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Biden to name LGBTQ advocate Rufus Gifford as his first political ambassador

President Joe Biden will announce Friday that he's nominating Rufus Gifford, former ambassador to Denmark, as his chief of protocol at the State Department, a person familiar with the matter tells Axios.

Why it matters: The position, which holds an ambassadorial rank, will mark Biden’s first ambassador announcement outside of the career foreign service, with more names expected as early as next week.


  • The chief of protocol helps to plan the president’s travel abroad and coordinates visits of foreign leaders to the United States to showcase American traditions, cultures and institutions.
  • Gifford, 46, whose expected appointment was reported by Axios in January, was a deputy campaign manager for Biden. He achieved celebrity status in Denmark, where he married his husband, Stephen DeVincent, in Copenhagen's city hall.

What's next: Biden also will name Kathleen Miller as his nominee for Pentagon comptroller, the source said.

The big picture: Donors and political allies have been waiting for Biden to start making ambassadorial announcements for months, with some frustration building among donors.

  • Many of them have been angling for prized positions in European capitals, which come with a resplendent residence, a busy social calendar — and, in the case of Rome, a wine cellar in the city’s catacombs.
  • Biden plans to pluck roughly 30% of his ambassadors from outside the career foreign service, and he'll draw heavily on political allies, as opposed to pure big-dollar donors.
  • Former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is in line for Japan, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti will be nominated for India and Tom Nides, a Democratic wiseman and former deputy secretary of state, is heading to Israel.
  • Nick Burns, a career foreign services officer, who served both Republican and Democratic presidents as an ambassador, is expected to named for China.

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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