President Biden is visiting Ireland this week to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement — which brought peace to Northern Ireland and ended most violence between Catholics and Protestants after decades.
- Plus, understanding the latest on inflation.
- And, Twitter versus public media.
Guests: Axios' Courtenay Brown, Sara Fischer and Dave Lawler.
Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alex Botti, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Robin Linn, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected] You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.
- Biden to mark 25th anniversary of Good Friday Agreement in Belfast
- March inflation report hints at cooler price gains
- Musk tweets "Defund NPR" after outlet suspends Twitter use
NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!
It’s Thursday, April 13th.
I’m Niala Boodhoo.
Today on the show: understanding the latest on inflation. Plus, Twitter versus public media. But first, President Biden in Ireland. That’s today’s One Big Thing.
President Biden in Ireland
NIALA: President Biden is visiting Ireland this week to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement, which brought peace to Northern Ireland and ended most violence between Catholics and Protestants after decades. Here to shed some light on this milestone is Axios’ Senior World Reporter Dave Lawler. Hi, Dave.
DAVE LAWLER: Hi Niala.
NIALA: Dave, can you remind us what role the U.S. played in the Good Friday Agreement?
DAVE: Sure. So the U.S. under Bill Clinton was kind of a, a guarantor of this agreement, which was struck between the republicans, the Nationalists on one side, mainly Catholics in Northern Ireland and the mostly Protestant unionists who feel much more attachment to the U.K. than to the Republic of Ireland. And so, President Clinton at the time played a role in helping to get these sides together and helping to make a deal happen. Of course, the governments of the U.K. and Ireland were also involved. And President Biden was a senior senator at the time and did play a role in the negotiations as well. So this is something that's quite close to his heart.
NIALA: So where's Ireland now 25 years afterwards?
DAVE: Northern Ireland is, as you mentioned, much more peaceful than it was 25 years ago. The Troubles, as they were called, are largely over, but Brexit has kind of reawakened some of these tensions between unionists and republicans because Northern Ireland, part of the U.K., left the European Union. The Republic of Ireland is now still in the European Union. So you basically had to decide whether to put a trade border on the island of Ireland between Northern Ireland and the Republic, which would outrage the republicans who see themselves as of a unified Ireland, or you had to put it in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the U.K., which would outrage the unionists who view themselves really as part of the United Kingdom.
So that's kind of the big political issue that Biden was faced with when he went to Northern Ireland. But he knew he couldn't push too hard in part because he's quite unpopular with unionists in Northern Ireland. One of these politicians actually said he hates the United Kingdom and he loves Ireland. You know, they, they view him perhaps as a partisan in this issue, which, of course, the White House says he's not. But it was quite delicate territory in Northern Ireland, and I think he might enjoy himself a bit more in the Republic of Ireland leg of his trip.
NIALA: Dave, this has been big news here in the U.K., not the least of which, the fact that President Biden is in Ireland and not England. What's the White House's rationale for why Biden is in Ireland?
DAVE: Sure. So Biden did meet the Prime Minister of the U.K. yesterday in Northern Ireland. He has visited the U.K., but I think if we were gonna sit down at the start of the administration and talk about countries, Biden was likely to visit as President, Ireland would be pretty close to the top. You can't listen to too many Joe Biden's speeches hearing him mention his Irish heritage. This is something that matters a lot to him. And so, I think that the White House doesn't necessarily feel that they have any explaining to do to the U.K. why he decided to go to the Republic of Ireland, as well as Northern Ireland. I think this is a trip that, there are some serious meetings. He's gonna meet some political figures, but also, he did face one question from a reporter who asked if this was kind of a taxpayer funded family reunion because he's gonna see some distant relatives. He's gonna highlight his Irish heritage quite a bit. This is not necessarily the same sort of trip that you'd have if he was going to, you know, Brussels to meet with NATO and the EU and things. There is some sort of culture and family side to the Ireland trip, that makes it sort of distinct.
NIALA: Dave Lawler is Axios’s senior world reporter. Thanks, Dave.
DAVE: Thanks Niala.
NIALA: In a moment, making sense of the latest inflation data.
Understanding the latest on inflation
NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo.
March inflation numbers came out yesterday and as Axios’ Courtenay Brown reports, it offers room for guarded optimism.
Courtenay, it seems like there's a lot of conflicting information in this latest inflation report. Can you help us make sense of it?
COURTENAY BROWN: That's right. There is a dose of good news in the report and there's some bad news in the report. The story of inflation over the past year or so has been, really quickly rising, costs for energy, gas, food. This report showed that that's not so much the case anymore. Food prices actually fell outright when it comes to groceries, for the first time since 2020. And gasoline costs fell as well. But on the flip side, there are a number of other categories, new car prices, for instance, that are continuing to rise in costs.
NIALA: So given how much the Fed has raised interest rates, we're at nine straight increases as of last month. Do we know if this is working because this is supposed to be slowing inflation.
COURTENAY: I don't think it's working nearly as much as Fed officials, for instance, may have hoped. I mentioned some of the positive aspects of this report. But the big picture is that inflation is still a really, really big problem for the U.S. economy. Prices are rising, for a lot of categories way too quickly for the Fed's comfort. And so I think Fed officials would say that their job on bringing inflation back to that 2% perfect level that they aim for, that's a far way off. So, Interest rates famously work with a little bit of a lag. So it'll be worth watching how those higher interest rates continue to ripple through the economy. What the Fed ultimately decides on interest at their next policy meeting in a couple weeks, whether they decide to raise interest rates one more time or pause, um, I think that's what I'm going to be walking for and what, um, I imagine a lot of other economists are gonna be watching for.
NIALA: Courtenay Brown is Axios’ economics reporter. Thanks Courtenay.
COURTENAY: Thanks Niala.
Twitter versus public media
NIALA: National Public Radio and PBS announced this week they'll stop using Twitter because of a new “government-funded” label that was added to their accounts last week. Axios Media reporter Sara Fischer has been reporting on this. Sara, what's this new government funded label? Has Twitter explained its meeting or how it plans to use it?
SARA FISCHER: Niala, it hasn't. So Twitter does have a policies page where it discusses how it labels accounts that are affiliated with governments, et cetera, and it hasn't updated that page. And so when Elon Musk, you know, two weeks ago, first started to appoint a label on NPR’s account that said it was U.S. state-affiliated media, NPR pushed back because it said that label does not meet the definition of what we are according to your own rules. Twitter's own rules as they state now, say that if you're editorially independent, but you receive government funding, you don't get the label. So NPR pushbacked. Then, Elon Musk switched it and added a government-funded label to NPR’s account. Now, what's strange about this Niala is that NPR does receive a little bit of government funding, as does PBS, but we actually do have a government funded news entity in the U.S., which is, you know, the Voice of America, and they didn't receive a label.
NPR said Wednesday that they are no longer going to be tweeting from their main account or any of their affiliated accounts. PBS said that it will no longer be tweeting and that it hasn't been tweeting since the government funded label appeared on its main handle, over the weekend.
NIALA: Sara, how are these relations with different news organizations affecting business for Twitter?
SARA: Well, I was just looking at a new forecast, Niala, of Twitter's ad revenue, and it's not looking good. For 2023, Insider Intelligence estimates that Twitter will bring in roughly $2.9 billion in ad revenue. That's down from $4.14 billion in ad revenue last year. So it's a dramatic decrease of advertising revenue and that signals that brands who once spent enormous amounts of money putting messages on Twitter have pulled back.
NIALA: Just thinking about our listeners who consume a lot of media, and many interact with me on Twitter, what do you want them to know about this whole debate?
SARA: Well fact check – NPR and PBS get very little actual funding from the government. For NPR, it's less than 2%. And then two is that when it comes to Twitter, this is a platform that is especially critical in moments of breaking news and emergency communications from authoritative news outlets, personnel, first responders, et cetera. And the way that Twitter was labeling and verifying those accounts was key to building trust with Twitter's audience. If Elon Musk is going to start arbitrarily shaking up the rules by which he is labeling or verifying certain accounts that could damage that trust.
NIALA: Sara Fischer writes Axios’ Media Trends Newsletter. Thanks Sara.
SARA: Thank you Niala.
NIALA: That’s it for us today! You can reach our team at podcasts at axios dot com or you can text me at (202) 918-4893.
I’m Niala Boodhoo – thanks for listening – stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.
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