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The country's genius hubs are vacuuming up tech talent

Over the past few years, big-name venture capitalists and flashy PR campaigns have boasted about replicating the Silicon Valley tech boom in second-tier cities around the country. But so far there is no stampede to the hinterland.

The big picture: Existing U.S. tech hubs are not only holding on to their imprimatur as primary magnets of top tech talent, but increasing it, persuading the best candidates to take jobs and stay put. Second-tier cities remain just that.


What's happening: A small number of U.S. cities — Boston, Austin, and of course the soup of cities making up Silicon Valley — still host almost all the Big Tech headquarters, while parceling out mere morsels of satellite offices or data centers elsewhere, away from the action.

New data from Indeed, the jobs site, shows that Silicon Valley's share of the nation's tech jobs has actually increased by 10% between 2017 and 2018. Austin's share grew by 9%.

How they are doing it: "Not only do the Bay Area, Seattle, and Austin have a bigger concentration of tech jobs, but the tech jobs they have tend to be more cutting-edge and pay more," says Jed Kolko, chief economist at Indeed.

Time moves on: Though he sees Silicon Valley as a weighty and immovable object at the moment, Weiner says that, throughout history, creative hubs like Athens and Florence have led the world — before withering away after about a century.

For now, the Valley is on top.

But venture capitalists and startup CEOs in middle America attempt to paint a glass half-full picture of the data.

What to watch: Some major companies — like Salesforce in Indianapolis and Netflix in Albuquerque — have built massive offices outside of the tech hubs. But so far it hasn't been easy getting workers to move there.

The bottom line: When smaller places like Austin succeed, it's because they've managed to put together some magic themselves. "They're a tech hub because they're cool; they're not cool because they're a tech hub," says Weiner. "The coolness has to come first, and it has to be organic."

Go deeper: The future of innovation outside Silicon Valley

Sat, 20 Apr 2019 09:00:16 +0000


How Amazon's retreat from China marks a global 'rebordering'

Amazon's decision to all but shut down operations in China is another step in a reorganization of the world into two distinct, digitally driven universes.

What's happening: In an announcement yesterday, Amazon said it will give up the local Chinese market, making its online store there solely a conduit for foreign goods.


Chinese analysts say the move follows tin-eared marketing and enormous gaffes by Amazon going back years, report the FT's Shannon Bond, Yuan Yang and Nian Liu.

"We are seeing rebordering in the behavior of both private and public actors," said Janice Gross Stein, a professor at the University of Toronto.

Go deeper:

Fri, 19 Apr 2019 21:55:31 +0000


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Fri, 19 Apr 2019 21:05:49 +0000


Elizabeth Warren calls for Trump's impeachment

2020 presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is calling for the impeachment of President Trump 1 day after the Mueller report was released.

The severity of this misconduct demands that elected officials in both parties set aside political considerations and do their constitutional duty. That means the House should initiate impeachment proceedings against the President of the United States.

— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) April 19, 2019

Details: This is the furthest a 2020 presidential hopeful has gone in response to the report. Last Sunday, Warren said Trump "may not even be a free person," by the 2020 elections, reports Politico. This is also Warren's first bout with Trump since she announced her bid for the presidency.

What others are saying: House Oversight Committee chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) told CNN he may move forward with the articles of impeachment proposed by Warren, but "I want to make sure that I’ve got all my facts in a row." Cummings said he wants to wait for Attorney General William Barr and Special Counsel Robert Muller to openly discuss the report first.

Go deeper: Trump reacts to Mueller report release: "I chose not to" end investigation

Fri, 19 Apr 2019 20:25:20 +0000


Explore a detailed view of the Mueller report

The Axios Visuals team pored over the Mueller report and categorized each passage of the text to note what events, people, organization and places are mentioned. We ended up categorizing over 2,500 bits of text, and found over 400 unique entities.

How it works: Want to see how many times former White House counsel Don McGahn pops up? Or the part where Mueller tosses the ball to Congress? Use the search tool and you can find anything you need. (Except the redacted parts. Sorry.)

View the full graphic

Fri, 19 Apr 2019 18:39:58 +0000


Nonprofits are increasingly using tech and data systems to increase police accountability

With minimal national oversight or unified data to rely on, police accountability groups are trying to create their own data systems to document use of force by law enforcement.

Why it matters: Police forces increasingly tap into location data, sensors and facial recognition to do their jobs. Now the groups who police the police are increasingly trying to use technology to empower citizens on the other side of the interaction.


Where it stands: A pair of talks at this week's TED conference highlighted two nonprofit efforts being made to improve accountability.

"This country is increasingly becoming monitored by police. I’m absolutely interested in using this technology to oversee the people who surveil us."
Raheem founder Brandon Anderson

The big picture: Communities of color have come under particular police scrutiny both historically and as the new generation of surveillance technology has emerged.

How it works: By offering hard data, these groups shift the conversation from accusations to specific behaviors.

What's next: Raheem is looking to expand its use of technology to better inform and protect people in real time during their interactions with police, in addition to documenting what happens. 

Yes, but: Nonprofits in this realm face an uphill battle. Big data is a lot easier to deploy on behalf of big companies and big governments than relatively small communities or individual citizens.

Go deeper: FBI says it has first national database of "police-involved shootings"

Fri, 19 Apr 2019 15:22:53 +0000


Jobless claims are near a 50-year low and it's no fluke

Data: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; Chart: Axios Visuals

U.S. employment numbers continue to get better. Data released yesterday showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell to its lowest in almost 50 years last week.

Why it matters: More important than the single print was the direction of the trend. The 4-week moving average of initial claims fell to 201,250 last week, the lowest reading since November 1969.

The big picture: That sustained trend, considered a more reliable indicator because it irons out week-to-week volatility, shows the labor market is consistently moving to historically low levels of unemployment, even if the metrics are a bit distorted.

Go deeper: A closer look at those unemployed and living far from jobs

Fri, 19 Apr 2019 12:57:34 +0000


The $3.4 billion merger that hinges on recreational marijuana becoming legal in the U.S.

Canadian cannabis company Canopy Growth, which is 38% owned by beer and spirits company Constellation Brands, bought the right to acquire Acreage Holdings only if recreational marijuana is legalized in the U.S.

The big picture: The tie-up between the U.S. company that grows and sells pot in a handful of states — former Speaker of the House John Boehner is on the board — and the world’s most valuable pot company is essentially a bet on the future that’s valued at $3.4 billion dollars.


Between the lines: The non-deal deal is structured to avoid obstacles that would come with Canopy’s outright acquisition of Acreage before legalization. A deal now would get Canopy’s shares de-listed from the Toronto and New York Stock Exchange, which both forbid listing companies with U.S. cannabis operations since it’s federally illegal. (Canada made marijuana fully legal nationwide in October.)

How it works: The deal is terminated if cannabis is not legalized (or if exchanges don't change their rules) within 7.5 years, or 90 months. If the deal falls through, no word on what happens to the $300 million upfront cash Canopy agreed to pay Acreage shareholders.

What’s in it for the companies:

The bottom line: This just built a path for companies to buy into a budding U.S. marijuana market without breaking any laws and without facing the wrath of stock exchanges. Analysts say the deal structure could set off a wave of similar transactions.

Go deeper: 4/20 sells high: Corporate America embraces marijuana's big day

Fri, 19 Apr 2019 11:54:42 +0000


Scoop: Trump suspected that former White House counsel Don McGahn wore a wire

Late in Don McGahn's tenure as White House counsel, President Trump became so suspicious that he wondered aloud whether McGahn was wearing a wire, a source familiar with the president's private conversations told Axios.

Why it matters: We have no evidence that Trump's suspicions have any basis in reality. But they reveal the depth of his paranoia about his former counsel, who sat for many hours with Robert Mueller's team of prosecutors. 


Anger at McGahn after the report came out was shared among a number of Trump allies, both inside the White House and close to the president.

The big picture: McGahn, as the N.Y. Times foreshadowed in great detail last summer, plays a starring role in the Mueller report.

Mueller's cinematic detail (page 298):

"McGahn decided he had to resign," the report continues. "He called his personal lawyer and then called his chief of staff, Annie Donaldson, to inform her of his decision. He then drove to the office to pack his belongings and submit his resignation letter."

Behind the scenes: Going by the rich scenes recorded in the Mueller report, McGahn apparently took extensive notes of his conversations with the president. 

The backstory: Roy Cohn, a Mafia lawyer and political fixer, was a mentor and personal lawyer to Trump during his early career. Trump often privately laments that his current lawyers don't measure up to Cohn.

Go deeper:

Fri, 19 Apr 2019 10:12:03 +0000


Trump's salvation from obstruction of justice: His disobedient staff

The Mueller report portrays President Trump as repeatedly trying to commit obstruction, only to have his staff ignore him, saving him from himself.

Why it matters: Trump often acted like a bystander during the special counsel's investigation, venting his frustration on Twitter and with reporters.


The report lists rat-a-tat examples of times that aides and advisers slow-walked or rebuffed Trump suggestions and orders, insulating him from obstruction:

Here's a previously unknown episode, with the sort of colorful detail that peppers the report:

Go deeper:

Fri, 19 Apr 2019 10:11:39 +0000


Universities are scrambling to keep up with the times with AI classes

Amid a torrid geopolitical, commercial and scientific race around artificial intelligence, universities are adding professors, classes and entire new programs, but there is still a massive talent shortage, forcing companies to contemplate creative ways around it.

The big picture: The frenzy at American and Canadian universities reflects the changing technology cycle, in which AI is expected to become perhaps the defining factor in economic and geopolitical power in the decades ahead.


Students are pouring into computer science programs from coast to coast in the U.S. and Canada, university professors tell us. But the AI students among them still number at most in the low thousands in all at the moment, while companies say they are prepared to hire tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of AI experts.

Carnegie Mellon University is among those diving most heavily into AI: In September, CMU will begin teaching what appears to be the first undergraduate AI program in the U.S., with 37 students aiming for a bachelor's degree.

In addition, as we previously reported, CMU is inaugurating the country's first graduate program in "automated science," creating specialists in the automation of biology. The first class of 13 students arrives at the campus this summer.

Mitchell said companies are astonished by how few graduates are coming — and how long it will take before they get out of school. "The companies don't need someone with a four-year degree. They don't have four years to wait."

Among the contemplated solutions:

What's next: CMU, AI4ALL and others are developing AI curricula for high schools.

Go deeper: Canadian AI summer school shows its global ambition

Fri, 19 Apr 2019 09:00:40 +0000


Uber raises $1 billion for its self-driving unit

Uber on Thursday night confirmed that it has raised $1 billion for its autonomous driving unit at a post-money valuation of $7.25 billion.

Why it matters: Uber is preparing to go public next month, and this deal could soothe some investor concerns about the cash-burn on self-driving R&D.


Existing Uber shareholders SoftBank Vision Fund and Toyota were joined by Japanese auto parts maker DENSO.

Go deeper: Uber files for its long-awaited IPO

Fri, 19 Apr 2019 00:30:06 +0000


North Korea's tactical guided message to Trump

North Korea sent a signal to the Trump administration last night in the form of a “tactical guided weapon,” according to state media. It remains unclear what exactly North Korea tested.

Data: Center for Strategic and International Studies and Axios research; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Why it matters: President Trump and Kim Jong-un began with distrust, lurched toward fire and fury, then shifted into a period of stop-start diplomacy. With talks at an impasse, we now seem to be entering a new phase.

The latest: Last night's test was followed by a North Korean demand that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be removed from nuclear negotiations in favor of someone more "mature," and news that Kim would be visiting Vladimir Putin in Moscow later this month.

Before Trump and Kim's spurt of diplomacy, U.S.-North Korea talks had entered a deep freeze. It began after a key series of events from late 2011 into early 2012.

Jackson says the Obama administration maintained some engagement with North Korea through the UN and other channels but never found a "credible basis" on which to resume negotiations.

The period of heaviest diplomatic engagement, meanwhile, came under Bill Clinton. But it was a "fractious political moment" and "Republicans threw sand in the gears," he says.

What to watch: While there have historically been far fewer tests and other provocations when the U.S. and North Korea are engaged in diplomacy, North Korea's successful launch in late 2017 of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the U.S. makes the value of a testing freeze less certain.

Go deeper: While nuclear testing paused, North Korean cyber threat still looms

Thu, 18 Apr 2019 23:27:02 +0000


What Trump did, and why Mueller didn't reach conclusions

Special counsel Robert Mueller's report explored 10 episodes where actions by President Trump could have been considered obstruction of justice — but then explains why he couldn't reach a conclusion in each case.

The big picture: If you've been wondering what all of this actually adds up to, this is your best place to start. It gives the clearest picture yet of Trump's actions as well as why Mueller didn't take a position on them — though the report comes close to rendering judgment on Trump's attempts to oust Mueller or rein him in.


The bottom line: Mueller just handed House Democrats enough material to keep them busy for months.

Thu, 18 Apr 2019 21:10:52 +0000


7 takeaways from the Mueller report

The 448-page redacted Mueller report that was released Thursday is a sprawling document based on hundreds of witness interviews and thousands of subpoenas — and its deeply sourced conclusions have already been subject to spin attempts from President Trump's legal team and administration as well as congressional Democrats.

What you need to know: The report largely refrains from making any grand, sweeping conclusions about Trump's conduct — especially on possible obstruction of justice, where Mueller's investigators made a point of not absolving him completely. It's not a great outcome for the president — but it also doesn't seem to contain any unexpected bombshells that might end his presidency, either.


1. The report doesn't find that Trump obstructed justice, but it also specifically doesn't exonerate him.

2. There was always a reason the potential episodes of obstruction of justice were inconclusive.

3. Many of Trump's potential efforts to obstruct the investigations against him failed after staffers rebuffed him.

4. Congress can still act against Trump on obstruction charges.

5. Mueller's team wasn't happy with Trump's written responses — and wanted an in-person interview — but ultimately believed their other sourcing was enough.

6. The investigation did not establish that Trump campaign members colluded with the Russian government, but the president's actions still may have influenced Russian actions.

7. The media got a lot right in real time.

Go deeper:

Thu, 18 Apr 2019 18:31:20 +0000


Earth had a top 3 warmest March on record, climate agencies find

March may have been unusually cold in parts of the U.S., but globally, average temperatures ticked upward to rank as one of the top 3 warmest Marches on record, new data from climate groups in Europe, Japan and the U.S. shows.

Why it matters: The new data shows that global average temperatures during 2019 are on track to make it another top 5 warmest year, should these trends continue. An El Niño event, featuring unusually warm water in the tropical Pacific Ocean along with an increase in shower and thunderstorm activity near the equator, is helping to add additional heat to the atmosphere.


The big picture: According to preliminary NOAA data, the globe just had its 2nd-warmest March on record, with global average surface temperatures at 1.91°F above the 20th century average. This also marked the 3rd time in 140 years that the globe had an average temperature anomaly that reached 1.8°F or greater, NOAA found (the other two times were March of 2016 and 2017).

NASA ranked the month slightly lower although its temperature readings were similar, concluding the globe just had its 3rd-warmest March on record, with a global average surface temperature anomaly of 1.11°C, or 1.99°F, above the 20th century average (1951–1980).

Using separate methods, Europe's Copernicus Climate Service found that the globe had its 2nd-warmest March on record, just behind March of 2016.

Context: Last year was Earth's 4th-warmest year on record, coming in behind 2016 — the planet's warmest recorded year — 2015 and 2017. The world's 5 warmest years have all occurred since 2014.

The bottom line: When it comes to climate change, it's the long-term trends that are important. Such data shows that the global climate is continuing to warm at an accelerating rate, making it more likely that individual years will set all-time records, particularly if they're given a boost by a natural climate feature like El Niño.

Climate change is driving widespread changes, from the melting of Arctic sea ice to disappearing mountain glaciers and increased instances of extreme weather and climate events.

Go deeper:

Thu, 18 Apr 2019 15:22:44 +0000


Read the redacted version of the Mueller report

The Justice Department released on Thursday a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, including any potential links to President Trump's campaign.

Go deeper:

Thu, 18 Apr 2019 15:06:58 +0000


Justice Department releases redacted version of Mueller report

The Justice Department released on Thursday a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, including any potential links to President Trump's campaign.

The big picture: The public release comes just after the redacted report was sent to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees at 11 am ET. Attorney General Bill Barr said earlier this morning that President Trump's personal lawyers were able to view the redacted report earlier this week, which Axios later confirmed.


Read searchable version of report here.

Go deeper: A Mueller report primer

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Thu, 18 Apr 2019 15:02:25 +0000


Transcript: Bill Barr answers questions about Mueller report

Following his opening remarks about the pending release of special counsel Robert Mueller's report, Attorney General Bill Barr answered questions about his decision not to pursue obstruction of justice charges, along with the DOJ's rationale on the report's public rollout.

Catch up quick: According to Barr, Mueller did not say that an existing legal opinion — which claimed the president cannot be indicted — factored into his decision not to pursue obstruction charges. Barr also said he doesn't object to Mueller publicly testifying before Congress, and that Mueller did not expressly indicate that his intention was to leave the decision to Congress.


Transcript

Reporter: "Mr. Attorney General, we don't have the report in hand. So could you explain for us the special counsel's articulated reason for not reaching a decision on obstruction of justice and if it had anything to do with the department's long-standing guidance on not indicting a sitting president? And you say you disagree with some of his legal theories. What did you disagree with and why?"

Barr: "I would leave it to his description in the report, the special counsel's own articulation of why he did not want to make a determination as to whether or not there was an obstruction offense. But I will say that when we met with him, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and I met with him, along with Ed o'Callaghan, who is the principal associate deputy, on March 5th. We specifically asked him about the OLC opinion and whether or not he was taking a position that he would have found a crime but for the existence of the OLC opinion. And he made it very clear several times that that was not his position. He was not saying that but for the OLC opinion, he would have found a crime. He made it clear that he had not made the determination that there was a crime."

Reporter: "Given that, why did you and Mr. Rosenstein feel the need you had to take it to the next step to conclude there was no crime, especially given DOJ policy?"

Barr: "The very prosecutorial function and all our powers as prosecutors, including the power to convene grand juries and compulsory process that's involved there, is for one purpose and one purpose only. It's to determine yes or no, was alleged conduct criminal or not criminal. That is our responsibility and that's why we have the tools we have. And we don't go through this process just to collect information and throw it out to the public. We collect this information. We use that compulsory process for the purpose of making that decision. And because the special counsel did not make that decision, we felt the department had to. That was a decision by me and the deputy attorney general. Yes."

Reporter: "Did the special counsel indicate that he wanted you to make the decision or that it should be left for Congress? And also, how do you respond to criticism you're receiving from congressional Democrats that you're acting more as an attorney for the president rather than as the chief law enforcement officer?"

Barr: "Well, special counsel Mueller did not indicate that his purpose was to leave the decision to Congress. I hope that was not his view, since we don't convene grand juries and conduct criminal investigations for that purpose. He did not -- I didn't talk to him directly about the fact that we were making the decision, but I am told that his reaction to that was that it was my prerogative as attorney general to make that decision."

Reporter: "Is there anything you can share today about your review of the genesis of the Russia investigation and whether assets have been provided to investigate?"

Barr: "Today I'm really focused just on the process of releasing this report."

Reporter: "Democrats have asked for Robert Mueller himself to testify. Robert Mueller remains a Justice Department employee as of this moment. Will you permit him to testify publicly in front of Congress?"

Barr: "I have no objection to Bob Mueller testifying."

Reporter: "A Republican-appointed judge on Tuesday said you have, quote, created an environment that has caused a significant part of the American public to be concerned about these redactions. You cleared the president on obstruction. The president is fundraising off your comments about spying, and here you have remarks that are quite generous to the president, including acknowledging his feelings and emotions. What do you say to people on both sides of the aisle who are concerned you're trying to protect the president?"

Barr: "Actually, the statements about his sincere beliefs are recognized in the report. That there was substantial evidence for that, so I'm not sure what your basis is for saying that I am being generous to the president."

Reporter: "You face an unprecedented situation. It seems like there's a lot of effort to go out of your way to acknowledge..."

Barr: "Is there another precedent for it?"

Reporter: "No..."

Barr: "So unprecedented is an accurate description."

Reporter: "There's a lot of public interest in absence of the public counsel and his team. Why is he not here? This is his report you're talking about today."

Barr: "No, actually. He did for me as the attorney general, he is required under the regulation to provide me with a confidential report. I'm here to discuss my response to that report and my decision, entirely discretionary to make it public, since these reports are not supposed to be made public. That's what I'm here to discuss."

Reporter: "Is it impropriety to come out and what it appears to be spinning the report before the public has a chance to read it?"

Barr: "Thank you very much. Thank you."

Thu, 18 Apr 2019 14:25:05 +0000


The gig economy is distorting U.S. data on inflation, wages and job growth

Online shopping and the gig economy haven't just disrupted traditional brick-and-mortar business, they're disrupting the way U.S. job growth, wage data and inflation are tracked, asserts a new paper from the Dallas Federal Reserve.

What it means: There has been an increase in the number of workers in the gig economy who are either working as contractors or are self-employed, but report themselves as employed. These workers often have less bargaining power and lower wages than full-time employees.


Details: "Essentially, firms are able to hire contract or self-employed workers, who are not on their payrolls and not counted among the unemployed when not on the job," John V. Duca, a vice president in the research department at the Dallas Fed, says in the report. "As a result, the headline measure of unemployment may understate labor slack."

The big picture: Economists have long argued about just how much impact the gig economy has had on the persistently low wages in the U.S. and the change in the relationship between unemployment and inflation. Typically as unemployment falls, inflation rises, but that trend has been undermined in recent years, leading many to question the long-held economic principle of the Phillips Curve.

Yes, but: "These shopping and employment behavior changes are still new enough that the data are insufficient for full statistical analysis," Duca says in the Dallas Fed report.

Go deeper: The precarious rental economy continues to grow

Thu, 18 Apr 2019 12:40:05 +0000


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