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4 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.

Updated 2 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Listen to “Axios Today”
Our team shares what we're thankful for and why.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

Updated 5 hours ago - Health

Europe, Asia tighten borders in fear of new COVID variant

Passengers stand at the check-in at Frankfurt Airport. Photo: Boris Roessler/dpa via Getty Images

Countries across Europe and Asia are rushing through new travel restrictions in response to a new COVID variant identified by scientists in South Africa.

The big picture: Israel, Japan, the U.K., France, Germany, Italy and Singapore are moving to restrict entry from countries in the south of Africa, AP reports. Many are also adding quarantines for their own citizens upon return from the region.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Updated 5 hours ago - Health

COVID vaccines of the future might not be shots

Illustration: AĂŻda Amer/Axios

As vaccine makers pursue the next generation of COVID-19 vaccines, some are working to develop products that wouldn't require a shot.

Why it matters: Delivering a vaccine through a pill or a nasal spray could make them much easier to administer, especially in places where distribution is challenging — or even for people who just don't like needles.

Hans Nichols, author of Sneak Peek
10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Manchin’s next blow to liberals

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

During his six years as governor, Sen. Joe Manchin developed a rough three-part test he's taken to Washington: Are proposed programs paid for? Do they have bipartisan support? And do they solve a specific problem facing his constituents?

Why it matters: The West Virginia Democrat wields unparalleled power in a 50-50 Senate, but in many ways he still thinks of himself as a state executive with a practical streak — and that may spell trouble for President’s Biden’s $2 trillion social spending plan as it moves to consideration in the Senate.

11 hours ago - Science

Reader survey: You can put up your Christmas tree now

Data: Axios survey; Note: 1,834 readers of Axios Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, D.C., Northwest Arkansas, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay were surveyed Nov. 19-23, 2021; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios; Illustrations: Aïda Amer/Axios

Axios Local asked readers across the country to weigh in on one of the most polarizing holiday debates: How early is too early to put up your tree?

The verdict: Now's the time. Go nuts.

Updated 11 hours ago - Economy & Business

America's treat-yourself shopping season

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Inflation is driving prices up, but that's not keeping people out of stores.

What's happening: Retail sales climbed for the third straight month in October — and industry experts say holiday shopping could come roaring back this year after a pandemic-induced slump last year.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Updated 11 hours ago - Economy & Business

Everything Shortage to last past Christmas

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

America's supply chain crisis, which has driven prices higher and made all sorts of goods harder to find, may last long after the holiday season.

The big picture: If goods aren't off a boat by now, it's highly unlikely that they'll make it onto store shelves before Christmas. And there are dozens and dozens of ships anchored offshore at the country's biggest ports.

Flood-ravaged Pacific Northwest hit by more record rainfall

Satellite images taken last Friday of flooding in the Sumas Prairie to the east of Abbotsford in British Columbia, Canada, near the border with the U.S. Photo: Maxar Technologies

Rainfall records tumbled in Washington state on Thanksgiving night as the first of two atmospheric river events forecast for this week began threatening the Pacific Northwest, per the National Weather Service.

Why it matters: The region is still recovering from last week's atmospheric river that brought record rainfall, flooding and mudslides, with Washington and Canada's British Columbia particularly badly hit.

Updated 16 hours ago - World

U.S. lawmakers visit Taiwan in defiance of Beijing

A U.S. Air Force plane carrying a delegation to Taiwan arrives at Songshan International Airport in Taipei, Taiwan, on Thursday. Photo by Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The leader of a U.S. congressional delegation to Taiwan declared during a meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen Friday that the self-governing island was a "force for good," per Reuters.

Why it matters: The group arrived in Taipei on Thursday despite pressure from Beijing to call off the visit, according to two of the five lawmakers on the trip. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) tweeted that the message she received from the Chinese Embassy was "blunt."

17 hours ago - World

Solomon Islands leader blames foreign interference for unrest

Burnt out buildings in Honiara's Chinatown on Friday, after two days of rioting around the district. Photo: Charley Piringi/AFP via Getty Images

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) Friday "foreign powers" were to blame for days of unrest in the South Pacific nation.

Why it matters: His government's decision to change alliances from Taiwan to China sparked a wave of anger and massive protests and riots in the capital, Honiara, this week — which resulted in Sogavare declaring a lockdown and calling in Australian police, who swept in to take control of the city Friday, per Reuters.

22 hours ago - World

Russian coal mine blast kills at least 52 people

Russian Emergencies Ministry employees work at the Listvyazhnaya coal mine in the town of Belovo in the Kuznetsk Coal Basin in Kemerovo Region, southwestern Siberia. Photo: TASS via Getty Images

A methane gas leak and explosion at a Siberian coal mine killed at least 52 people on Thursday, including six rescuers, Russian officials said.

The big picture: Russia's worst mining disaster in more than a decade occurred at the Listvyazhnaya mine in the Kemerovo region after gas filled a ventilation shaft, suffocating workers there, per the New York Times.