Friday’s top stories

Senate Democrats demand answers on FBI's Kavanaugh probe

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Democrats are demanding that the FBI hand over "all records and communications" related to the FBI tip line set up to investigate Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh when he was a nominee in 2018.

Why it matters: The ask comes after the FBI revealed it received more than 4,500 tips about Kavanaugh when he was awaiting Senate confirmation amid sexual assault allegations. Only the most "relevant" of these tips were forwarded to the Trump White House.

Chip relief on the horizon

Illustration: Sarah Grillo

Good news: The worst of the chip supply crunch might be near.

The other side: Here's the bad news... CEOs say chips totally flowing like normal is still a ways out.

Listen to “Axios Today”
Many Western allies are unhappy with the U.S.
Jul 23, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Trump ally Tom Barrack pays $250 million bond to get out of jail

Tom Barrack speaking at a symposium in Tokyo in March 2019. Photo: Kiyoshi Ota/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Real estate investor Tom Barrack paid a federal court a bond of $250 million to get out of jail on Friday while awaiting trial after he was arrested and charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the United Arab Emirates earlier this week, AP reports.

Driving the news: A federal judge also ordered Barrack, a longtime ally of former President Trump and chair of his inaugural committee, to wear a GPS monitoring bracelet at all times and barred him from transferring funds overseas.

Jul 23, 2021 - Podcasts

U.S. Commerce Sec. Gina Raimondo on the global chip shortage

The world is suffering from a shortage of silicon chips, making it harder to make and buy everything from cars to home appliances.

Axios Re:Cap talks with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo about efforts to improve domestic manufacturing, why it’s taking so long to pass the CHIPS Act and what can be done to help in the short-term. Plus, an important message from Dan.

Olympic winners, over time

Data: Axios Research and International Olympic Committee; Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios

When the Summer Olympics debuted in 1896, 14 nations participated in the 42-competition event.

Why it matters: Those numbers have risen steadily over time, with the U.S. dominating the Games as the Olympics expanded. Now, there are 339 events with 206 nations competing.

Updated Jul 23, 2021 - Sports

Japan's Naomi Osaka lights Olympic cauldron, kicking off Tokyo Games

Naomi Osaka lights the Olympic cauldron. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images

After a year-long delay, the Olympics finally got underway Friday as tennis star Naomi Osaka, who is competing for Japan, lit the cauldron, formally kicking off the Tokyo Games.

The big picture: Friday's opening ceremony looked, like many things over the last year, different than normal — multicolored seats replaced cheering fans, masks were a central part of the athletes' uniforms and a subdued, somber tone marked the occasion.

Jul 23, 2021 - World

China sanctions Wilbur Ross, 5 other Americans over Hong Kong warnings

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Chinese government imposed sanctions on Monday against six Americans, including former Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in response to an advisory from the Biden administration warning businesses of the increased risks of operating in Hong Kong.

Why it matters: It's the latest example of China responding furiously to U.S. attempts to shed light on human rights abuses in places like Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet, which Chinese officials routinely condemn as "interference" in domestic affairs.

Jul 23, 2021 - Sports

Cleveland Indians change name to "Guardians"

The Cleveland Indians baseball team announced Friday that it will change its name to the "Guardians," following years of activism and protests against a moniker considered offensive by many Native Americans.

Why it matters: It's the first time the team will change its name since 1915, a move that comes in the wake of the nationwide racial reckoning that began with the murder of George Floyd.

Jul 23, 2021 - Health

Alabama governor: "It’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks"

Photo: Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A frustrated Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) told reporters Thursday that "it's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks" for the state's continued surge in new COVID-19 cases.

Why it matters: Alabama has reported nearly 8,000 new cases of COVID-19 over the past week. It's one of the few states in the country with fewer than 40% of residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Jul 23, 2021 - Health

U.S. buys additional 200 million doses of Pfizer vaccine

Photo: Marcos del Mazo/LightRocket via Getty Images

The U.S. government has purchased an additional 200 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be delivered from October 2021 through April 2022, the companies announced Friday.

Why it matters: The Biden administration is continuing to expand its arsenal of vaccine doses as it seeks to help vaccinate the world and potentially deliver booster shots to U.S. citizens if it becomes necessary.

Jul 23, 2021 - Sports

Meet Team USA

Expand chart
Data: Team USA; Cartogram: Connor Rothschild/Axios

613 Olympians, plus a handful of alternates ready to step in at a moment's notice, will represent the U.S. in Tokyo over the next two weeks.

Why it matters: That's the largest contingent ever for a non-host nation, and the second largest in Team USA history (648 at Atlanta 1996). This is also the third straight Olympics in which women (329) outnumber men (284).

Next heat dome to build across Lower 48, aggravating drought, fires

Computer model projection for temperature departures from average on July 28, 2021. (WeatherBell.com)

A significant and far-reaching heat wave is poised to build across much of the continental U.S. during the next few weeks, and it could be the most expansive in the country so far during this unusually hot summer, aggravating drought and wildfires.

The big picture: Forests across the West are already burning at a scope and intensity that's unusual for this time of year. Drought data released Thursday showed that what is already the worst Western drought so far this century is only intensifying. Any additional heat will aggravate an already dire situation.

Jul 23, 2021 - Technology

What it's like to hail an air taxi

The Brooklyn Bridge, center, and Manhattan Bridge, left, as seen from a Blade helicopter. Photo: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The future of urban air mobility is a lot closer than you think and could start changing the way cities work in just a few years.

The big picture: As roads get ever more congested, transportation is moving to the skies. Electric flying taxis will zip over choked highways, ferrying passengers among a network of "vertiports" around the city. From there, passengers can walk or use another mode of transportation to get to their final destination.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Updated Jul 23, 2021 - Sports

What it's like inside the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics

Photo: Ina Fried/Axios

TOKYO -- On television, this year's Olympics opening ceremony may not look that different from years past. But pan back just a bit from the action on the field, and things feel more like a dress rehearsal than the real thing.

Why it matters: Already delayed a year due to COVID-19, little about the Tokyo Olympic Games is normal. Cheering is banned, as are most of the spectators, leaving the athletes to enter a largely empty Olympic Stadium.

N.M. lawmaker denied Communion over abortion vote

New Mexico Sen. Joseph Cervantes. Photo: Russell Contreras/Axios

A New Mexico lawmaker denied Communion by a bishop over his vote to advance abortion protections told Axios exclusively he won't be bullied and looks forward to receiving Communion with President Biden one day.

Why it matters: The example set by Sen. Joseph Cervantes, a Democrat, is drawing the attention of lawmakers around the country. Blue states are moving to protect abortion rights should the Supreme Court overturn or erode Roe v. Wade.

Jul 23, 2021 - Sports

Exclusive poll: What the Olympics tell us about patriotism

Expand chart
Data: Momentive; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

For Americans, the Tokyo Olympics that officially begin with today's opening ceremony will be a test of what patriotism looks like in 2021.

The big picture: Americans who disagree on everything else will still be rallying around the same team, as a new Axios/Momentive poll makes clear. But they're sharply divided over whether athletes should use the Olympic stage to protest, with young adults more likely than older adults to approve of protests and less likely to feel pride in the U.S. flag.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Jul 23, 2021 - Technology
Column / Signal Boost

Olympics greet visitors with app chaos

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In the days leading up to the Tokyo Games, journalists had two big concerns — whether the Olympics would really happen, and if they would ever get access to all the mobile apps and websites required to get into the country and do their jobs.

Why it matters: Battling COVID-19 is crucial, of course. But most of the challenges faced by media and other Olympics participants were technical obstacles that had little to do with preventing the virus' spread.

Jul 23, 2021 - Health

Biogen's mad there's no hype for its Alzheimer's drug

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Biogen executives used their earnings day to take aim at critics and the media, saying the federal approval of the company's new Alzheimer's drug, Aduhelm, "has been the subject of extensive misinformation and misunderstanding."

Why it matters: Biogen has billions of dollars on the line with this drug, and uptake has been very slow so far due in part to the blowback. But the company's grievances don't change the fact that Aduhelm failed to slow the progression of Alzheimer's in late-stage clinical trials.

Biden's quiet court drive

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

President Biden and the Democratic-controlled Senate have installed more federal judges during the first six months of his presidency than any administration since Richard Nixon's.

Why it matters: While Democrats may spend more time talking publicly about vaccines and infrastructure, the rapid pace of both nominations and confirmations shows judges are one of the party's most urgent priorities. President Trump pushed through his own slate of judges to boost conservatives for decades.

Democrats tuck in border billions

Migrants walk toward Border Patrol offiicals after crossing the Rio Grande River into Texas. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Senate Democrats are considering including about $10 billion in their $3.5-trillion budget reconciliation package for border security — focused on infrastructure at legal entry points, two sources familiar with their plans tell Axios.

Why it matters: Democrats already planned to include roughly $120 billion for pathways to citizenship for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status holders and undocumented essential workers. The sources said there will be even more to address immigration — with more direct infrastructure ties.

California's recall circus

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

California's gubernatorial recall election has become a casting call for wannabes seeking a giant earned-media opportunity.

Why it matters: Some possible challengers to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom are barely mounting a serious campaign. But politics as show business was a winning approach for Donald Trump, and marginal political aspirants appear to be following his lead.