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Federal court upholds death sentence for Charleston AME church shooter

A federal appeals court upheld the convictions and death sentence for Dylann Roof, who was found guilty of murder for killing nine members of a Black church congregation in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015, according to AP.

Why it matters: The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel's ruling sustains the first death sentence for a federal hate crime, but it is unknown if Roof will be executed after Attorney General Merrick Garland ordered a moratorium on the death penalty in July.


Roof's attorneys argued in the appeal that he was wrongly allowed to represent himself during sentencing and prevented jurors from hearing evidence about his mental health, according to AP.

  • His attorneys asked that his convictions and death sentence should be vacated or his case should be sent back to court so a jury can hear evidence regarding his mental impairments.
  • The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges ruled the trial judge was right to find Roof was competent to stand trial during sentencing.
  • “No cold record or careful parsing of statutes and precedents can capture the full horror of what Roof did. His crimes qualify him for the harshest penalty that a just society can impose,” the panel wrote in its ruling.

Flashback: In 2017, Roof was sentenced to nine life sentences, one for each worshipper at Mother Emanuel AME Church that he shot dead. He was also sentenced to death on federal hate crime charges because he had purposefully targeted Black victims.

The big picture: Though Roof's sentence was upheld, all federal executions have been halted while the Department of Justice reviews its death penalty policies and procedures.

  • Garland said in July that "serious concerns" have been raised about the use of the death penalty, "including arbitrariness in its application, disparate impact on people of color, and the troubling number of exonerations in capital and other serious cases."

What's next: Roof can ask the full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider the panel's ruling, petition the Supreme Court or seek a presidential pardon, according to AP.

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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