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Texas companies: Culture wars bad for business

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is pushing his conservative agenda in hopes of riling up the state's Republican base ahead of the 2022 gubernatorial election, but major corporations are not having it.

What's happening: Companies with large footprints in the Lone Star State like Dell Technologies, American Airlines Apple, and IBM have a history of publicly criticizing Abbott's policies, including on voting rights and transgender issues.

  • Now opposition to his anti-mask executive order is increasing and Abbott has called a special legislative session to tackle (among other things like voting restrictions) bans on vaccine and face-mask requirements in schools.
  • “This is a very high-risk, high-reward strategy that he is pursuing, and other national Republican leaders as well, where they simply don’t believe the Covid crisis is going to cause the amount of deaths that many health professionals are suggesting that it might," James Riddlesperger, a political-science professor at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth told the New York Times.

Abbott has long considered a pro-business Republican. He is being squeezed by his desire to boost economic development while fending off "ultra-conservative challengers in the Republican primary vote" next year, Bloomberg writes.

  • Notably, more liberal Texas transplants moving to the state could have an impact in the next election, Bloomberg notes.

The big picture: Abbott has hit back at companies criticizing his policies, telling Fox News that they "need to stay out of politics, especially when they have no clue what they’re talking about."

By the numbers: Abbott's popularity has been declining since 2020, according to a recent poll from the University of Texas at Austin, receiving only a 44% job approval in June, compared to his record high of 56% in April 2020.

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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