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Fresh off President Xi Jinping's signal China could restrict the sale of rare earth minerals, a major component in a host of important technological and defense devices, to the U.S., a team of Chinese scientists announced they had developed a new process that reduces the time needed to extract rare earths from ore.

Why it matters: If the process is indeed viable, it would deepen the world's dependence on China for the valuable minerals and elements, locking in China's dominance in the field, at least in the short term.

  • They say the new discovery will move extraction from a process that takes days to a matter of minutes, and that it also could reduce environmental costs.
  • "This could start a technological evolution in the rare earths industry," said Sun Xiaoqi, lead scientist on the project, according to the South China Morning Post.
  • China accounts for 80% of the global supply of rare earths, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Of note: Last week I mentioned that Lynas Corp., one of the most important producers of rare earths outside of China, was eyeing a move to U.S. soil after a fight with the Malaysian government. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Thursday the company's refinery would be allowed to continue operations.

Go deeper: Why rare earth minerals matter in the U.S.-China trade war

Go deeper

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Higher education expands its climate push

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New or expanded climate initiatives are popping up at several universities, a sign of the topic's rising prominence and recognition of the threats and opportunities it creates.

Why it matters: Climate and clean energy initiatives at colleges and universities are nothing new, but it shows expanded an campus focus as the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly apparent, and the world is nowhere near the steep emissions cuts that scientists say are needed to hold future warming in check.

Ina Fried, author of Login
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The pandemic isn't slowing tech

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Thursday's deluge of Big Tech earnings reports showed one thing pretty clearly: COVID-19 may be bad in all sorts of ways, but it's not slowing down the largest tech companies. If anything, it's helping some companies, like Amazon and Apple.

Yes, but: With the pandemic once again worsening in the U.S. and Europe, it's not clear how long the tech industry's winning streak can last.

Texas early voting surpasses 2016's total turnout

Early voting in Austin earlier this month. Photo: Sergio Flores/Getty Images

Texas' early and mail-in voting totals for the 2020 election have surpassed the state's total voter turnout in 2016, with 9,009,850 ballots already cast compared to 8,969,226 in the last presidential cycle.

Why it matters: The state's 38 Electoral College votes are in play — and could deliver a knockout blow for Joe Biden over President Trump — despite the fact that it hasn't backed a Democrat for president since 1976.

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