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Google launches $349 Pixel 4a

Google on Monday launched its long-expected Pixel 4a, a $349 device that brings key features of the company's flagship smartphone to a more affordable price point.

Why it matters: Google saw surprisingly strong demand for last year's "a" model and having a broader range of products allows the company to reach more parts of the market.

Compared to the Pixel 4, the lower-cost model includes:

  • No second camera lens: The Pixel 4a has most of similar photography features to the Pixel 4, just without its additional zoom lens.
  • A slower processor: The Pixel 4a uses a mid-range Qualcomm chip as compared to the high-end version in the Pixel 4, but offers a significant boost above the 3a's processor.
  • A bigger battery: One of the biggest knocks on the Pixel 4 was its poor battery life, a criticism that Google clearly took to heart, with the 4a having a larger battery than the Pixel 4 (which also had a faster processor and other features drawing more heavily on the battery).
  • A headphone jack: Unlike the higher-end Pixel 4, the 4a has a 3.5-millimeter jack that accepts standard headphones.

Between the lines: Google had originally been expected to launch the phone at its spring I/O developer conference, which was canceled due to the pandemic.

  • Google acknowledged the release came later than it had hoped, adding COVID-related travel shutdowns were a significant disruption.
  • "This has been an adventure to get this phone out," said Google VP of product management Brian Rakowski.

What's next: Google also tipped its hand about two other models coming later this year: a 5G version of the Pixel 4a starting at $499 as well as the Pixel 5. Google says it didn't want customers to be surprised or to hold off wondering what's next.

Meanwhile: Samsung is expected to debut the Galaxy Note 20 and other devices at an "Unpacked" event on Wednesday.

Naftali Bennett: How Israel's new PM plans to handle relations with Biden

New Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is signaling he intends to move cautiously at first on issues like Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, an approach that will suit the Biden administration just fine.

Why it matters: Bennett is aiming to avoid an early confrontation with the U.S., and his fragile and ideologically diverse government will have a hard time taking any groundbreaking steps on foreign policy in the first place.

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Biden: Consequences for Russia would be "devastating" if opposition leader Navalny dies

President Biden said he warned Russian President Vladimir Putin during Wednesday's summit that if jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny dies in prison, the consequences "would be devastating for Russia."

Why it matters: Although the White House had previously warned the Russian government over Navalny's imprisonment, Biden personally delivered the message to Putin on Wednesday.

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Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy will support Juneteenth bill

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy will support a bill to make Juneteenth a federal holiday when it comes to the floor later Wednesday, his office tells Axios.

Why it matters: The House is slated to pass a bill making June 19 — Juneteenth — a federal holiday that memorializes when the last enslaved people in Texas learned about their freedom under the Emancipation Proclamation.

  • It will then go to President Biden for his signature just days before the occasion and one day after the Senate passed the bill unanimously.

Biden says he raised human rights issues in Putin summit

President Biden said he raised issues including nuclear arms control, cybersecurity, election interference and violations of human rights in Russia in his meeting with Vladimir Putin in Geneva on Tuesday.

What he's saying: "My agenda is not against Russia or anybody else. It's for the American people," Biden said at a press conference following the summit, which was shorter than expected.

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Putin calls talks with Biden "constructive," says ambassadors will return to posts

Russian President Vladimir Putin of Russia said Wednesday that his summit with President Biden was "constructive," and that the countries had agreed their ambassadors would imminently return to their posts in Moscow and Washington.

What he's saying: "Many of our joint positions are divergent but nevertheless I think both sides manifested a determination to try and understand each other and try and converge our positions," Putin told reporters at a press conference immediately following the meetings.

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Southwest heat wave intensifies, 40 million likely to see 100-degree temperatures

A punishing and long-enduring heat wave is intensifying in parts of the West and Southwest, with heat warnings and advisories in effect across seven states Wednesday. The heat will not relent until late in the weekend.

Threat level: In the coming days, 40 million are likely to see temperatures reach or exceed 100 degrees.

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Lordstown Motors: A tale of hubris, political pandering and regulatory failure

Lordstown Motors is the quintessential business fiasco. Equal parts hubris, political pandering and regulatory failure.

Why it matters: There's no indication that anyone will learn their lesson, except perhaps for some random retail investors who didn't diversify.

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GM boosts investment in electric, autonomous vehicles by $8 billion

General Motors plans to boost its cumulative investment in electric and autonomous vehicles to $35 billion from 2020-2025, a significant jump from a $27 billion target.

Driving the news: GM said this morning that the initiative will include building two new battery cell manufacturing plants in addition to the two already under construction in Tennessee and Ohio.

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