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Former Obama speechwriter "preemptively frustrated" with Biden's unity efforts

President Obama's former speechwriter says he's "preemptively frustrated" with President Biden's effort to find unity with Republicans.

What they're saying: Cody Keenan told Axios that Biden's messaging team has "struck all the right chords," but at some point "they're gonna have to answer questions like, 'Why didn't you achieve unity?' when there's an entire political party that's already acting to stop it."


Keenan spent 14 years writing for Obama, including working alongside Biden for eight of those years. He acknowledged being embittered by his own experience, especially after Sen. Mitch McConnell pledged to make his former boss a one-term president.

  • "Until the Republican Party steps up and tells their own voters what's really happening with the truth, it's going to be elusive," Keenan said. "It's not up to (President Biden) alone to deliver. He can't."

Keenan helped Obama with the first volume of his memoir, "A Promised Land." Hestopped working with the former president on New Year's Eve and has taken a full-time role at Fenway Strategies. The firm is run by another ex-Obama speechwriter — Jon Favreau — and presidential aide, Tommy Vietor.

  • "It just seemed like a natural spot after the book and the elections and, you know, [Obama] is not going to do a ton, especially with Biden in office," Keenan said.

Keenan is also writing a book, titled "Grace," about the 10 days from the 2015 shooting at a historic Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, to the eulogy Obama delivered for Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

  • Obama ended by singing "Amazing Grace."
  • The title also nods to Keenan's newborn daughter, named Grace.

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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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