Wednesday’s top stories

Jan. 6 select committee subpoenas former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark

Chair Bennie Thompson questions witnesses during the first hearing of the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, July 27. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Jan. 6 select committee issued a subpoena to Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department official who reportedly helped former President Donald Trump amplify false claims around the election.

Why it matters: The announcement comes on the heels of a report by the Senate Judiciary Committee that detailed the extent of Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Oct 13, 2021 - Health

U.S. sees record high of 96,000 drug overdose deaths in 12 month period

Tramadol pills, an opioid. Photo: Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recorded over 96,000 deaths from drug overdoses in a twelve-month period ending in March 2021, according to provisional data released Wednesday.

Why it matters: It's a nearly 30% jump over the preceding 12 months and coincides with one of the deadliest periods of the COVID-19 pandemic, when stay-at-home orders radically changed daily life for most Americans.

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Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Oct 13, 2021 - Health

WHO names new advisory group on COVID origins

The P4 lab of the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China. Photo: Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday named 26 scientists to a new advisory board that will study the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why it matters: Without a shift in attitude from Beijing, the new panel isn't likely to succeed in determining how this pandemic began. But it should be in a position to create a clearer picture of how to identify where new diseases like COVID-19 come from.

Oct 13, 2021 - World

Netanyahu assured Putin "I will be back soon" after losing election

Netanyahu (L) with Putin in 2019. Photo: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AFP via Getty

Days after being ousted as prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu passed a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin promising a quick comeback, a source close to Netanyahu and a European diplomat told me.

Why it matters: Netanyahu and Putin had a close relationship that grew even closer after Russia began its military involvement in Syria in 2015. Netanyahu flaunted that relationship during election campaigns — meeting with Putin days before the 2019 vote and even featuring a picture of the two together on a campaign billboard to emphasize his stature as a statesman.

Judge asks DOJ to probe D.C. jail's treatment of Capitol riot detainee

D.C. Department of Corrections. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

A federal judge on Wednesday held officials at the Washington, D.C., Department of Corrections in contempt of court after ruling they violated the civil rights of a Jan. 6 detainee by impeding his access to medical care.

The big picture: The department has been the subject of heavy criticism from inmates, lawyers and judges over its living conditions, the Washington Post reports. During the pandemic, for around 400 days, officials imposed a 23-hour-a-day lockdown policy to enforce social distancing. The rule was eased this summer.

Oct 13, 2021 - Health

Biden admin warns Moderna to "step up" global vaccine supply

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

The federal government is demanding Moderna provide enough vaccines to the global initiative COVAX, at not-for-profit prices, a top federal official said during an intense panel event today.

What they're saying: "We expect that Moderna will step up as a company," David Kessler, the Biden administration's chief science officer of the COVID-19 response, said, adding Moderna has additional capacity to meet these demands. "Failure to do that would be unconscionable in my view."

Oct 13, 2021 - World

Biden administration leans into Abraham Accords

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (R) meets with Vice President Kamala Harris (L). Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty

The trilateral meeting on Wednesday between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the foreign ministers of Israel and the United Arab Emirates epitomized the Biden administration's belated embrace of the Abraham Accords.

Why it matters: The normalization deals struck between Israel and four Arab countries were Donald Trump's landmark foreign policy achievement, and while the Biden administration has long said it wants to push them forward, it has only recently started taking steps in that direction.

Oct 13, 2021 - World

Biden's new Iran dilemma

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. Photo: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

The Biden administration is grappling with a new dilemma as nuclear negotiations with Iran remain frozen: whether more pressure on Iran would help push the Iranians back to the 2015 deal, or lead Iran to escalate its nuclear program, U.S. and Israeli officials told Axios.

Why it matters: The Iranian nuclear program has made significant advances in recent months that will be difficult to roll back — and that could potentially undercut the benefits of salvaging the 2015 accord, particularly if a deal isn’t reached soon.

Updated Oct 13, 2021 - Science

Blue Origin launches William Shatner, 3 others to space

The crew of NS-18, Audrey Powers, William Shatner, Chris Boshuizen and Glen de Vries, with CrewMember 7 Sarah Knights. Photo Courtesy of Blue Origin.

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin successfully flew William Shatner — Captain Kirk himself from "Star Trek" — and three other astronauts to space for its second human mission on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The launch was another step toward proving the company can safely launch people to suborbital space and bring them back to Earth.

Social Security benefits to increase by almost 6% in 2022

Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Social Security benefits for approximately 70 million Americans will increase 5.9% next year, the Social Security Administration announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: It's the largest cost-of-living adjustment in 39 years as inflation continues to tick up largely from supply chain issues, according to AP.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 13, 2021 - Energy & Environment

A tough reality check ahead of COP26

Data: IEA; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

A major new report provides a stark warning ahead of the UN climate summit: Yes, clean-tech deployment is really surging, but energy systems are still transforming far too slowly to rein in global warming.

Driving the news: The International Energy Agency is out with its big annual World Energy Outlook, a 386-page trove of data and analysis.

John Frank, author of Denver
Oct 13, 2021 - Axios Denver

A reality check on Colorado's mandate to cover transgender services

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Colorado made a national statement Tuesday, becoming the first state to require some insurers to cover transition-related care for transgender people as an essential benefit.

Driving the news: The Biden administration agreed to the expansion sought by Gov. Jared Polis and affirmed two more mandates approved by Colorado lawmakers to cover more opioid treatments and a yearly mental health exam.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Oct 13, 2021 - Health

Low vaccination rates exacerbate America's caregiving crisis

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

American families shouldered an enormous burden caring for family members even before the pandemic, and a shortage of professional caregivers now is only likely to make that burden heavier.

The big picture: Nursing homes and other long-term care settings have seen a staff exodus both during and after the pandemic, especially when they've imposed vaccine mandates — poking new holes in a system that was already full of them.

Updated Oct 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden lifting land border travel restrictions for fully vaccinated

Photo: Yuri Gripas/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration will open up U.S. land borders with Canada and Mexico to non-essential travel starting in November — but only to those fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Why it matters: Government officials and business leaders have decried the economic impact pandemic travel restrictions have had on border communities. They have called for the U.S. to reopen the borders given high, and rising, vaccinations rates there.

Competition in online sports betting is fierce — and not profitable

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The growth potential in the nascent market for American sports betting is huge. But for now, operators are still losing money — a lot of it.

The big picture: Sports betting is taking a page from the playbook of tech giants like Netflix, Amazon and Twitter, sacrificing profitability in the early days in the hope of ingraining themselves in customers’ lives.

Oct 13, 2021 - World

Russia left out of White House's 30-country ransomware summit

Photo: Kremlin Press Office/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Russia is not one of the 30 countries invited to this week's virtual counter-ransomware summit hosted by the White House, where the U.S. and its partners will discuss ways to crack down on global cybercriminal networks, according to a senior Biden administration official.

Why it matters: The Biden administration is seeking to form an international coalition to stop ransomware attacks without having to rely on the Russian government, which has been accused of harboring cyber gangs.

Oct 13, 2021 - Health

COVID-19 booster shots overtake first doses in the U.S.

Expand chart
Data: CDC; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

More Americans are getting a booster dose of coronavirus vaccine each day than are getting their first shot.

Why it matters: Some individuals will undoubtedly benefit from getting a booster shot, but experts say that the most important goal for the U.S. right now should be convincing vaccine holdouts to get their initial round of shots.

California wildfire jumps major highway as blaze swells to 13,400 acres

Firefighters from Los Padres National Forest monitor the Alisal Fire as it moves into Refugio Canyon, California, on Tuesday. Photo: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

About 100 Central California properties and a shuttered oil refinery were under threat overnight from a rapidly growing wildfire that forced the closure of a major highway near Santa Barbara, per the Los Angeles Times.

The big picture: The Alisal Fire that ignited near the Alisal Reservoir on Monday has grown to 13,400 acres with 5% containment, officials said. Nearly 800 firefighters are now battling the wind-driven blaze that caused thousands of people to evacuate.

Oct 13, 2021 - Sports

Runner Mary Cain sues Nike and former coach for alleged abuse

Mary Cain running for the U.S. in the 3000-meter event at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene, Oregon, which she went on to win. Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Distance runner Mary Cain accused Nike and her former coach Alberto Salazar of abuse in a $20 million lawsuit filed this week, the Oregonian first reported.

Why it matters: Cain, 25, had a promising career, becoming in 2013 the youngest American athlete to make a World Championships team at age 17. She alleges in the suit that she faced sustained emotional abuse by Salazar after joining the Nike Oregon Project in 2012, AP noted Tuesday.

Oct 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Cheney threatens criminal contempt if Jan. 6 panel subpoenas ignored

Rep. Liz Cheney during a September House hearing at the U.S. Capitol. Photo: Rod Lamkey-Pool/Getty Images

The Jan 6. select committee investigating the Capitol riot "will move" criminal contempt charges against anyone who doesn't comply with its subpoenas, warned Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the panel's vice chair, Tuesday, per Reuters.

Why it matters: It follows reports that former President Trump told former aides and associates to invoke executive privilege and not comply with congressional requests.

Oct 13, 2021 - Health

J&J booster confusion ahead

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Data collected by the National Institutes of Health show that people who received a shot of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine have a stronger neutralizing antibody response if they receive an mRNA shot instead of a second J&J one, according to a person who has seen the data.

Yes, but: J&J has asked the FDA to authorize a second shot of its own vaccine, which could make any attempt to authorize mix-and-matching vaccines confusing for the public.

Oct 13, 2021 - Health

Archbishop: Catholic troops can reject COVID vaccine

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Catholic U.S. troops should be allowed to reject the COVID-19 vaccine if taking it "would violate the sanctity" of their conscience, said Archbishop for the Military Services Timothy Broglio in a statement out Tuesday.

Why it matters: Broglio encouraged troops to get the vaccine, but acknowledged that some people have questioned whether the church's position encouraging the shot "precludes an individual from forming a sincerely held religious belief that receiving the vaccine would violate his conscience."