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Otto Warmbier in Pyongyang on Feb. 29, 2016. Photo: Xinhua/Lu Rui via Getty Images

North Korea issued the U.S. a $2 million hospital bill before releasing then-comatose American student Otto Warmbier, according to 2 anonymous sources familiar with the situation who spoke to the Washington Post's Anna Fifield.

The bottom line: President Trump reportedly ordered a U.S. envoy tasked with retrieving Warmbier to sign an agreement to pay the medical bill, but it remains unclear if the administration actually paid it, or if it was a matter of discussion during the 2 summits between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The bill reportedly remained with the Treasury Department through 2017.

The backdrop: Warmbier was detained in North Korea for 17 months and died in 2017 shortly after being flown back to the U.S. in a comatose state. North Korea attributed Warmbier's poor health and subsequent death to botulism, but doctors found no evidence to corroborate those claims. A federal judge ordered North Korea to pay Warmbier's family $501 million in a wrongful death lawsuit last year.

  • The Warmbiers have said they hold Kim responsible for the death of their son, but earlier this year, Trump said he takes the North Korean leader "at his word" when asked about incident.
  • The White House declined to comment on this story, per the Post.

Go deeper: Otto Warmbier dies after detainment in North Korea

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
25 mins ago - Technology

Epic's long game against Apple

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Epic's Apple lawsuit is costing the company dearly, but the game developer has its eye on a valuable long-term goal: prying tomorrow's virtual worlds loose from the grip of app store proprietors like Apple.

Between the lines: Epic isn't spending a fortune in legal fees and foregoing a ton of revenue just to shave some costs off in-app purchases on today's phones. Rather, it's planning for a future of creating virtual universes via augmented and virtual reality — without having to send a big chunk of their economies to Apple or Google.

Updated 30 mins ago - Health

The race to avoid a possible "monster" COVID variant

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Slow global COVID-19 vaccination rates are raising concerns that worse variants of the coronavirus could be percolating, ready to rip into the world before herd immunity can diminish their impact.

Why it matters: The U.S. aims to at least partially vaccinate 70% of adults by July 4, a move expected to accelerate the current drop of new infections here. But variants are the wild card, and in a global pandemic where only about 8% of all people have received one dose, the virus will continue mutating unabated.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
55 mins ago - Health

Democrats are still looking for a plan on drug prices

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Democrats have no workable plan to tackle the cost of prescription drugs, even with full control of Washington and after campaigning on the issue for years.

The picture: Voters still care about the cost of drugs, but Democrats don't have a feasible legislative strategy yet — or an agreed-upon policy to fit into a legislative strategy.