Wednesday’s top stories
Pennsylvania's acting Secretary of State Veronica Degraffenreid announced Wednesday she decertified Fulton County voting equipment for future elections after officials allowed a private company to examine the machines during an audit of the 2020 election, violating the state's election code.
Why it matters: Degraffenreid said the company was able to "access certain key components of its certified system." Pennsylvania is the second state after Arizona to have decertified an election system because of dubious audit requests by pro-Trump Republicans.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) on Wednesday said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is "playing politics" with the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot by pulling select Republicans off the committee created to investigate the origins of the attack and pursuing a separate investigation.
Why it matters: Cheney said she believes McCarthy's "disgraceful" actions and rhetoric on the insurrection should disqualify him from becoming House speaker if the GOP reclaims the chamber in the 2022 midterms.
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A key procedural vote meant to advance the bipartisan "hard" infrastructure package failed 49-51 on Wednesday after Senate Republicans came together to sink the measure.
Driving the news: A core bipartisan group of senators have been negotiating for months and given how close they are to a deal, senators tell Axios they do not expect this to be the last vote on the $1.2 trillion package.
A judge said Wednesday that victims and families who suffered losses in the collapse of the oceanfront condo in Surfside, Florida, are entitled to a minimum of $150 million in initial compensation, AP reports.
Catch up quick: The June 24 collapse killed at least 97 people and led to several lawsuits, per an NBC affiliate. The National Institute of Standards and Technology is leading a federal investigation into the structural failure.
The three dominant prescription drug distributors — AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson — and Johnson & Johnson have agreed to pay a combined amount of $26 billion to settle allegations that they fueled the country's opioid crisis.
Why it matters: The companies, which have admitted no wrongdoing, are paying a sum of money that equates to 4% of their combined annual revenue. Meanwhile, a record 70,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses during the pandemic in 2020.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that she rejects Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy's naming of Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Jim Banks (R-Ind.) to the select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, citing their objection to President Biden's Electoral College victory.
The latest: "Pelosi has broken the institution" with her actions, McCarthy said at a Wednesday press conference. Unless she reverses course and seats all five GOP nominees, "Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation of the facts," he noted in a separate statement.
The soon-to-be-announced deal between the U.S. and Germany on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline falls well short of Ukraine's hopes and fails to address the country's national security concerns, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky tells Axios.
Why it matters: The deal is designed to allay concerns in Kyiv and on Capitol Hill about the imminent completion of the Russia-to-Germany gas pipeline, which the Biden administration itself has condemned as "a Kremlin geopolitical project that threatens European energy security."
Smoke from the wildfires engulfing the U.S. West and Canada and carrying harmful air pollution has triggered air quality alerts in the Upper Midwest and East Coast cities including New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.
The Biden administration has decided to hold off on reopening the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem until after Israel's new government passes a budget, likely in early November, Israeli, U.S. and Palestinian sources say.
Why it matters: The decision shows how invested the Biden administration is in helping to stabilize the new Israeli government. The Prime Minister’s Office and Foreign Ministry had requested the delay.
Tom Barrack is an extraordinarily successful private equity and real estate investor, building a multibillion-dollar empire that spans data centers to hotels to telecom towers. He's also under arrest and being held in federal custody.
Driving the news: Barrack, a longtime friend of Donald Trump and chair of his 2017 inaugural committee, was charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the United Arab Emirates.
Jeff Bezos says his suborbital space flight Tuesday reinforced his commitment to fighting climate change, but growth of this kind of travel planned by multiple companies would also add new sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
The big picture: The flight comes as Bezos' Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are all planning significant increases in launches.
Users of the popular video-conferencing platform Zoom will now be able to play social multiplayer games as they chat, as part of a new expansion of apps for the service.
Why it matters: The popularity of Zoom and gaming soared during the pandemic. As people isolate less, Zoom needs to give users more reasons to use video chat.
Treasury yields have been falling, and yet stock prices remain near record highs. On the surface, this seems like conflicting attitudes toward risk. But a closer look at these markets reveals a much more consistent narrative.
Why it matters: Since March, long-term Treasury yields have been sliding, with the 10-year yield falling from 1.74% in late March to as low as 1.13% on Monday.
The U.S. women's soccer team lost 3-0 to Sweden on Wednesday in the team's first appearance in the group stage of the 2020 Olympics.
Why it matters: The stunning defeat marks the first loss for the U.S. team in 44 matches, the first loss under head coach Vlatko Andonovski and it raises the stakes for the next two games if the U.S. team wants to get out of Group G.
The effort to make it easier for consumers to get smartphones and other products fixed is gaining ground across the country.
Why it matters: Repairing pricey devices — rather than replacing them — can help consumers save money and extend the lifecycle of their products.
The Tokyo Olympics will feature six new or returning sports, giving this year's Games a record 41 disciplines and 339 gold medals.
- Returning: Baseball, softball
- New: Surfing, skateboarding, sport climbing, karate
President Biden's nomination of veteran antitrust attorney Jonathan Kanter to lead the Justice Department's antitrust division — the government's most powerful competition watchdog — shows just how serious the White House is about getting tough on tech.
Why it matters: Kanter, known for his strong views that the feds should do more to rein in the power of large corporations, has been a favorite of progressives who share those beliefs.
The International Olympic Committee awarded the 2032 Olympics to Brisbane, Australia, on Wednesday, capping a new one-city selection process meant to minimize costly bidding wars between countries.
Why it matters: It will be the third time that Australia hosts the Olympics, following the popular 2000 Summer Games in Sydney and the 1956 Summer Games in Melbourne.
To appease employees, customers and shareholders alike, companies are spending time and money grappling with huge social problems like systemic racism, income inequality and climate change.
What's happening: More and more firms are dedicating entire departments to tackle societal issues and even hiring a purpose-focused executive — chief purpose officer — to lead the efforts.
U.S. life expectancy fell by a year and a half in 2020 — and the drop was some three years for Black and Hispanic Americans, CDC data published Wednesday shows.
Why it matters: The overall life expectancy decline to 77.3 years is the biggest since World War II to 77.3 years is driven by the COVID-19, per the provisional data from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). It also underscores the racial disparities of the pandemic.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced Tuesday the resignation of its top administrator for "possible improper behavior" after an outlet linked Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill's phone activity to gay bars and the LGBTQ dating app Grindr.
Why it matters: The small Catholic outlet, The Pillar, was able to achieve this by obtaining "anonymized" data from a broker, and having a consulting firm analyze it and link it to the church official — showing how easy and legally this can now be done.
The Milwaukee Bucks beat the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night, 105 to 98, in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
Why it matters: The home court win earns Milwaukee its first championship ring in 50 years.
At least a third of migrant families separated at the border during the Trump administration and reunited in the U.S. so far under President Biden were homeless initially, three people familiar with estimates discussed by advocates and government officials told Axios.
Why it matters: As the number of reunions grows, such homelessness rates have the potential to significantly strain non-governmental organizations already plagued by limited resources.
Border officials are encountering migrants from more distant countries, rather than just Mexico or the Northern Triangle, according to the latest public figures from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.
Why it matters: These longer journeys to the U.S.-Mexico border underscore the desperate situation many migrants face in their home countries, as well as the multi-dimensional diplomatic, economic and moral challenge the United States faces trying to control their flow north.
Senate Democrats are weighing a Plan B if the bipartisan infrastructure negotiations fail: adding the nearly $600 billion in spending Republicans have already accepted to the $3.5-trillion plan they want to enact alone — a $4.1 trillion overall price tag.
Why it matters: The combination gets the roads and bridges both parties favor; the reconciliation package covers the "soft" climate and child care items wanted by progressives, and Republicans would have to answer why if they oppose a measure that includes all of what they want.
Congress, staffers and reporters are wearing masks again as Capitol Hill faces a new wave of the coronavirus despite widespread vaccinations.
Why it matters: The Delta variant is surging, and Congress is a potential petri dish for the new variant. House and Senate leaders are weighing whether to reintroduce coronavirus protocols to the Capitol. While most lawmakers have been vaccinated, they fit high-risk profiles and work in close quarters.
The big picture: The law that Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed in March would have banned nearly all abortions in Arkansas — with no exceptions for rape or incest, only for if a pregnant person's life is in danger.