February 23, 2023

👋 Hello, Thursday! Smart Brevity™ count: 1,386 words ... 5 mins. Edited by Noah Bressner.

📊 1 big thing: Red-blue health fears

What Americans say is the current greatest threat to U.S. public health
Data: Axios-Ipsos poll. Table: Simran Parwani/Axios

Republicans see fentanyl and other opioids as the biggest threat to Americans' public health.

  • Democrats say it's guns, according to a new Axios-Ipsos survey.

Why it matters: The Axios-Ipsos American Health Index is a new window into ways party identification helps shape opinion on an astounding array of issues, Axios' Margaret Talev and David Nather write.

There's a big divide among those worried about guns, based on where they live: 22% of urban residents and 17% of suburban residents cited gun violence as their biggest concern — compared to just 8% of rural Americans.

  • Democrats are nearly nine times as likely as Republicans to say access to guns is the nation's biggest public health threat.

🎓 Between the lines: The online national survey of 1,213 U.S. adults (margin of error: ±3 points) found that Americans' concerns over opioids — including fentanyl, a synthetic — vary by education level, not just by party.

  • Opioids were the top health concern of 32% of people with a high school diploma or less — compared to 25% of people with some college, and 20% of those with a bachelor's degree or higher.
  • Concerns about obesity appear to correlate to education: Just 12% of Americans with no college — but 30% of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher — say it's the nation's biggest public health threat.

Reality check: Heart disease and cancer actually were the two leading causes of death in the U.S. as of 2021, followed by COVID and accidents, according to CDC data.

  • In the survey about Americans' health concerns, cancer ranked a distant fourth, with coronavirus, unsafe roads or driving, smoking and tobacco products, and alcohol abuse next in line.

🏛️ Context: The findings square with Capitol Hill action. A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee kicked off the year under the new Republican majority with a hearing focused on fentanyl. House Democrats have asked for a classified briefing on mass shootings.

  • The survey is a window into President Biden's thinking when he proposed limiting insulin costs to $35 a month — a popular plan roundly praised by Democrats in Congress, and criticized by Republicans.

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2. 🚂 Axios interview: Sen. J.D. Vance sees "our people" hurt in Ohio

Sen. J. D. Vance (R-Ohio) and former President Trump speak yesterday at a fire station in East Palestine, Ohio. Photo: Alan Freed/Reuters

Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) tells me he quickly felt a kinship with the residents of East Palestine (pronounced PAL-ə-STEEN), Ohio, after a toxic train derailment because they’re "people who feel forgotten."

  • Why it matters: Top figures 0n the populist right — Vance, Tucker Carlson, former President Trump — jumped on the coal-country calamity before top Biden administration officials became visibly engaged.

"The three of us, in our own ways, recognized instantly: This is fundamentally our voters, right?" Vance, a freshman, said in a phone interview yesterday, referring to himself, Carlson and Trump.

  • "These are sort of our people. It's a reasonably rural community. It's been affected by industrialization."
  • "These are the people who really lost when we lost our manufacturing base to China," Vance added. "And these are the people who are going to be forgotten by the media unless certain voices make sure that their interests are at the forefront."

What’s happening: Vance spoke as he was leaving an event in East Palestine with Trump, who motorcaded in to deliver water and speak behind a podium festooned with his campaign sign.

  • Residents of the Pittsburgh-area town have been fearful of the air and water since the Feb. 3 derailment of a 150-car Norfolk Southern train carrying vinyl chloride and other toxic substances. Chemicals spilled or burned off, prompting evacuations and fears of contamination.
  • State Senator Michael Rulli (R), who represents the area, said: "President Trump and Senator Vance drew attention to the situation in East Palestine in a way that nobody else could."

The other side: The Biden White House has defended its response to the derailment, saying the EPA, NTSB and other agencies were at the site within hours.

  • Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is to visit East Palestine today.
  • The finger-pointing has gone both ways: The White House has said Trump deregulation "laid the groundwork" for the disaster.

The big picture: Vance, 38 — who won national acclaim as author of "Hillbilly Elegy," his memoir about growing up in Ohio’s Rust Belt — said the East Palestine disaster "stands at the intersection of corporate power and government power," adding that people in his "wing of the party are very skeptical of each.”

3. 🏡 Housing market's biggest drop since '08

Graphic: Redfin

In the last half of '22, the value of the U.S. housing market shrank by the most since the real-estate bubble popped in 2008, Bloomberg writes from Redfin data.

  • After peaking at $47.7 trillion in June, the total value of U.S. homes declined by $2.3 trillion, or 4.9%, in the second half of 2022, according to Redfin, an online real-estate brokerage.
  • That's the largest percentage drop since the 2008 housing crisis, when home values slumped by 5.8% between June and December.

🧠 What's happening: Home prices have been falling because demand has waned since the buying frenzy at the peak of the pandemic.

  • Mortgage rates are roughly double what they were at the start of 2022, according to Redfin.

4. 📷 1,000 words: What the pilot saw

Photo: Defense Department via AP

This is a U-2 pilot's view of the Chinese spy balloon — taken over the Central U.S. on Feb. 3, a day before the Air Force shot it down off the South Carolina coast. The Pentagon released it yesterday.

  • Why it matters: Notice the satellite-like panels hanging from the balloon.

5. TV reporter, 9-year-old girl killed near Orlando

Screenshot: Spectrum News 13, Orlando

A gunman outside Orlando killed a 20-year-old woman yesterday before returning to the crime scene and fatally shooting a 9-year-old girl and a local TV reporter, police said.

  • The girl's mother and a TV crew member were also shot and remain in critical condition.

What's happening: Keith Melvin Moses, 19, was arrested and charged with murder in connection to the first shooting, Axios' TuAnh Dam writes.

  • Police said they believe he was behind all three shootings in Pine Hills, Fla., just northwest of Orlando.

The 20-year-old woman in the first shooting was an acquaintance of Moses, Orange County Sheriff John Mina said.

  • The girl and her mother were in a nearby house when they were shot.
  • The reporters were attacked "in or around their vehicle" while covering the earlier shooting for Spectrum News 13, Mina said.

Keep reading.

6. 🕶️ Rare blizzard warning for L.A. area

Projected snowfall totals through early Sunday. Image: Pivotal Weather

The National Weather Service in Los Angeles issued blizzard warnings for the hills and mountains of L.A. and Santa Barbara Counties.

  • Meteorologists had to look up when they did that last. It turned out to be 1989 — 34 years ago, Axios extreme-weather expert Andrew Freedman notes.

Snow levels will be down to 1,500 feet, with snow at higher elevations possibly amounting to 7 feet by Sunday.

7. 🏛️ Tracking power: New congresswoman from Va.

Congresswoman-elect Jennifer McClellan (D-Va.) hugs daughter Samantha Mills at her election party in Richmond on Tuesday night. Photo: John C. Clark/AP

Virginia State Sen. Jenn McClellan beat a far-right Republican by 48 points in a special election in a deep-blue congressional district running from Richmond to the North Carolina border.

  • Why it matters: She becomes the first Black woman to represent the Old Dominion in Congress.

McClellan, 50, will fill the seat of Rep. Don McEachin, who died last year.

VA-04 February 2023 special election margins, by locality
Data: Virginia Department of Elections. Map: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

N.Y. Times chief political analyst Nate Cohn tweeted that "nearly half of voters in this district are Black, and it's been a while since Democrats have overperformed in such a diverse district."

8. 1 for the road: Reprieve for doggies in the window

A dog looks out the window of a car in Orlando. Photo: Sean Pitts/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via Reuters

Heavy backlash over a proposed ban on dogs sticking their heads out of car windows caused a Florida lawmaker to "remove, or significantly change" it from an animal welfare law, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.

  • "The public has spoken. She's heard from folks who feel really strongly about this. This is not something that Floridians want," a spokesperson for state Sen. Lauren Book (D) told the paper.

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