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Texas temporarily drops enforcement of ban on mask mandates

The Texas Education Agency said in new guidance Thursday that it will temporarily stop enforcing Gov. Greg Abbott's ban on public school districts imposing mask mandates, citing ongoing litigation.

Driving the news: The guidance came the same day that the Texas Supreme Court declined to uphold the mask ban over a technicality, sending the case down to an appeals court.

Why it matters: Public schools can now, for the time being, require students to wear masks as the Delta variant continues to drive a surge in new COVID-19 cases.

  • The new guidance will also require schools to report positive COVID-19 tests to their local health department, the state health department and all teachers, family and staff who share a classroom or space with the infected person.
  • More than 80,000 people are currently hospitalized with the coronavirus in Texas. Abbott himself has tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently being treated with the Regeneron antibody cocktail that former President Trump received.
  • Seven counties and 48 school districts had already defied Abbott's mask ban as lawsuits have made their way through the state's court system, according to AP.

Go deeper: Texas requests mortuary trailers, expecting a surge in COVID-19 deaths

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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