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Biden doubles FEMA pre-disaster funding to $1 billion to prepare states for extreme weather

The Biden administration plans to invest $1 billion helping states prepare for extreme weather ahead of the 2021 hurricane season, alongside an initiative to track natural disasters through a new NASA program.

Why it matters: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expects above-average storm activity during the next hurricane season, which would make this the sixth unusually active season in a row.


  • The administration's $1 billion pledge doubles the amount of money the government had previously spent helping communities brace for extreme weather through the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program.
  • Floods, hurricanes, and wildfires are key areas of focus for preparing localities for disaster, the White House said. The administration plans to use NASA's Earth System Observatory to forecast and monitor natural disasters.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Andrew Freedman: By increasing sea levels, climate change is making hurricanes more destructive and costly. There is also evidence showing that warming sea and air temperatures are causing nature's most powerful storms to become even stronger.

  • More storm resilience funding, in addition to launching the NASA program, demonstrates the Biden administration's continued focus on the impacts of extreme weather events on the economy.

What to watch: The first named storm of the season, Subtropical Storm Ana, formed and dissipated over the weekend in the North Atlantic.

Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

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Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

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Scoop: Amazon quietly getting into live audio business

Amazon is investing heavily in a new live audio feature that's similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify's new live audio platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As with Amazon's efforts in podcasting and music subscriptions, the company sees live audio as a way to bolster the types of content it can offer through its voice assistant, Alexa, and its smart speaker products.

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Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

The powerful hurricane that plunged New Orleans into darkness for what could be weeks is the latest sign that U.S. power systems are not ready for a warmer, more volatile world.

The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

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"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

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What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

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