Sunday’s top stories

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Feb 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Union head won’t say whom teachers should get priority over for COVID vaccine

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, tells "Axios on HBO" that states should prioritize teachers for vaccinations as part of reopening schools for in-person learning.

Between the lines: Weingarten declined to say whom teachers should be prioritized over.

NIH director slams maskless Republicans — helped kill thousands

The politicization of mask wearing during the pandemic may have led to the deaths of "tens of thousands" of Americans because of increased spread of COVID-19, National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins tells "Axios on HBO."

What they're saying: "The evidence was pretty compelling by last March or April that uniform wearing of masks would reduce transmission of this disease. And yet, with a variety of messages through a variety of sources, mask wearing became a statement about your political party or an invasion of your personal freedom."

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Feb 21, 2021 - World

UN nuclear watchdog reaches temporary agreement with Iran on inspections

The head of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi. Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reached an agreement with Iran that allows UN inspectors to continue necessary verification and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear facilities for up to 3 months.

Why it matters: The understanding buys more time for more diplomacy between the U.S. and Iran. The Biden administration announced last week it was formally ready to meet with Iran and other world leaders and discuss ways to reinstate the 2015 nuclear deal.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Feb 21, 2021 - World

America's vaccine rollout has been among the best in the world

America’s much-maligned vaccine rollout is actually going relatively well, at least compared to other wealthy countries.

The big picture: The U.S. has carried out more vaccinations than any country in the world, and given a first dose to a higher percentage of its population (12%) than all but five countries: Israel, the Seychelles, the UAE, the U.K. and Bahrain.

Endangered jazz history faces greater risk with the pandemic

Billie Holiday performs at the Club Downbeat in Manhattan in February 1947. Photo: William Gottlieb/Redferns via Getty Imagese

Musicians, artists, and fans are racing to save the nation's jazz history as historic clubs face closure and master tapes of crucial recordings by African American artists sit collecting dust.

Why it matters: The pandemic has wrecked an already vulnerable jazz industry by forcing live music shows to halt. Musicians and club owners have turned to online fundraisers for survival, and point to the music's connection to civil rights as a need to keep its legacy alive. 

Texas officials launch inquiry into winter storm energy bills spike

A neighborhood in Waco, Texas, amid power outages over the state on Feb. 17. Photo by Matthew Busch /AFP via Getty Images

Officials in Texas announced Saturday investigations into the causes of the state's widespread power outages and an energy bills spike following the state's winter storms.

Why it matters: Millions of Texans lost power and water during last week's storms. In the aftermath, wholesale power prices rose from roughly $50 per megawatt hour to $9,000, WFAA reports — noting some Texans faced bills of up to $17,000 so far this month.

Updated Feb 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Merrick Garland vows to lead Capitol riot prosecutions if confirmed AG

Merrick Garland, President Biden’s nominee for attorney general, in Wilmington, Delaware in January. Photo:y Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Attorney General nominee Merrick Garland will pledge to take the lead in prosecuting those charged over the U.S. Capitol siege and vow prosecutorial independence from President Biden at his confirmation hearing Monday.

Why it matters: As attorney general, Judge Garland would oversee politically sensitive cases, including investigations into the taxes of the president's son Hunter Biden and the origins of the probe into former President Trump's dealings with Russia.

Updated Feb 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Trump to speak at CPAC next week

Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Former President Trump will speak at next week's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) conference in Florida, his first public appearance since leaving office, a source with direct knowledge tells Axios.

What we're hearing: Trump plans to directly attack President Biden's new immigration plan and will talk about the future of the Republican Party, a source familiar with his speech said.

Updated Feb 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

U.S. deports former Nazi concentration camp guard to Germany

Friedrich Karl Berger in a photo from 1959. Photo: Department of Justice

The U.S. has deported a 95-year-old man to Germany after a federal investigation found that he worked as a guard in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II, the Department of Justice announced Saturday.

Why it matters: Federal agencies said Friedrich Karl Berger, a German citizen, participated in Nazi-sponsored persecution in 1945 while serving as an guard in the Neuengamme concentration camp system in Northern Germany.

In photos: Monsoon floods hit Indonesian capital, force 1,300 to evacuate

An Indonesian man helps a woman navigate a heavy current in a flooded neighborhood of Jakarta, Indonesia. Photo: Ed Wray/Getty Images

Severe monsoon flooding across several areas of Indonesia's capital forced more than 1,300 people to evacuate on Saturday, Reuters reported.

The big picture: The country's meteorology agency warned that conditions are expected to worsen as the heaviest rain of the season could fall in and around Jakarta over the next week, per Reuters.

Feb 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden's confirmation calculus

Neera Tanden greets Sen. Lindsey Graham, top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, before a hearing Feb. 10. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

Opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) imperils the nomination of Neera Tanden as President Biden's budget director but could help two other nominees.

The state of play: Xavier Becerra for HHS and Deb Haaland for Interior have better chances if the confirmation gods get their sacrifice elsewhere.

Feb 20, 2021 - Science

Biden declares major disaster in Texas after winter storms

Long-haul trucks waiting in traffic caused by historic cold weather in Austin, Texas, on Feb. 15. Photo: Montinique Monroe/Getty Images

President Biden declared a major disaster in Texas after severe winter storms struck the state, causing millions of residents to lose power and water.

Why it matters: The declaration clears the way for more federal funds to be spent on relief efforts across the state.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Feb 20, 2021 - Health

Why we're still waiting for rapid, at-home COVID tests

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Rapid at-home COVID-19 tests are fast, but the regulatory approval needed to get them in the hands of Americans has been slow to come.

Why it matters: Quick, fully at-home COVID-19 tests could make a vital contribution to stemming the pandemic — and open up a new frontier for more constant disease surveillance — but old assumptions about how diagnostics should be used are holding them back.

Scoop: Sequoia Capital says it was hacked

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Sequoia Capital told its investors on Friday that some of their personal and financial information may have been accessed by a third party, after a Sequoia employee's email was successfully phished, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Sequoia is one of the largest and most successful venture capital firms in the world, with portfolio companies like Airbnb, DoorDash, and Robinhood. It also has invested in cybersecurity firms like FireEye and Carbon Black.

Feb 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Austin calls video claiming military allowed perpetrator to remain in service "disturbing"

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Photo: Michael Reynolds/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday addressed a viral TikTok video of an emotional Marine saying her "perpetrator", who admitted to misconduct, had been allowed to stay in the service.

Driving the news: Austin called the video "deeply disturbing," and said he has asked his staff to get more information and provide assistance to the Marine.