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Florida school districts face mask free-for-all after judge strikes down DeSantis' ban

School boards across Florida are reconsidering mandatory mask policies since a judge struck down Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order barring local classroom mandates.

  • The ruling paved the way for boards in Brevard, Charlotte, Lee, Lake, Volusia, and Osceola Counties to call meetings to talk about mask policies.
  • At least two of them — Brevard and Lee — instituted mask mandates Monday.

Why it matters: As of Monday, Tampa Bay school districts from Citrus to Sarasota had reported nearly 17,000 confirmed COVID cases among students and staff — a milestone that took months longer to reach last school year.

State of play: Hillsborough and Sarasota are among the 10 boards that openly defied DeSantis' orders and made masks mandatory — but those 10 make up more than half of the state’s public school students.

  • It sets up an interesting situation in Pinellas County, where the swing vote to keep masks optional was a board member who wanted mandatory masks but didn’t want to "break the law."

Between the lines: The ruling, which DeSantis has vowed to appeal, seems to have kept Florida out of the crosshairs of the U.S. Department of Education.

  • The feds announced yesterday that they're investigating five Republican-led states that banned mask requirements because those policies could mean discrimination against students who have disabilities or health issues.
  • The department said — for now — it wasn’t looking at the four states where such bans have been overturned by courts: Florida, Texas, Arkansas and Arizona.

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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