Jun 22, 2019

Trump nominates Mark Esper for secretary of Defense post

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Trump formally nominated Army Secretary Mark Esper as secretary of Defense on Friday evening, Politico reports.

Why it matters: This comes after several months of leadership instability at the Pentagon. Earlier this week, acting Defense secretary Patrick Shanahan stepped down from his role. His resignation will become effective Sunday.

Details: Esper is an Army veteran who served in the Gulf War. He has been secretary of the Army since November 2017, worked on Capitol Hill and for defense contractor Raytheon. Under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, Esper cannot serve as acting Defense secretary while the Senate undergoes its confirmation process. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer is likely to be named the new acting secretary, per the Pentagon’s succession order.

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Pandemic forces startups to shift gears

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Spaces CEO Brad Herman had an early warning about COVID-19 because his startup supplies VR attractions to a number of theme parks in China. Realizing that the business he spent the last few years building was going to evaporate, Herman quickly found a new way to apply his team's know-how: helping companies host Zoom teleconferences in VR.

Why it matters: Many startups are rethinking the viability of their core businesses in the wake of the coronavirus. Spaces' move is one of many such pivots likely to crop up in the coming months.

International coronavirus treatment trial uses AI to speed results

Hydroxychloroquine is one of the drugs that will be included in the trial. Photo: John Philips/Getty Images

The first hospital network in the U.S. has joined an international clinical trial using artificial intelligence to help determine which treatments for patients with the novel coronavirus are most effective on an on-going basis.

Why it matters: In the midst of a pandemic, scientists face dueling needs: to find treatments quickly and to ensure they are safe and effective. By using this new type of adaptive platform, doctors hope to collect clinical data that will help more quickly determine what actually works.

We can't just flip the switch on the coronavirus

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It feels like some big, terrible switch got flipped when the coronavirus upended our lives — so it’s natural to want to simply flip it back. But that is not how the return to normalcy will go.

The big picture: Even as the number of illnesses and deaths in the U.S. start to fall, and we start to think about leaving the house again, the way forward will likely be slow and uneven. This may feel like it all happened suddenly, but it won't end that way.