Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with the Axios AM and PM newsletters. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to the Axios Closer newsletter for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with the Axios Sports newsletter. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Des Moines newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Tampa Bay newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top DC news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios DC newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

America has been hit by a series of catastrophic failures — and the only certainty is that more are on the way.

Why it matters: Our infrastructure is failing, and the less we invest in it now, the more it's going to continue to fail in the future.

Driving the news: Our game plan for dealing with a pandemic turned out to be grossly inadequate — but the pandemic is far from the only low-probability event to strike.

  • Texas was plunged into a power crisis last month, in the wake of extraordinarily cold weather.
  • The entire payments infrastructure of the United States failed for about four hours on Wednesday.

The big picture: According to FEMA's latest national preparedness report, there's a long list of foreseeable events that would stress our national capabilities, possibly past the breaking point.

  • Earthquakes are at the top of the list. The scariest one, which could be as large as 9.2 on the Richter scale, will take place someday in the Pacific Northwest, which is ill prepared for such a catastrophe along the Cascadia subduction zone. Other regions at risk are California, along the San Andreas fault, and the New Madrid seismic zone on the Arkansas–Tennessee border.
  • An extreme solar flare could be utterly devastating, causing a magnetic storm powerful enough to result in power outages across most or all of the country. Such an event caused major damage in 1859, when America was much less electrified. If the same storm arrived tomorrow (or if it was replicated with an electromagnetic pulse weapon), millions could be without power for weeks, leading to food shortages, water shortages, and even riots.
  • A cyber attack would have a similar effect in terms of its impact on the information economy — but could be even harder to recover from if the attack was maintained indefinitely. Such attacks don't even need to target the electric grid: A recent attack in Florida, for instance, was aimed at the water supply.
  • Hurricanes and wildfires are now an annual occurrence, but Miami, Houston, Los Angeles and other major cities — including Washington D.C. — have done very little in terms of beefing up their ability to withstand such events.
  • The next pandemic could be much deadlier than this one, and even more disruptive.

What's next: The Biden administration has signaled that it intends to push for a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure bill, designed to strengthen the country's resilience in the face of climate change and other shocks. National infrastructure in desperate need of upgrades includes:

  • The Strategic National Stockpile of critical medical supplies.
  • The electric grid, and the network of power stations providing electricity for it.
  • Aviation, roads, transit, water systems, and dams — all of which received D grades or lower on the latest national infrastructure report card.
  • Housing is also crucial — America simply doesn't have the capacity to shelter the millions of people who might lose their homes in the event of a major catastrophe.

By the numbers: The cost of such work is enormous — but the cost of not doing the work is higher still. After Texas deregulated its electricity grid and refused to pay for excess capacity in the case of emergency, bills rose by $28 billion. And that number doesn't even include the costs associated with the latest crisis.

  • What they're saying: "Our country’s electric utilities need a massive makeover in which the ultimate costs will be staggering," writes Warren Buffett in his latest annual letter. "We welcome the challenge and believe the added investment will be appropriately rewarded."

Be smart: Resilience isn't something that can be bought with a one-off check. It's an ongoing process of modeling, pricing, and wargaming.

The bottom line: Catastrophe will strike. Building resilience now, and maintaining that resilience on an ongoing basis, will save trillions of dollars — and possibly millions of lives — over the long term.

Go deeper

32 mins ago - Health

Supply isn't our only COVID treatment problem

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Antiviral COVID treatments are hailed as a pandemic game-changer, but they're currently in very short supply — and that's only one of several barriers to access for high-risk patients.

The big picture: Even when supply ramps up, it will still be tricky to connect some of the most vulnerable patients to the pills without changes to the process.

Four-day workweeks get rave reviews, but they're not catching on

Expand chart
Data: Indeed.com; Chart: Axios Visuals

The four-day work week is nowhere close to becoming the norm, despite a flurry of corporate announcements, media coverage and intense interest from worker bees worldwide.

Why it matters: With the pandemic throwing work-family dynamics into chaos and a labor market favoring workers, there's demand for this.

3 hours ago - World

Report: LGBTQ+ Afghans' lives "dramatically worsened" under Taliban rule

Taliban fighters in Kabul, Afghanistan, earlier this month. Photo: Mohd Rasfan/AFP via Getty Images

LGBTQ+ Afghans have been threatened, attacked and "faced an increasingly desperate situation and grave threats to their safety" since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan last August, per a report published Wednesday.

What they're saying: "We spoke with LGBT Afghans who have survived gang rape, mob attacks, or have been hunted by their own family members who joined the Taliban, and they have no hope that state institutions will protect them," per a statement from study co-author J. Lester Feder.