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America's K-shaped recovery poses massive risk to Biden's chances of economic success

President-elect Biden faces a fragile recovery that could easily fall apart, as the economy remains in worse shape than most people think.

Why it matters: There is a recovery happening. But it's helping some people immensely and others not at all. And it's that second part that poses a massive risk to the Biden-Harris administration's chance of success.


Two big reasons:

1. Big business, investors, and the wealthy are thriving. But restaurant and bar employees, hotel and airline staff, and other service workers are in a pretty hopeless situation right now:

  • A "depression" is an apt description of what they're facing — especially folks in rural and middle America who are parents.

700,000 Americans have been filing unemployment insurance claims every week for 37 weeks — nine months. Plus, 20 million people are still on the pre-pandemic unemployment rolls.

  • That's unheard of, and incredibly bad.

2. As Axios has been telling you, government statistics — because of the way they've always been reported — understate lots of red flags.

  • The official unemployment rate has been dropping, but that's because:
  • It never really counted gig economy workers well in the first place.
  • Its data collection abilities have been severely crimped by the pandemic.
  • Lots of people are falling out of the labor force — not working and not looking.

What's next: 13.4 million people are on pandemic unemployment programs that expire at the end of the year — 27 days from now.

FDA authorizes Johnson & Johnson's one-shot COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

The Food and Drugs Administration on Saturdayissued an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: The authorization of a third coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. will help speed up the vaccine rollout across the country, especially since the J&J shot only requires one dose as opposed to Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech's two-shot vaccines.

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Italy tightens COVID restrictions for 5 regions amid warnings of a growing prevalence of variants

Italy on Saturday announced it was tightening restrictions in five of the country's 20 regions in an effort curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Driving the news: The announcement comes as health experts and scientists warn of the more transmissible coronavirus variants, per Reuters.

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Palestinian Authority announces new COVID restrictions as cases surge

The Palestinian Authority on Saturday announced fresh coronavirus restrictions, including a partial lockdown, for the occupied West Bank as COVID-19 cases surge.

The big picture: The new measures come as Israel, which leads the world in vaccinations, faces increased pressure to ensure Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have equal access to vaccines.

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Myanmar military fires UN ambassador after anti-coup speech

Myanmar's military regime on Saturday fired the country's Ambassador to the United Nations, Kyaw Moe Tun, a day after he gave a pro-democracy speech asking UN member nations to publicly condemn the Feb. 1 coup, The New York Times reports.

Details: State television said the ambassador had "betrayed the country and spoken for an unofficial organization which doesn’t represent the country and had abused the power and responsibilities of an ambassador."

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Scoop: Biden admin call on Putin pipeline provokes GOP anger

A briefing between the State Department and congressional staff over Vladimir Putin's Russia-Germany gas pipeline got tense this week, with Biden officials deflecting questions about why they hadn't moved faster and more aggressively with sanctions tostop its completion.

  • The Biden officials also denied negotiating with the Germans over a potential side deal to allow the pipeline to be finished.
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Warren Buffett calls American progress "discouraging," but isn't betting against it

Warren Buffett called progress in America "slow, uneven and often discouraging," but retained his long-term optimism in the country, in his closely watched annual shareholder letter released Saturday morning.

Why it matters: It breaks months of uncharacteristic silence from the 90-year-old billionaire Berkshire Hathaway CEO — as the fragile economy coped with the pandemic and the U.S. saw a contentious presidential election.

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