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What Biden knew: Intel community pushes back on claims of Taliban stunner

You saw this one coming:The more talk of an intelligence failure, the more likely that intel world would strike back. Sure enough,we now have a spate of leaks asserting that the intelligence agencies provided prescient reads on Afghanistan.

Driving the news: "Classified assessmentsby American spy agencies over the summer painted an increasingly grim picture of the prospect of a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and warned of the rapid collapse of the Afghan military," The New York Times reports (subscription).


  • The front-page headline: "Contradicting Biden, Reports Warned of Rapid Collapse."
  • "By July," The Times adds, "many intelligence reports grew more pessimistic, questioning whether any Afghan security forces would muster serious resistance and whether the government could hold on in Kabul, the capital."

And it's not just the intel agencies. "Generals and diplomats" gave similar warnings, reports a Wall Street Journal front-pager ("Biden Knew Risks of a Hasty Withdrawal"):

  • Biden's "decision to bring home U.S. troops ... was made against the recommendations of his top military generals and many diplomats, who warned that a hasty withdrawal would undermine security in Afghanistan, several administration and defense officials said."
  • "In a series of meetings leading up to his decision," The Journal continues, "military and intelligence officials told Mr. Biden that security was deteriorating in Afghanistan, and they expressed concerns both about the capabilities of the Afghan military and the Taliban’s likely ability to take over major Afghan cities."

What's next: National security adviser Jake Sullivan promised at a White House briefing yesterday that there'll be an after-action:

  • "[W]e will conduct an extensive 'hotwash,' as we say," Sullivan said. "We will take a look at every aspect of this from top to bottom. But sitting here today, I'm spending every hour I have focused on how we execute the mission we have before us, which is getting all of these people out."

The "hotwash" results will be public: "[O]f course, we intend, after we’ve had the opportunity to run that analysis, to share that with people."

The bottom line ... As President John F. Kennedy said at a news conference four days after the botched Bay of Pigs invasion attempt in Cuba in 1961: "[V]ictory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan."

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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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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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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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