Wednesday’s top stories

Use-of-force expert: Chauvin used "deadly" force on George Floyd

Jody Stiger, a Los Angeles Police Department sergeant, testified Wednesday that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin used "deadly" force on George Floyd and kept his knee on Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes.

Why it matters: Stiger, a prosecution witness, said the initial force Chauvin used on Floyd was appropriate, but he should have let up when Floyd stopped resisting.

Biden to nominate gun control advocate to lead ATF

Photo: Leigh Vogel/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden will nominate David Chipman, a prominent figure from a gun-control group, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to Axios.

Why it matters: The agency, which has not had a permanent director since 2015, is seen as a force within the government to combat gun violence. The appointment comes after the U.S. has seen a number of high-profile gun-related tragedies in a short period of time.

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How Biden has downplayed a week of crises.

Virginia lawmakers approve marijuana legalization

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Virginia lawmakers have approved Gov. Ralph Northam's request to legalize the possession and growth of small amounts of recreational marijuana starting July 1, up from the 2024 timeline that had previously been agreed to.

Why it matters: The move will make Virginia the first southern state, and the 16th in the nation, to legalize recreational marijuana.

List of universities requiring vaccines grows and so does pushback

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The list of universities requiring vaccinations to return to campus in the fall is growing longer by the day.

Why it matters: With the mandates, universities are going where most corporations have not. The political and legal blowback is already taking shape.

Mike Allen, author of AM
Apr 7, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Pence signs two-book deal in 2024 ramp-up

Mike Pence departs the Biden inauguration. Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Former Vice President Mike Pence has signed a two-book deal, with a significant advance, as part of a strategy to be vocal and visible ahead of a possible 2024 presidential race, Axios has learned.

Details: Both books will be published by Simon & Schuster, and are expected to be out within the next few years. Both will emphasize his Christian faith and public service.

Scoop: MasterClass raising new funding at $2.5 billion valuation

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

MasterClass, which sells subscriptions to online courses taught by experts, is raising new funding led by Fidelity at a $2.5 billion valuation, Axios has learned.

The big picture: Online content boomed during the pandemic as people were stuck at home.

Biden has yet to reunite any migrant families separated under Trump

Photo: Doug Mills/Pool/Getty Images

Not one of the hundreds of migrant families separated from President Trump's zero-tolerance policy has been reunited under President Biden thus far, senior Department of Homeland Security officials confirmed on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Reuniting migrant families was one of Biden's clearest immigration-related promises.

Treasury details Biden's plan to raise $2 trillion through corporate tax hikes

Photo: Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Treasury Department released details on Wednesday of President Biden's plan to hike corporate taxes over the next 15 years to raise about $2 trillion for his sweeping jobs and infrastructure proposal.

Why it matters: The plan will likely serve as a roadmap as Democrats in Congress craft legislation to enact Biden's $1.9 trillion American Jobs Plan, which seeks to fulfill a range of campaign promises to fix the country’s crumbling infrastructure, slow the growing climate crisis and reduce economic inequality.

Apr 7, 2021 - Health

EU regulator finds "possible" link between AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots

Photo: Genya Savilov/AFP via Getty Images

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) concluded Wednesday that "unusual blood clots with low blood platelets" should be listed as a "very rare" side effect of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, but that the benefits of the shot still outweigh the risks.

Why it matters: The AstraZeneca vaccine is the centerpiece of the global COVAX initiative, and one of the very few vaccines that is available, affordable and easy to store for many developing countries.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Apr 7, 2021 - Economy & Business

More spending expected as IMF projects 6% global GDP growth

Photo: Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Unprecedented government borrowing and spending helped cushion the global economy from the coronavirus pandemic and will need to stay in place for some time to ensure a healthy recovery, according to top economists at the IMF's spring meetings.

Driving the news: At the opening of its spring meetings on Tuesday the IMF again revised up its forecast for global growth this year, now projecting the world will see 6% GDP growth, the highest since the 1970s.

Apr 7, 2021 - World

China warns of "robust" response if U.S. boycotts Beijing Olympics

A sculpture depicts Olympic figure skaters for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics at Shougang Park on Dec. 16, 2020 in Beijing, China. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

The Chinese government on Wednesday warned the U.S. that it would respond strongly if Washington boycott's next year's Winter Olympics set to be held in Beijing, AP reports.

Driving the news: The message comes after a State Department spokesman said at a briefing Tuesday that a joint boycott by the U.S. and its allies "is something that we certainly wish to discuss," in response to a question about how to punish China for what observers have described as a genocide against Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.

Dimon calls on companies to be policymakers

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon. (Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon is calling on companies to play a bigger role in the world’s problems, saying today in his annual shareholders letter that the business sector should be a “responsible community citizen."

Why it matters: Corporations are increasingly facing more pressure to take a stand on politically divisive issues.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Apr 7, 2021 - Technology

VCs plow money into creator economy companies

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

Venture capitalists are plowing money into startups that help content creators to directly monetize their work.

Driving the news: Patreon, a platform that connects creators with fans, today will announce $155 million in fresh funding at a $4 billion valuation.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Apr 7, 2021 - Politics & Policy

America is losing its religion

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

New surveys show Americans' membership in communities of worship has declined sharply in recent years, with less than 50% of the country belonging to a church, synagogue or mosque.

Why it matters: The accelerating trend towards a more secular America represents a fundamental change in the national character, one that will have major ramifications for politics and even social cohesion.

Drought stokes fears of severe fire season in West

Expand chart
Reproduced from the U.S. Drought Monitor; Chart: Sara Wise

It's only early April, but parts of the West are already at mid-July levels of dryness — and scientists are warning that the upcoming fire season could be destructive.

Why it matters: This summer will mark one year since the West Coast experienced a historic spate of wildfires. The prospect of another severe fire season, along with concerns about water supplies, is raising questions about how to prepare the region for the ravages of climate change.

Apr 7, 2021 - World

Israel's election: Ideological foes weigh pact to oust Netanyahu

Naftali Bennett (L). Photo: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP via Getty

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has the first crack at forming Israel's next government, but the job could ultimately fall to a much less well-known figure: Naftali Bennett.

Why it matters: Bennett's right-wing Yamina party won just seven seats in the March 23 elections, but an unprecedented set of political circumstances has created an opening for the former defense minister and tech entrepreneur to replace Netanyahu, with the support of the center-left.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Apr 7, 2021 - Health

Vaccine shopping can be surprisingly easy

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Reproduced from KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor; Chart: Axios Visuals

Many coronavirus vaccination sites are making it easy for people to shop for the vaccine they want.

Why it matters: Public health officials have advised for months that the best vaccine to get is the one that's first available. But giving people a choice about which shot to get could help improve overall vaccination rates, especially among more hesitant Americans.

Updated Apr 7, 2021 - World

Brazil's daily COVID death toll tops 4,000 for first time

Cemetery workers carry a coffin during the burial of a COVID-19 victim at the Sao Joao municipal cemetery in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on March 26. Photo: Silvio Avila/AFP via Getty Images

Brazil confirmed more than 4,000 COVID-19 deaths in a 24-hour period for the first time on Tuesday, the health ministry announced.

Why it matters: A surge in cases and deaths, driven in part by relaxed mitigation measures and a more contagious local variant, has overwhelmed the country's health system.

Cold snap caused most Texas outages during storm, grid operator says

The U.S. and Texas flags fly in front of high voltage transmission towers in Houston in February. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Weather-related problems were the leading cause of Texas power plants going offline during February's record cold snap that left millions of Texans in the dark, a preliminary report published Tuesday states.

Why it matters: These initial findings from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the flow of electric power in the state, indicate that many facilities were unable to cope with the extreme weather.

2 of Deshaun Watson's accusers go public with sexual misconduct claims

Deshaun Watson in action for the Houston Texans against the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium in Houston in January. Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

A woman who went public Tuesday with sexual misconduct allegations against Deshaun Watson said she has filed a criminal complaint with police, the second known criminal complaint made against the Houston Texans quarterback.

Driving the news: Ashley Solis said at a news conference in Houston that she's a "survivor of assault and harassment" and "Watson is my assaulter and my harasser, he assaulted me at my home doing what I love most, massage therapy." Watson has denied any wrongdoing.