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Photo: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. donors have given 90% of the cash behind the first $4.1 million restoration payment for Paris' fire-ravaged Notre Dame cathedral, the AP reports.

Why it matters: French billionaires pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild the cathedral after the April fire, but their donations have yet to materialize as squabbles continue over the direction of the cathedral's reconstruction and the contracts to support it.

  • Reconstruction and cleanup efforts — some of it focused on the release of toxic lead dust — are occurring at Notre Dame even as the rebuilding's ultimate scope is figured out. This first payment, which comes from the charity Friends of Notre Dame de Paris, is needed to pay the employees doing that work.
  • "The big donors haven’t paid. Not a cent. ... They want to know what exactly their money is being spent on and if they agree to it before they hand it over, and not just to pay employees’ salaries," Andre Finot, a senior press official at Notre Dame, told the AP.

The other side: "It’s not as brutal as it sounds, but it’s a voluntary donation so the companies are waiting for the government’s vision to see what precisely they want to fund. It's our function as the intermediary to know that the money is directed in line with the donor’s wishes," Heritage Foundation Director General Celia Verot told the AP. The foundation is the intermediary for French oil and gas giant Total's promised $112 million donation.

Go deeper: The miracle at Notre Dame

Go deeper

Updated 7 hours ago - Technology

From Malcolm X to "Free Britney," new media shapes the justice system

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

True crime documentaries, podcasts and social media campaigns are bringing new attention to real-world legal proceedings — and are often affecting the outcome.

Why it matters: New media platforms can instantly put a national spotlight on cases that have long been forgotten or buried under red tape.

Updated 10 hours ago - Health

The next big bottleneck in the global vaccination effort

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

The world still needs more coronavirus vaccines, but an additional bottleneck has emerged in many low-income countries: They need help getting shots in arms.

Why it matters: Increasing vaccination rates across the world is both a humanitarian necessity and the best way to prevent dangerous new variants from emerging, but it increasingly requires complex problem-solving.

Updated 10 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 Omicron variant cases identified in Europe, U.K.

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Health officials in the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany announced on Saturday that they've detected the first known cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The discoveries come as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.