Sep 13, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Ad wars intensify as Democrats' green energy plans take shape

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Environmentalists and industry groups are launching fresh media buys as congressional Democrats craft plans to expand green energy incentives and spending while imposing new or higher fees on oil companies.

Driving the news: The League of Conservation and Climate Power has begun $6 million in new TV and digital ad spending that try to bolster four Senate Democrats and around 20 House members.

Sep 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

First look: Harris veterans launch firm to protect CEOs from being canceled

Jon Henes, CEO of C Street Advisory Group. Photo: Matthew Starr, via C Street

A group of Vice President Kamala Harris' campaign veterans is launching a strategy firm to help CEOs avoid getting “canceled” and to advise companies how to respond to changing cultural norms before they're faced with a crisis.

Driving the news: C Street Advisory Group, led by CEO Jon Henes, a former national campaign finance chair for Harris’ presidential campaign, will draw on the group's broad political network to help corporate America diversify its workforce.

Game of tickers: The heated race to reserve unique stock symbols

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Here’s a side effect of the going public boom: a heated race to reserve the hottest unique identifier, the ticker symbol.

Why it matters: The insignias companies are choosing to trade under is a reflection of our time — increasingly they want to go list with snappy symbols that catch the eye of a new generation of traders.

Coming in 2022: A big leap in smart home technology

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Starting next year, consumers will be able to buy smart home devices — like thermostats, lighting systems and kitchen appliances — that can talk to one another through a new connectivity standard called Matter.

Why it matters: Interoperability of home devices has long been a distant dream, but big boys like Amazon, Google and Apple have coalesced around Matter, hoping it will become a common brand name governing the Internet of Things (IoT).

Inside Democrats' tax-hike menu

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

House Democrats will consider as much as $2.9 trillion in tax hikes for the next 10 years — mostly on the extremely wealthy and corporate America — as they scramble for ways to pay for President Biden's $3.5 trillion infrastructure and social spending plan.

Why it matters: A draft proposal from the Ways and Means Committee, which ricocheted across Washington on Sunday night, previews epic fall fights between Democrats and some of the best-armed lobbies in America.

The anatomy of social media's mad-making machine

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Facebook and other social media companies didn't cause America's massive political divide, but they have widened it and pushed it towards violence, according to a report from New York University released Monday.

Why it matters: Congress, the Biden administration and governments around the world are moving on from blame-apportioning to choosing penalties and remedies for curbing online platforms' influence and fighting misinformation.

Sep 13, 2021 - Health

The U.S. isn't vaccinating most of the world — but China might

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The global COVID-19 vaccination campaign began nine months ago, and 58% of the world's population has yet to receive at least one dose.

The big picture: Raw material shortages, complex and costly manufacturing, and vaccine makers' choices have made it clear the U.S. and its drug companies likely won't get the poor, unvaccinated parts of the world out of the pandemic — but China might.

Sep 13, 2021 - Health

Democrats' competing health care priorities

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Democrats' reconciliation bill includes several major health care pieces backed by different lawmakers and advocates, setting up a precarious game of policy Jenga if the massive measure needs to be scaled back.

Between the lines: Health care may be a priority for Democrats. But that doesn't mean each member values every issue equally.

Amy Coney Barrett: Supreme Court is not "a bunch of partisan hacks"

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett at the White House in Washington last October. Photo: Chris Kleponis/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett pushed back Sunday on perceptions that biases have crept into the highest court in the U.S., per the Louisville Courier Journal.

Why it matters: The comments by the Trump-appointed conservative justice come weeks after the Supreme Court allowed Texas' ban on most abortions to remain in place, in a 5-4 vote that President Biden called "an unprecedented assault on a woman’s constitutional rights."

Sep 13, 2021 - World

Taliban says female students can study in gender-segregated universities

Students hold Taliban flags as they listen to women speakers before a pro-Taliban rally at the Shaheed Rabbani Education University in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday. Photo: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

Female students in Afghanistan can continue with their university studies, but classes must now be segregated and head coverings are mandatory, the Taliban announced Sunday.

Why it matters: Afghan women and girls have expressed fears they could lose hard-won rights to education, employment and other freedoms, and see a return to the oppressive rule they experienced from 1996-2001, when the Taliban last ruled.

Updated Sep 13, 2021 - World

North Korea says it successfully tested "strategic" cruise missiles

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the capital Pyongyang in 2020. Photo: API/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

North Korean officials claim to have successfully test-fired new long-range cruise missiles over the weekend.

Why it matters: The new claims made via the state-run KCNA news agency are that it now has "a strategic weapon of great significance" that traveled some 930 miles to hit targets and then land in the sea on Saturday and Sunday.