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FDA removes top spokesperson after 11 days on the job

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday ousted its top spokesperson, Emily Miller, after less than two weeks on the job, reports the New York Times.

Why it matters: Miller's removal comes amid disagreements over the FDA's communication strategy and controversy surrounding its emergency use authorization of convalescent blood plasma as a coronavirus treatment.

  • "Effectively immediately, Emily Miller will no longer serve the FDA as the assistant commissioner for media affairs and will no longer be the official spokesperson for the agency. I will appoint someone to an acting role in that position in the interim," according to a memo from FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, obtained by Politico.

The big picture: Scientists and public health experts were up in arms after Hahn inflated the effectiveness of blood plasma as a COVID-19 treatment.

  • Hahnowned up to a mistake while also addressing bigger-picture concerns about the FDA's political independence.

Worth noting: On Thursday, the Department of Health and Human Services ended the contract of Wayne L Pines, a public relations consultant who had advised Hahn to correct the misleading information on convalescent plasma.

  • HHS told the Times that the termination of Pines' contract had nothing to do with the FDA's plasma messaging. It was "100 percent coincidence," Brian Harrison, the department’s chief of staff, said.

What's next: It's unclear whether Miller, a former reporter for One America News, will leave the administration completely or be reassigned elsewhere.

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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