May 26, 2021

Axios PM

Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 496 words, a 2-minute read.

🚨 Police said a mass shooter killed 8 victims today at a light rail maintenance yard in Santa Clara, California.

1 big thing: Biden orders new COVID probe

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden has asked the U.S. intelligence community to "redouble their efforts" to investigate the origins of the coronavirus and provide a report within 90 days.

Why it matters: There's growing circumstantial evidence of the possibility that COVID-19 originated in a lab accident.

  • The Wall Street Journal (paywall) reported Sunday on previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence that three researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology fell ill enough to be hospitalized in November 2019.

The state of play: Biden said the U.S. intelligence community has "coalesced around two likely scenarios":

  1. Human contact with an infected animal
  2. Accidental laboratory leak

What they're saying: Biden said the U.S. intelligence community's current position is that “two elements in the IC leans toward the former scenario and one leans more toward the latter — each with low or moderate confidence."

  • CNN reports that Biden's team shut down an effort launched late in the Trump administration to prove COVID originated in a Chinese lab, citing concerns about the quality of its work.

Between the lines: Even in non-pandemic, non-new Cold War situations, it's often really difficult to trace back the origins of a new outbreak, Axios Future editor Bryan Walsh tells me.

  • It's just not normally this big a deal and so we're going to have a big vacuum in which we can add in whatever gray evidence we want.

Go deeper: The COVID lab-leak theory goes mainstream

2. When the stars align
Photo: Mark Evans/Getty Images

Above: A couple look toward the supermoon and the Milky Way in Rylstone, Australia.

  • It is the first total lunar eclipse in more than two years, which coincides with a supermoon.

Below: The supermoon seen from Stonehenge in England.

Photo: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images
3. Catch up quick
  1. Ford plans to invest $30 billion in vehicle electrification efforts by 2025, and the company said it anticipates that 40% of its global sales by 2030 will be fully electric vehicles. Go deeper.
  2. A Dutch court ordered Royal Dutch Shell to cut its emissions of greenhouse gases to make its plans more consistent with the Paris climate agreement.
  3. Exxon shareholders bucked management by installing at least two new members on the oil giant's board in a push to make Exxon more aggressive on addressing climate change and more disciplined in its oil investments.
  4. Specific language about the QAnon conspiracy theory has all but disappeared from mainstream social media platforms. Go deeper.
  5. New York will raffle off public college scholarships for teens who receive a coronavirus vaccine in the next six weeks. Go deeper.
  6. 🎧 Axios Re:Cap features former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin talking about PPP loans. Listen here.
4. 1 smile to go: Classic games resurrected

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

As much as the video game industry and its culture focus on the novelty of new releases, 2021 is shaping up to be a showcase for the appeal of the old, reports Axios Gaming editor Stephen Totilo.

  • Two classic Pokémon games, first released in 2006, will come out in November on Nintendo Switch.
  • Rockstar is selling an "expanded and enhanced" version of 2013's "Grand Theft Auto V," a game that has already shipped 145 million copies.
  • "Mass Effect Legendary Edition," a chart-topping remaster of a trio of sci-fi games from a decade ago, is an attempted franchise revival.

Go deeper.