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Retailers charter boats to circumvent supply chain crisis, get goods from overseas

The world’s shipping chaos is pushing mega-retailers to make new investments: their own cargo ships.

Why it matters: It’s one way big companies are trying to circumvent the pandemic-fueled supply chain crisis that’s left store shelves sparse.

What’s happening: Home Depot and Walmart are among those chartering vessels in the mad dash to get stuff from overseas.

  • "We have a ship that's solely going to be ours and it's just going to go back and forth … 100% dedicated to Home Depot," the company’s COO said.
  • Merchants are "chartering vessels specifically for Walmart goods," though some items are still out of stock more than usual, CFO Brett Biggs told investors last week.

The intrigue: Chartering a vessel can cost around $40,000 per day, per one estimate cited by NBC News — in other words, a rounding error for corporate giants.

  • Some transportation service companies are expanding offerings for chartering vessels in response "to high demand from existing retail customers," NBC reports.

But it’s likely not an option for smaller shops. That may make it more difficult for them to compete, at a time when pandemic pains have faded faster for bigger players.

One reason: Most other retailers aren’t bringing in nearly enough merchandise to fill a vessel — something that makes it economical for their giant counterparts.

  • “For most other companies, this mismatch makes chartering vessels economically out of reach,” says Nate Herman, a policy executive at trade group American Apparel & Footwear Association.

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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