Wednesday’s top stories

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jun 9, 2021 - Energy & Environment

The Keystone XL pipeline is officially dead

A tanker truck trailer in a field along the Keystone XL pipeline route near Oyen, Alberta, Canada, on Wednesday, Jan. 27. Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images

The developer of the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline abandoned the project Wednesday after a decade-plus effort.

Why it matters: TC Energy's decision ends one of the century's highest profile battles over climate change and energy. But the move is unsurprising.

"Revenge travel" fuels hotel sector's speedy comeback

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

"Revenge travel" — i.e., making up for trip time lost during lockdown — is here.

Why it matters: The result is a speedier comeback for the beaten-down hotel industry that few predicted.

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Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Jun 9, 2021 - Economy & Business

El Salvador moves into bitcoin

Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele. Photo: MARVIN RECINOS / Getty Images

El Salvador, wracked with gang violence, has a reputation for being the deadliest place on the planet that isn’t an actual war zone.

Driving the news: It’s also newly hot in the crypto world, after President Nayib Bukele announced (and swiftly enacted) a law saying his country would accept bitcoin as legal tender.

U.S. to buy 500 million Pfizer doses to share with the world

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The Biden administration will buy 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to share with countries around the world, with the option to buy an additional 200 million, two sources familiar with the deal tell Axios.

Why it matters: That's a big step toward making the U.S. a major global vaccine supplier and comes as Biden departs for his first foreign trip as president.

Jun 9, 2021 - Health

Fauci sounds alarm over COVID-19 variant surging in U.K.

Anthony Fauci urged Americans Wednesday to get vaccinated to halt the spread of the highly transmissible COVID-19 variant first discovered in India, which currently accounts for 6% of infections in the U.S.

Why it matters: The United Kingdom has seen an explosion in new cases as a result of the variant, which is now the dominant strain and may be associated with increased disease severity.

Jun 9, 2021 - World

What Turkey wants from Biden's meeting with Erdoğan next week

Biden with Erdoğan in 2016. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Ankara — The meeting between President Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan next week on the sidelines of a NATO summit may provide both countries with a fresh start if they reach a consensus on some of their most acute problems.

The state of play: The June 14 meeting is politically sensitive in Ankara. Senior Turkish officials are avoiding any comments about it, going so far as to skip public events so as not to be compelled to speak about the meeting.

Jun 9, 2021 - Technology

Biden revokes, replaces Trump executive orders on Chinese-owned apps

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden signed an executive order Wednesday on ensuring the security of American user data in regard to foreign-owned apps such as TikTok, revoking and replacing three Trump-era executive orders to impose a more structured "criteria-based decision framework" for potential bans.

Driving the news: It's the latest in a series of China-related steps Biden is taking ahead of his first overseas trip to Europe, where curtailing Beijing's abuses will be a top agenda item in meetings with G7 and NATO leaders.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jun 9, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Shell vows faster climate push after Dutch court ruling

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Shell said Wednesday it would accelerate its clean energy and climate efforts following a major Dutch court ruling last month that ordered faster greenhouse gas emissions cuts.

Why it matters: CEO Ben van Beurden's announcement signals how the landmark court ruling could tangibly affect one of the world's most powerful oil giants, even though Shell plans to appeal the decision.

Val Demings launches Senate campaign with "law and order" message

Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) officially announced her Senate campaign against Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Wednesday with a promotional video that emphasized her "law and order" credentials.

Why it matters: Demings, who was on the shortlist to be Joe Biden's vice president, is viewed as Democrats' best chance to win a Senate seat in a state that has tilted increasingly red in recent years.

Jun 9, 2021 - Technology

Fastly says global internet outage was due to a software bug

A screen displays a holding page of the Gov.UK Government website portal on June 8 after Fastly's internet outage. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Fastly, the popular content delivery network (CDN) hit by a global internet outage Tuesday, chalked the episode up in a blog post Tuesday to a software bug triggered by a customer changing their settings.

The state of play: Fastly's outage caused a slew of popular websites — including The New York Times, CNN, Reddit, Spotify, Twitch, GitHub, gov.uk, Hulu, HBO Max, PayPal, Vimeo, Shopify — to crash.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Jun 9, 2021 - Economy & Business

Why we can't have cheap houses

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Home construction is a deeply inefficient business. But the implosion of Katerra, a startup into which investors plowed some $1.9 billion, proves that disrupting it won't be easy.

Why it matters: The high cost of housing is inextricably linked to the high cost of building new homes. If they could be designed and built using assembly-line technology, that would mean more, cheaper houses in a country that desperately needs them.

Jun 9, 2021 - Technology

Privacy tech industry explodes

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Businesses forced to comply with a patchwork of state and global privacy rules have turned what was once a cottage industry focused on data and privacy into a multi-billion-dollar sector.

Why it matters: As COVID-19 pushed consumers online in droves, companies — from Fortune 500 firms to the corner coffee shop — had to grapple with how to legally handle personal data. The privacy-tech companies who know how to do it have been raking in the cash.

How the U.S. got boxed in on privacy

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The federal government's failure to craft a national privacy law has left it to be squeezed on the issue by the EU on one side and California on the other.

Why it matters: Companies are stuck trying to navigate the maze of EU and state laws, while legislators in Washington have no choice but to use those laws as de facto standards.

Jun 9, 2021 - World

Netanyahu's Trump-style campaign to stop Israel's transfer of power

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Horacio Villalobos (Corbis), Michele Eve Sandberg (Corbis), Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

On the verge of being replaced after 12 years in power, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is waging a desperate, Trump-style campaign to de-legitimize the incoming government and accuse its leaders of perpetrating “the fraud of the century."

Why it matters: The situation has become so tense — with members of the Israeli Knesset facing death threats and demonstrations from angry Netanyahu supporters outside their homes — that the director of Israel's Shin Bet domestic security agency issued a rare warning of potential political violence.

Bloomberg's plan to take on Davos and the world's greatest challenges

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg on February 28, 2020 in Blountville, Tennessee. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

As the world grapples with the pandemic's impact on globalization, Michael Bloomberg on Wednesday is unveiling the inaugural members of a new group to focus on solving its biggest problems, Axios is the first to report.

Why it matters: COVID-19 spread globally — in an instant shutting borders, disrupting trade and eventually leaving millions dead or sick. What comes next as emerging economies prepare for recovery, will also impact the rest of the world.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Jun 9, 2021 - Health

New Alzheimer's drug could blow up health spending

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Reproduced from KFF and Bernstein; Chart: Axios Visuals

Biogen's new Alzheimer's treatment could be experts' nightmare drug spending scenario: An extremely expensive product that millions of desperate patients could be eligible for — and it may not even work.

Why it matters: Alzheimer's is a devastatingly common disease with no cure. But the FDA's decision this week paved the way for a free-for-all in which taxpayers foot most of the enormous bill for a drug that hasn't been proven effective.

El Salvador passes law to become 1st country to adopt bitcoin as legal tender

President Nayib Bukele during a May 25 event in San Salvador, El Salvador. Photo: AphotografiaP/Getty Images

El Salvador's legislature voted early Wednesday to make bitcoin legal tender.

Why it matters: El Salvador will become the first country to formally adopt the digital currency once President Nayib Bukele signs the legislation into law.

Hospital suspends 178 staff for not complying with COVID vaccine mandate

The Houston Methodist Hospital at the Texas Medical Center campus in Houston. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Houston Methodist Hospital on Tuesday suspended 178 employees without pay for 14 days for failing to comply with its COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

Driving the news: The Texas hospital's CEO, Marc Boom, said in a message to staff shared with Axios that 24,947 workers had been vaccinated against the virus by Monday's deadline. 27 of those who didn't get fully vaccinated "have received one dose ... so I am hopeful they will get their second doses soon," Boom said.

Jun 9, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus pushes for infrastructure deal with WH

Members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus at the U.S. Capitol in December. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The leaders of a bipartisan coalition of Congress members spoke to White House officials about efforts to reach an infrastructure deal on Tuesday, a House aide familiar with the call told Axios.

Driving the news: Problem Solvers Co-Chairs Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) are pushing for a $1.249 trillion bipartisan agreement after negotiations between President Biden and a Republican group led by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) broke down earlier Tuesday.

Jun 9, 2021 - Politics & Policy

First look: 90 groups urge Biden to pass infrastructure through reconciliation

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), during a break in bipartisan infrastructure talks Tuesday. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Some 90 advocacy groups want President Biden and Democratic leaders to abandon bipartisan infrastructure negotiations and instead use the partisan reconciliation process to enact a more progressive package, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: An open letter being released by the group Wednesday morning comes immediately after Biden decided to end talks with Republican senators, led by Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), and turn his attention toward striking a deal with a separate, bipartisan group.

By the numbers: Presidential foreign travel

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Data: U.S. State Department Office of the Historian; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

President Biden leaves for the United Kingdom on Wednesday, kicking off his first foreign trip as president.

By the numbers: Presidents have made more stops in foreign nations in most recent administrations, though they dropped way off when Donald Trump was in office.

Team Biden tiptoes around vaccine-for-migration cooperation

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks today during her closing news confernece in Mexico City. Photo: Alfredo Estrella/AE/AFP via Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris headed back to the U.S. after two days of high-level meetings in Guatemala and Mexico about corruption, human trafficking and migration, but one subject was only briefly touched upon: coronavirus vaccines.

Why it matters: Migrant apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border remain near 20-year highs. Harris is charged with trying to resolve the root causes for people leaving Central America, issues oftentimes exacerbated by COVID-19 in recent months.

Jun 9, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden pressed to renominate failed Obama ambassador pick

George Tsunis. Photo: Senate.gov

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) has asked President Biden to nominate George Tsunis, a New York hotel executive and major Democratic donor, for an ambassadorship, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Menendez has the ability to slow-walk any ambassadorial nominee, giving the White House plenty of reasons to placate him on one specific candidate. Tsunis has a checkered political history, though.