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Ukraine amends statement saying Biden backed NATO membership plan

The White House and the Ukrainian government initially sent out conflicting official accounts of Monday's phone call between President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Why it matters: Ukraine's government initially reported on its official website that Biden had "highlighted... the importance of providing the Ukrainian state with a NATO Membership Action Plan," which would put Ukraine on course for membership in the alliance. The White House denied Biden expressed support for such a step on the call.


  • "The Ukrainians mischaracterized the statement and corrected the record," a National Security Council spokesperson told Axios.
  • By Monday evening, the Ukrainian government's readout had been changed to remove the reference to NATO membership for Ukraine.

Flashback: Former President George W. Bush first backed the idea of giving Ukraine a Membership Action Plan — the process through which 11 eastern European countries have joined NATO — in 2008. Thirteen years later, the besieged state is no closer to NATO membership.

  • In the meantime, Russia has invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea. The United States and Europe sent aid to Ukraine but made clear they would not use military force to defend Ukraine from Vladimir Putin.
  • Zelensky has made NATO integration a top priority, but progress on that front currently looks unlikely.

Of note: When asked, the White House declined to comment on whether Biden supports the idea of offering Ukraine a NATO Membership Action Plan this year.

Driving the news: During the call on Monday, Biden invited Zelensky to the White House in July.

Between the lines: That announcement came 18 hours after Axios published an interview with Zelensky in which the Ukrainian president criticized Biden's handling of Russia's Nord Stream 2 pipeline and urged Biden to meet with him "at any moment and at any spot on the planet" before seeing Putin.

Go deeper: Read the interview

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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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