Wednesday's top stories

Jul 15, 2020 - Podcasts

Ex-CDC director on the vaccine race

Stocks rose Wednesday on promising new COVID-19 vaccine data from Moderna Therapeutics, although much of the optimism is outpacing the science.

Axios Re:Cap digs into what Moderna said, what it didn't say, and what comes next in the vaccine race with Richard Besser, former acting director of the CDC and current CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Listen to “Axios Re:Cap”
Axios Re:Cap digs in on what comes next with Washington Post economics reporter Jeff Stein.
Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jul 15, 2020 - Science

The dire lessons of the first nuclear bomb test

The mushroom cloud of the Trinity atomic bomb test, 10 seconds after detonation. Photo: © Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

The Trinity nuclear test 75 years ago represented our first reckoning with a technology that could potentially destroy us.

Why it matters: Nuclear weapons are still with us, even as we grapple with potentially dangerous and unpredictable new technologies like gene editing and artificial intelligence. How we handle the challenges they present will help decide what kind of future we have — and whether we have a future at all.

Poll: 62% say Trump is hurting efforts to slow spread of coronavirus

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

62% of registered voters say President Trump is hurting efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, compared to 31% who say he's helping, according to a Quinnipiac University poll out Wednesday.

The big picture: 36% of Americans approve of Trump's overall job performance, and 60% disapprove — his worst net approval rating since August 2017 and a 6-point drop from June. The poll has Joe Biden with a 15% advantage nationally over Trump, widening his lead from last month by 7 points.

Updated Jul 15, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Ruth Bader Ginsburg discharged from hospital

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for DVF

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was discharged from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on Wednesday after being hospitalized Tuesday morning for a possible infection, according to the Supreme Court. "She is at home and doing well," a spokesperson said.

Why it matters: The 87-year-old liberal justice has battled health complications for years, including a cancer diagnosis that she beat in January of this year. In May, Ginsburg was hospitalized and received nonsurgical treatment for a gallbladder condition.

Jul 15, 2020 - Health

A consensus is finally emerging on masks

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Four months after the first lockdowns, there's a real possibility of a nationwide consensus on face masks.

Why it matters: As is increasingly the case in our fractured society, states and businesses led the way, finally followed by the federal government.

Fauci says White House effort to discredit him is "bizarre"

Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci told The Atlantic on Wednesday that efforts by certain White House officials to discredit him are "bizarre" and that it "ultimately hurts the president" to undermine a top health official in the middle of a pandemic.

Driving the news: Fauci's comments come on the heels of a USA Today op-ed by White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, who claimed that Fauci has been "wrong about everything" related to the coronavirus that the two have interacted on. Fauci told The Atlantic: “I can’t explain Peter Navarro. He’s in a world by himself.”

Jul 15, 2020 - Health

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt tests positive for coronavirus

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) announced on Wednesday he has tested positive for the coronavirus and will self-isolate, Tulsa World reports.

Why it matters: The 47-year-old Stitt is believed to be the first governor in the U.S. to test positive. He attended President Trump's rally in Tulsa last month, which the county's health department director said likely contributed to a surge in cases in the region.

Walmart will require all customers to wear masks

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Walmart will require all customers to wear face masks beginning next week in all of its 5,000 company-owned stores, in addition to its Sam's Club locations, the company announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: Walmart is the largest retailer in the U.S. and the latest in a string of national chains — including Costco and Starbucks — to mandate masks for customers.

White House says it didn't clear Navarro op-ed that attacked Fauci

Photos: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; Al Drago/Pool/Getty Images

The White House said Wednesday that a USA Today op-ed by economic adviser Peter Navarro attacking Anthony Fauci "didn’t go through normal White House clearance processes."

Why it matters: In a normal administration, Navarro's actions would almost certainly result in his dismissal — but the White House did not immediately indicate any disciplinary action against him. It also further obscures the administration's support of Fauci, days after it put out a statement listing the times he was "wrong on things" in the coronavirus pandemic's early days.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Jul 15, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Biden teases political path for climate plans

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

Joe Biden is offering hints about how he’d try to thread the political needle to move big climate and energy plans through Congress.

Why it matters: If the 2020 election opens a path to moving substantial legislation, it's likely to be a fraught and narrow one that could vanish entirely in the 2022 midterm elections.

The CIA's new license to cyberattack

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In 2018 President Trump granted the Central Intelligence Agency expansive legal authorities to carry out covert actions in cyberspace, providing the agency with powers it has sought since the George W. Bush administration, former U.S. officials directly familiar with the matter told Yahoo News.

Why it matters: The CIA has conducted disruptive covert cyber operations against Iran and Russia since the signing of this presidential finding, said former officials.

Ina Fried, author of Login
Jul 15, 2020 - Technology

Tech hits the brakes on office reopenings

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Tech was the first industry to send its workers home when COVID-19 first hit the U.S., and it has been among the most cautious in bringing workers back. Even still, many companies are realizing that their reopening plans from as recently as a few weeks ago are now too optimistic.

Why it matters: Crafting reopening plans gave tech firms a chance to bolster their leadership and model the beginnings of a path back to normalcy for other office workers. Their decision to pause those plans is the latest sign that normalcy is likely to remain elusive in the U.S.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Jul 15, 2020 - Economy & Business

The existential threat to small business

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the game for U.S. businesses, pushing forward years-long shifts in workplaces, technology and buying habits and forcing small businesses to fight just to survive.

Why it matters: These changes are providing an almost insurmountable advantage to big companies, which are positioned to come out of the recession stronger and with greater market share than ever.

Students say they'll sacrifice fun if they can return to campus

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

College students overwhelmingly plan to return to campus this fall if their schools are open — and they claim they'll sit out the fun even if it's available, according to a new College Reaction/Axios poll.

Why it matters: For many, even an experience devoid of the trappings of college life is still a lot better than the alternative.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Jul 15, 2020 - Health

Florida's coronavirus outbreak is getting worse

Reproduced from The COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Axios Visuals

Florida is the new domestic epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, and it's on track to keep getting worse.

By the numbers: Of the 20 U.S. metro areas with the highest daily case growth, nine are in Florida, according to Nephron Research.

Jul 15, 2020 - Health

White House tells hospitals to bypass CDC on coronavirus data

Photo: TAMI CHAPPELL / Contributor

The Trump administration is cutting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention out of the process of collecting coronavirus data, The New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The new database will not be open to the public, according to the Times, and comes amid repeated efforts by the Trump administration to sideline the CDC.

Jul 15, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Jeff Sessions loses Alabama Senate primary runoff

Jeff Sessions. Photo: Michael DeMocker/Getty Images

Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions has lost the Republican nomination for Senate to Tommy Tuberville in Alabama in Tuesday night’s primary runoff, AP reports.

Why it matters: Sessions had been the underdog in the race against former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, who had the backing of President Trump. Tuberville will now face off against Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) in November, who is considered to have one of the most vulnerable Democratic Senate seats in the country.

Kansas Rep. Steve Watkins charged with voter fraud

Rep. Steve Watkins. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

Rep. Steve Watkins (R-Kan.) has been charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor relating to an investigation into whether he illegally voted in a 2019 municipal election, The Kansas City Star reports.

The state of play: Watkins, a first-term congressman, was first investigated by the Shawnee County Sheriff's Office after allegations arose that he listed a UPS store in Topeka as his registration address to vote in the 2019 municipal election.