1 🏅 Thing
Today’s top stories
Simone Biles will not compete in the individual vault or uneven bars finals at the Tokyo Olympics, USA Gymnastics announced Friday.
Why it matters: USA Gymnastics said Biles, who previously withdrew from the individual all-around and team finals to prioritize her mental health, will continue to be evaluated to determine if she'll compete in the balance beam or floor exercise events.
🚨: Simone Biles won't compete in individual vault or uneven bars
🏊♀️: Katie Ledecky wins gold in women's 800m freestyle
🏊: Caeleb Dressel breaks world record in men's 100m butterfly, 3rd gold
🇬🇧: Britain wins gold in first-ever Olympic mixed 4x100m medley relay
🎾: Novak Djokovic defeated in Olympic semi-finals
💻: Japan tests teleporting games and "remote cheering"
Go deeper: Full Axios coverage
1 🏅 Thing
American superstar swimmer Katie Ledecky grabbed her second gold medal of this year's Olympic Games, winning the women's 800-meter freestyle race Saturday in Tokyo.
Driving the news: Ledecky, who holds the world record in the 800m freestyle, is considered one of the best women swimmers of all time. Saturday's final marks her third straight Olympic gold in the event.
American swimmer Caeleb Dressel broke the world record in the men's 100-meter butterfly final in Tokyo on Saturday, picking up his third gold medal of this year's Games.
The big picture: Dressel finished with a time of 49.45 seconds. Hungary's Kristóf Milák won the silver, and Switzerland's Noe Ponti took the bronze.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Friday issued an executive order that bars local school districts from requiring students to wear masks when they return to the classroom next month.
Why it matters: The spread of the Delta variant has led to a spike in new infections across the United States, triggering another round of debate about COVID guidelines in schools.
Life for the unvaccinated could get more difficult as bosses increasingly move to make COVID-19 vaccines mandatory.
The big picture: The federal Government in May said that it is legal for companies to require employees to get vaccinated for coronavirus.
The Justice Department sued Texas on Friday over Gov. Greg Abbott's (R) executive order restricting transportation of undocumented migrants.
Driving the news: The DOJ is asking a federal judge to block the order immediately. It's the latest clash between Texas and President Biden's Justice Department.
The Biden administration on Friday resumed fast-track deportation flights to Central America, the Department of Homeland Security announced.
The big picture: Officials said Monday that they were planning to resume "expedited removal flights" following an increase in the number of migrants crossing into the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas, the Washington Post reports.
The United States recorded more than half a million new COVID-19 vaccine shots on Friday, the highest number since July 1, White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
Why it matters: The Delta variant is continuing to spread across the United States and it now comprises over 80% of the coronavirus cases in the country, Jean-Pierre said. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that "vaccination is the most important strategy to prevent severe illness and death."
President Biden will announce sanctions against one entity and two Cuban individuals this afternoon and provide details on his administration's efforts to improve internet connectivity in Cuba, a senior administration official said Friday.
Why it matters: After initially hoping to place the issue on the back burner, the White House has recently ramped up its focus on Cuba amid protests on the island and in the United States, congressional backlash and political pressure from the South Florida Cuban community.
The Treasury Department "must" release former President Trump's tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee, the Department of Justice said in a memo Friday.
The big picture: The DOJ memo comes after a long dispute between the committee, which first sought to obtain the former president's returns two years ago, and Trump, who fought to keep his finances private.
About 74% of 469 COVID-19 cases associated with large gatherings held in Barnstable County, Mass., from July 3 to 17 were among fully vaccinated people, according to data released Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Why it matters: The data bolsters emerging evidence that vaccinated people have high viral loads and may transmit the Delta variant as easily as those who are unvaccinated.
Then-President Trump pressed top Justice Department officials in a December phone call to "just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me" and Republican congressmen, according to handwritten notes of the call released by the House Oversight Committee on Friday.
Why it matters: It’s the latest example of how aggressively Trump publicly and privately pressured the Justice Department to overturn the results of the election, despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
The U.S. women's soccer team beat the Netherlands in a penalty kick shootout on Friday, propelling them to the semifinals of the Olympic Games.
Why it matters: The win brings the U.S. team one step closer to its quest for a historic back-to-back double — winning the Olympics after emerging victorious at the Women's World Cup. The U.S. will play Canada in the semifinals next week.
Chinese companies will be unable to go public in the U.S. unless they make new risk disclosures, according to a statement released Friday morning from SEC chair Gary Gensler.
Why it matters: Chinese companies, and tech startups in particular, are already under growing pressure from their own government. Now they're also getting squeezed by U.S. officials.
U.S. swimmer Ryan Murphy raised questions about the presence of doping in swimming following a second-place finish in the men's 200-meter backstroke on Thursday.
Driving the news: Murphy, who won gold in the 200-meter backstroke race in Rio, said following his race: "At the end of the day, I do believe there’s doping in swimming. That is what it is."
The price of goods and services rose 0.4% in June, slower than the 0.5% growth during May, according to the core personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index released Friday morning. The June reading was lower than the consensus expectation for 0.6% growth.
Why it matters: The core PCE is the inflation measure the Federal Reserve watches most closely. June's reading is the second month in a row of decelerated price growth, giving the Fed breathing room to design a pullback strategy from its emergency market support.
Unpublished research indicates that the Delta variant causes more severe illness and spreads as easily as chickenpox, and that vaccinated people may transmit the strain as easily as those who are unvaccinated, according to an internal CDC presentation obtained by WashPost.
Why it matters: The data played a key role in the CDC's decision to tell vaccinated people to resume masking indoors, with the presentation calling on health officials to "acknowledge the war has changed," The Post reports.
Nearly 100 members of Congress are urging Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate the Justice Department's alleged racial profiling of Asians, according to a letter shared with Axios.
Why it matters: The case of Anming Hu, a scientist who was baselessly targeted in an espionage probe, has renewed scrutiny of the DOJ after an FBI agent admitted to falsely implicating the Chinese Canadian.
Retail stores of all sizes are turning part of their real estate footprint into logistics and fulfillment centers as they try to blend in-store shopping with e-commerce offerings.
Why it matters: In addition to staying competitive in a buy-everything-online environment, the trend is pushing brands to locate stores closer to dense population centers to try to reach consumers where they are and better cover the last-mile delivery zone to doorsteps.
5 events to watch today...
- ⚾ Baseball: USA plays Israel in the opening round at 6 a.m. ET on nbcolympics.com (Watch the replay at 10:30 a.m. ET on NBC Sports).
- ⚽ Women’s soccer: USA takes on the Netherlands in the quarterfinals at 7 a.m. ET on NBC Sports (watch the replay at 6 p.m. ET on NBC Sports).
- 🏊 🚴 🏃♀️ Team triathlon: The mixed team relay Triathlon makes its Olympic debut at 6:30 p.m. ET on USA Network.
- 🏊♀️ Swimming finals: Watch Katie Ledecky swim the women’s 800m freestyle final and Caeleb Dressel go for his third gold at this year’s Games in the men’s 50m freestyle. Plus live action from the mixed 4x100m medley relay. Coverage starts at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBC.
- 🏃♀️ Track and field: Athletes compete in prelims and round 1 of several events, including the women’s 400m hurdles and men’s 100m.
Japanese telecom giant NTT is using the Olympics to show off a new generation of technologies that can transport the sporting experience to wherever fans are, instead of making them come to games.
Why it matters: Technology like this would have solved tons of problems this year, when no spectators are allowed at the actual Olympic venues. Unfortunately, it's all available only in demo form right now.
In grocery stores and pizza joints, main streets and downtowns across the country, pandemic precautions range wildly — from nonexistent to 2020 deja vu.
The big picture: As COVID-19 cases surge, especially in states with low vaccination rates, the country is once again in the throes of a fraught cultural and political debate over face masks.
Bugs, birds, fish and plants with names linked to white supremacists may be renamed, as science confronts its own ties to systemic racism.
Why it matters: The national reckoning was inevitably going to pass this way. The sciences have long underrepresented and erected barriers of entry to people of color and there’s a concerted effort for a reset under way in academia, research and hiring.
The first plane with more than 200 Afghans who served as interpreters, contractors or other ally roles for the U.S. military has arrived in the U.S. — the first of many such flights as troops are withdrawn from the region.
Why it matters: More than 700 Afghan allies and their families are preparing to be brought into the U.S. in the coming days on special immigrant visas. More than 70,000 Afghans have received those since 2008.
Former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) died Thursday, his family and the Levin Center at Wayne Law — which bore his name — confirmed. He was 87.
Why it matters: The Detroit native served for 36 years in the U.S. Senate, serving twice as chairman of the Armed Services Committee and is credited with helping overturn the military's “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule.
Members of the military will be required to get vaccinations or face regular testing, social distancing, mask mandates and restrictions on travel for work, the the Pentagon said on Thursday evening.
Why it matters: The policy was announced for federal workers and onsite contractors earlier on Thursday, part of several new Biden initiatives to get more Americans vaccinated and slow the spread of the Delta variant.
Republican critics of Donald Trump have raked in campaign cash this year as their votes to impeach the former president and investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol attack have put them in the crosshairs of Trump and his allies.
Why it matters: The 2022 midterms won't just determine which party controls Congress. They're also shaping up to be a test of Trump's continued hold on the GOP. The few remaining Republican dissenters in Washington need to put up big fundraising numbers if they hope to stave off a purge.
Republicans have expressed selective rage amid the rise of the Delta variant: They rail against the return of indoor masking but are far less vocal about vaccine requirements.
Why it matters: Masking may help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, but the real solution to the pandemic is getting more Americans vaccinated. Increased support for that — including the use of heavier-handed methods like mandates — will only increase its chance of succeeding.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is urging his fellow Republicans to buck up Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — a Democrat, sources familiar with the conversations tell Axios.
Why it matters: Republicans view Sinema and her moderate Democratic colleague Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia as their last line of defense against sweeping progressive laws — ranging from a $3.5 trillion social welfare bill to potentially irreversible structural changes like eliminating the filibuster and adding new states to the union.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's (D-Ariz.) warning that she’s opposed to a budget reconciliation bill costing $3.5 trillion will force Senate Democrats and the White House to either trim the proposals in it or tinker with how many years they'll run.
Why it matters: Such gamesmanship will be necessary if lawmakers and the Biden administration want to keep the support of progressives and centrists. But it will lead to a bill with costs and durations as uneven as the Manhattan skyline.