Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios 

Congress this morning held its first-ever hearing on initial coin offerings, during which experts stressed that legal clarity is the cryptocurrency industry's most pressing need.

Why it matters: The recent boom in digital tokens, cryptocurrencies, and blockchain technology has come with thorny regulatory questions, especially when it comes to securities laws.

  • Georgetown law professor Dr. Chris Brummer said that Congress would have to expand the SEC's authority for it to be able to regulate the full scope of digital tokens cropping up.
  • Coinbase chief legal and risk officer Mike Lempres explained that his company is currently refraining from supporting ICOs because of the regulatory uncertainty. "We are waiting for the dust to settle between the SEC and CFTC."
  • Coin Center research director Peter Van Valkenburg pointed out the redundancy and inefficiency of state-level regulation.

House Financial Services Committee members asked questions about such topics as hacking, use of digital currencies by criminals, defining securities, and protecting investors. There was also a range of opinion:

  • "I hear elected officials who don't have any concept of what we're doing here ... talking about 'we have to go in and regulate," said Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), who went on to advocate for clarity over further regulation.
  • Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) called cryptocurrencies "a crock" and went on to express skepticism about their usefulness.

The story has been updated to correct an editing error that mischaracterized Chris Brummer's statements.

Go deeper

Pelosi, Schumer demand postmaster general reverse USPS cuts ahead of election

Schumer and Pelosi. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter to Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on Thursday calling for the recent Trump appointee to reverse operational changes to the U.S. Postal Service that "threaten the timely delivery of mail" ahead of the 2020 election.

Why it matters: U.S. mail and election infrastructure are facing a test like no other this November, with a record-breaking number of mail-in ballots expected as Americans attempt to vote in the midst of a pandemic.

2 hours ago - Science

CRISPR co-discoverer on the gene editor's pandemic push

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Brian Ach/Getty Images for Wired and BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating the development of CRISPR-based tests for detecting disease — and highlighting how gene-editing tools might one day fight pandemics, one of its discoverers, Jennifer Doudna, tells Axios.

Why it matters: Testing shortages and backlogs underscore a need for improved mass testing for COVID-19. Diagnostic tests based on CRISPR — which Doudna and colleagues identified in 2012, ushering in the "CRISPR revolution" in genome editing — are being developed for dengue, Zika and other diseases, but a global pandemic is a proving ground for these tools that hold promise for speed and lower costs.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 18,912,947 — Total deaths: 710,318— Total recoveries — 11,403,473Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 5 p.m. ET: 4,867,916 — Total deaths: 159,841 — Total recoveries: 1,577,851 — Total tests: 58,920,975Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi rips GOP over stimulus negotiations: "Perhaps you mistook them for somebody who gives a damn" — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine tests positive.
  4. Public health: Majority of Americans say states reopened too quicklyFauci says task force will examine aerosolized spread.
  5. Business: The health care sector imploded in Q2More farmers are declaring bankruptcyJuly's jobs report could be an inflection point for the recovery.
  6. Sports: Where college football's biggest conferences stand on playing.