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Obama says he faced "constraints" as president to condemn killings of Black Americans

Barack Obama said Wednesday that "institutional constraints" stopped him from speaking out against the killings of Black Americans when he was in office.

Driving the news: The former president made the comments during the My Brother's Keeper Leadership Forum, which discussed activism since the May 2020, murder of George Floyd.


What he's saying: "There were some frustrations for me in my institutional role," Obama said, citing unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following the fatal 2014 shooting of Black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer.

  • "I went as far as I could just commenting on cases like Trayvon Martin," he said of the unarmed Black teenager shot and killed by then-neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in 2012.
  • Obama explained that in those instances he did "not in any way want to endanger" the Justice Department in its "capacity to go in, investigate and potentially charge perpetrators."
  • This meant he "could not come down or appear to come down decisively in terms of guilt or innocence in terms of what happened," the former president added.

Of note: Obama noted that when he won in 2012, he didn't have congressional or gubernatorial majorities, which prevented him from pushing through social justice reforms.

  • "All the reform initiatives that we were coming up with, and the ideas that had been generated, we weren't able to translate into as bold a set of initiatives as I would have wanted," he said.

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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