Jul 21, 2021

Axios PM

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath — is 471 words, a 2-minute read.

🚨 Situational awareness: The three dominant prescription drug distributors and Johnson & Johnson will pay a combined $26 billion to settle allegations that they fueled the opioid epidemic. Go deeper.

1 big thing: Coast-to-coast smoke

The Statue of Liberty sits behind a cloud of haze from western wildfires yesterday. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Much of the continental U.S. can now see — and sometimes even smell — the West's choking wildfires, as winds carry the smoke across the country, Axios' Andrew Freedman reports.

  • New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., today had some of their worst air quality in years — due to wildfire smoke.

Satellites spotted the smoke, clearly visible from space, as it wafted across the Atlantic, over Greenland, and even into Europe.

Satellite image shows wildfire smoke (milky white hues) from eastern Colorado to Illinois to the Jersey Shore. Photo: CIRA/RAMMB

What's happening: The wildfires, raging for weeks across the tinderbox-dry Western U.S. and Canada, are exploding in size.

  • Nearly 300 wildfires are burning in British Columbia, and more than 80 are blazing in the U.S.
  • They're fed by record-shattering heat waves, drying out forests already enduring a multiyear drought.

What we're watching: The smoke contains tiny particles that can enter the heart and lungs, aggravating asthma and heart disease.

2. Pelosi's surprise
Speaker Pelosi speaks at a press conference yesterday, while Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer confer. Photo: Rod Lamkey /CNP via Reuters

Speaker Pelosi rejected two selections Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy made for the select committee investigating the Capitol riot, and he responded by threatening a complete boycott of the panel.

  • Pelosi objected to Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Jim Banks (R-Ind.), each of whom voted against certifying President Biden's victory.

McCarthy said that unless she reverses course and seats all five GOP nominees, "Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts."

  • Asked to respond, Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol, "We have a bipartisan quorum. We can proceed."

Go deeper.

3. Catch up quick

U.S. and Swedish soccer teams took a knee in Tokyo today to protest racism and discrimination. Photo: Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

  1. Veteran women's basketball star Sue Bird and baseball player Eddy Alvarez will be the U.S. flag bearers at Friday's Olympic opening ceremony, as part of an IOC "gender-equal" push. Go deeper.
  2. U.S. life expectancy fell by a year and a half in 2020 due to COVID-19, the biggest one-year decline since World War II. Go deeper.
  3. Surfside condo collapse survivors and victims' families are entitled to at least $150 million in initial compensation, a judge said today. (AP)
  4. Maria Taylor is leaving ESPN after talks to renew her contract failed. Go deeper.
4. 1 food thing: Fake-bacon boom

Photo: Prime Roots

Vegan bacon is booming because it's getting tastier, and because plant products are becoming as affordable as meat, Bloomberg reports.

  • Sales are up 25% — almost double the increase for meat-based bacon — for the year ending in April, according to data from Spins, which reports retailer data for natural and organic products.
  • Nielsen data from conventional grocers shows "bacon alternatives" doubling in 2020 from the year before.

Berkeley-based Prime Roots is adding flavors — hickory, sriracha, maple, cracked pepper and even chocolate — to bacon made from koji, a fungus.