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Decoding Biden's ambassador picks at a State Department shaken by the Trump era

President Biden's latest ambassadorial picks reveal his strategy when it comes to the diplomacy of diplomacy: He's blending career servants with political supporters to avoid raising the ire of State Department professionals while filling posts around the world.

Why it matters: The U.S. diplomatic corps remains shaken from cuts to its ranks by Rex Tillerson, former President Trump's first secretary of State.


  • Successor Mike Pompeo vowed to help the State Department regain its "swagger," but many members of the Foreign Service still felt disrespected by the past administration.
  • Biden, whose ties to the State Department span decades on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and his past role as vice president, has sought a different relationship with Foggy Bottom.

Driving the news: Biden on Tuesday packaged his announcement of former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake for ambassador to Turkey with the nomination of Kent Logsdon — previously a deputy chief of mission in Berlin and trip planner for former Secretary of State John Kerry — for ambassador to Moldova.

  • Flake was a Biden colleague in the Senate, but as a Republican he allows the president to exhibit some bipartisanship in his diplomatic assignments.
  • Turkey's no vanity posting. It's a complicated NATO ally straddling Europe and Asia, and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan requires careful handling.

Between the lines: On the same day, the White House sent the Senate a previously announced slate of nominees to begin their confirmation process — with names that also ping-ponged between the career and political camps.

  • Julieta Valls Noyes, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, as assistant secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration.
  • Massachusetts State Rep. Claire Cronin, a Biden fundraiser, as ambassador to Ireland.
  • Bathsheba Nell Crocker, a longtime diplomat and daughter of former U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker, as U.S. representative to the UN offices in Geneva.
  • Denise Campbell Bauer, another campaign fundraiser and former ambassador to Belgium, to return as ambassador to France and Monaco.

Don't forget: Biden's Secretary of State Tony Blinken and UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield also are two well-known representatives from inside the State Department ranks.

Editor's note: Axios politics editor Glen Johnson served as a senior communications aide to Secretary of State John Kerry and is author of "Window Seat on the World."

National parks "drowning in tourists"

Data: National Park Service; note: Gateway National Recreation Area is excluded due to missing data in 2021. Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios

National Parks across the U.S. are overflowing with a post-pandemic crush of tourists, leading to increased issues with congestion, traffic jams, user experience, strain on staff and increased damage to the parks.

Why it matters: Some are seeing such a record number they're being forced to limit, and even close, access to certain areas to avoid the danger of eroding the land. The result, ultimately, could change the way Americans interact with the parks going forward.

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Facebook's next chapter: Build the "metaverse"

Facebook's "next chapter," Mark Zuckerberg says, is to be prime builder of "the metaverse" — an open, broadly distributed, 3D dimension online where, he says, we will all conduct much of our work and personal lives.

The big picture: Zuckerberg admits Facebook will only be one of many companies building this next-generation model of today's internet — but he also intends Facebook to lead the pack.

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CDC asks the vaccinated to help save the unvaccinated from themselves

The Biden administration is essentially asking vaccinated Americans to help save the unvaccinated from themselves.

The big picture: America's "pandemic of the unvaccinated" has gotten bad enough that vaccine mandates are starting to catch on, and masks are coming back — in some cases, even for the vaccinated.

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Least persuadable unvaccinated Americans are largely white and Republican

Data: Axios-Ipsos Poll; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The most hardcore opponents of coronavirus vaccination — the group who say they'll never get one — tend to be older, whiter and more Republican than the unvaccinated Americans who are still persuadable, according to an analysis of our Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: As the Delta variant triggers more COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, mostly among the unvaccinated, the Biden administration and even some high-profile GOP political and media figures are trying to figure out how to nudge the country's vaccination rate higher.

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Female Olympians push back against double standard in uniforms

Female Olympians in Tokyo are rejecting the uniforms that have long defined their sports, highlighting a double standard that exists how women dress in competition vs. men.

Driving the news: During their qualifying round Sunday, Germany's women's gymnastics team wore full-length unitards, eschewing the conventional leg-barring leotards worn by most female gymnasts.

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Simone Biles won't defend Olympic title at gymnastics all-around final in Tokyo

U.S. gymnastics great Simone Biles won't defend her Olympic title in the upcoming all-around final as she continues to focus on her mental health, USA Gymnastics announced Wednesday.

After further medical evaluation, Simone Biles has withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition. We wholeheartedly support Simone’s decision and applaud her bravery in prioritizing her well-being. Her courage shows, yet again, why she is a role model for so many. pic.twitter.com/6ILdtSQF7o

— USA Gymnastics (@USAGym) July 28, 2021

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

DOJ declines to defend Mo Brooks in Eric Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit

The Department of Justice declined late Tuesday to represent Rep. Mo Brooks in a civil lawsuit against the Georgia congressman concerning the Capitol riot.

Why it matters: Brooks had argued he should have immunity in the suit, filed by Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) against him, former President Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and lawyer Rudy Giuliani over the insurrection. He said he was acting as a government employee when he spoke at a rally before the insurrection.

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Katie Ledecky wins gold in first women's 1500m freestyle

Katie Ledecky took home the gold medal in the women's 1,500-meter freestyle swimming race Tuesday evening, becoming the first female swimmer to win the newly added division. Team USA's Erica Sullivan won silver.

Driving the news: The long-distance 1,500m race has traditionally only been available to men at the Olympics, and the Tokyo Games mark the first time that it has been open to women.

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