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Alexander Vindman's brother files complaint alleging whistleblower retaliation

Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, whose brother, Alexander, served as a key witness during President Trump's impeachment, filed a complaint last week with the Pentagon's inspector general suggesting he was retaliated against for disclosing potential ethics violations by senior White House officials, his lawyers confirmed on Wednesday.

The state of play: Vindman, like his brother, is a decorated Iraq War veteran and served at the National Security Council as a senior lawyer and ethics official. They were dismissed simultaneously in February, though top military leaders, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper, claim they were not politically targeted.


What happened: Details about Vindman's complaint were first made public in a letter from top House Democrats, including House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney and House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff, who asked the Pentagon's internal watchdog to open an investigation into the matter.

  • The Democrats say Vindman's complaint alleges he was retaliated against for raising concerns about Trump's 2019 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
  • They also say the complaint alleges that he was removed from the NSC after he reported potential legal and ethical violations and allegations of sexism by National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and NSC chief of staff Alex Gray.

What he's saying: "There were allegations of sexism, violations of standards of ethical conduct for employees and violations of the Anti-Deficiency Act ... I notified my supervisors on the NSC staff and White House Counsel’s Office about each of these concerns," Vindman wrote in a March memorandum that was attached to his complaint.

  • "While any of these infractions are serious, together they form a disturbing pattern of flagrant disregard for rules." 
  • "I fear that if this situation persists, personnel will depart and national security will be harmed.  I request you inquire into the facts and allegations herein and take appropriate action."

Read House Democrats' letter about Vindman's complaint.

Pac-12 will play this fall despite ongoing pandemic

The Pac-12, which includes universities in Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, Utah and Washington state, will play football starting Nov. 6, reversing its earlier decision to postpone the season because of the coronavirus pandemic, ESPN's Kyle Bonagura and Heather Dinich report.

Why it matters: The conference's about-face follows a similar move by the Big Ten last week and comes as President Trump has publicly pressured sports to resume despite the ongoing pandemic. The Pac-12 will play a seven-game conference football season, according to ESPN.

COVAX vaccine initiative involves most of the world, but U.S. or China

Data: Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance; Map: Naema Ahmed/Axios

A global initiative to ensure equitable distribution of coronavirus vaccines now includes most of the world — but not the U.S., China or Russia.

Why it matters: Assuming one or more vaccines ultimately gain approval, there will be a period of months or even years in which supply lags far behind global demand. The COVAX initiative is an attempt to ensure doses go where they're most needed, rather than simply to countries that can produce or buy them at scale.

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Podcast: The child care tax on America's economy

Child care in the U.S. is in crisis, which makes it much harder for the American economy to recover — as providers struggle to stay in business and parents wrestle with work.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the problems and what can be done to solve them, with Vox senior reporter Anna North.

Scientists are trying to figure out how much the amount of coronavirus in your body matters

How sick a person gets from a virus can depend onhow much of the pathogen that person was exposed to and how much virus is replicating in their body — questionsthat are still open for the novel coronavirus.

Why it matters: As people try to balance resuming parts of their daily lives with controlling their risk of COVID-19, understanding the role of viral load could help tailor public health measures and patient care.

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China's vow to achieve "carbon neutrality" before 2060 sends shockwaves through the climate world

A new insta-analysis of China's vow to achieve "carbon neutrality" before 2060 helps to underscore why Tuesday's announcement sent shockwaves through the climate and energy world.

Why it matters: Per the Climate Action Tracker, a research group, following through would lower projected global warming 0.2 to 0.3°C. That's a lot!

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Kayleigh McEnany: Trump will accept "free and fair" election, no answer on if he loses

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Thursday that President Trump will "accept the results of a free and fair election," but did not specify whether he will commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses to Joe Biden.

Why it matters: Trump refused to say on Wednesday whether he would commit to a peaceful transition of power, instead remarking: "we're going to have to see what happens."

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Sanders: "This is an election between Donald Trump and democracy"

In an urgent appeal on Thursday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said President Trump presented "unique threats to our democracy" and detailed a plan to ensure the election results will be honored and that voters can cast their ballots safely.

Driving the news: When asked yesterday whether he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses, Trump would not, and said: "We're going to have to see what happens."

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Why money laundering persists

2 million suspicious activity reports,or SARs, are filed by banks every year. Those reports are sent to the U.S. Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which has the job of determining whether the reports are evidence of criminal activity, and whether that activity should be investigated and punished.

The catch: FinCEN only has 270 employees, which means that FinCEN is dealing with a ratio of roughly 150 reports per employee per week. So it comes as little surprise to learn that most of the reports go unread, and the activity in them unpunished.

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