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Disruptions from the pandemic will take a long time to unwind

American consumers and businesses face any array of shocking shortages in 2021 — the result of corporate miscalculations in the early days of the pandemic. The shortages range from labor to lumber to rental cars.

Why it matters: As vaccinations rise and the economy grows back to its pre-pandemic size, Americans are tantalized by the prospect of the country reverting to something approaching the familiar old normal. While that might happen eventually, it could take a surprisingly long time for a new equilibrium to establish itself.

  • Until then, expect a constant stream of headlines about supply being unable to meet demand across a large range of industries and sectors.

The big picture: Shortages have appeared in multiple areas.

  • In lumber, high prices are a consequence of the decision by sawmills to shut down production a year ago, in anticipation of an economic slump.
  • In auto, high prices reflect decisions by chip manufacturers early in the pandemic to concentrate on making semiconductors for consumer electronics — which were expected to boom — at the expense of making chips for vehicles, which were expected to be hit hard by the broader slump in travel.
  • In the restaurant industry, which is struggling to find workers, experienced servers found themselves with almost a year to find other jobs with better job security and fewer health risks.
  • In expensive cities like New York, many simply left town. Hiring was generally not easy even before the pandemic, and it's much more competitive now that so many restaurants are trying to staff up aggressively at exactly the same time.

Be smart: These shortages don't mean the economy is overheating. If anything, they mean it isn't yet hot enough. As industries like sawmills, semiconductor fabricators and restaurants grow out of their recession slump, supply will increasingly meet demand and prices will more likely to go down than up.

  • In an advanced economy, supply chains and lead times can be extremely long and complex, even for seemingly simple items like lumber. Disruptions to global shipping — an industry that has never been nimble — only make it harder to get back to normal.
  • Rebuilding those supply chains for a reconfigured economy, and finding the new natural state of dynamic equilibrium, is extremely difficult and time-consuming.
  • Pockets of sticker shock on things like rental car prices are therefore likely to remain for at least the rest of this year.

The bottom line: If price rises in a certain items are caused by temporary shortages, then the inflation is also likely to be temporary.

Massive California blaze levels town, threatens others as it burns out of control

The small Sierra town of Greenville, Calif., was heavily damaged on Wednesday night into early Thursday as the Dixie Fire surged northward amid high winds, extremely dry air and hot temperatures.

The big picture: The Dixie Fire, California's biggest blaze and the sixth-largest wildfire in state history, razed houses and businesses as it ripped through Greenville and surrounding areas in Plumas County.

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Moderna says COVID-19 vaccine "remains durable" with 93% efficacy through 6 months

Moderna said Thursday that its coronavirus vaccine was 93% effective against COVID-19 through six months after receiving the second dose.

Why it matters: The number shows that efficacy "remains durable" through that time, and hardly wanes from the 94.5% efficacy Moderna reported last November. But the clinical trial, which started in July 2020, was conducted before the Delta variant became the common strain in the U.S.

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U.S. women's soccer team beats Australia, wins Olympic bronze

The U.S. women's soccer team won the bronze medal on Thursday after beating ninth-ranked Australia 4-3.

Why it matters: Thursday's victory marks the U.S. team's first bronze in Olympic history, handing the team a medal after it failed to earn one during the Rio Games in 2016.

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Top Democratic operatives mapped out how to defend Kamala Harris at high-powered dinner

A group of the Democratic Party's most influential women met for dinner at a home in the nation’s capital last month to game out how to defend Vice President Kamala Harris and her chief of staff, Tina Flournoy, against a torrent of bad press.

Why it matters: It's telling that so early in the Biden-Harris administration, such powerful operatives felt compelled to try to right the vice president's ship.

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In photos: Tokyo Olympics day 13 highlights

Day 13 of the Tokyo Olympic Games saw Team USA's men's basketball team beat Australia 97-78 on Thursday to advance to the gold medal game.

The big picture: Kevin Durant led the charge with 23 points to help the U.S. secure a final spot against either France or Slovenia on Saturday local time. Elsewhere, the U.S. added to its gold medals count, with shot putter Ryan Crouser and teenage canoeist Nevin Harrison both winning their events.

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Judge to Capitol rioter: Insurrection is "not patriotism"

A federal judge sentencing a Michigan man in D.C. Wednesday over his role in the U.S. Capitol riot dismissed any notion that he's a political prisoner.

Driving the news: U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson said that she wasn't sentencing Karl Dresch, of Calumet, "because he is a supporter" of former President Trump, noting that "millions of people" had voted for him "and did not heed his call to descend on the nation's Capitol," per the Detroit News.

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2 wildfires ravage Northern California homes as thousands evacuate

Two massive California wildfires have triggered new mandatory evacuation orders for thousands of people and destroyed homes and businesses in the state's north overnight.

Details: The Dixie Fire, California's biggest blaze, razed houses and businesses as it ripped through the Greenville area of Plumas County Wednesday night, per AP. The rapidly spreading River Fire burned "multiple" homes as it tore through Placer and Nevada counties, KOVR notes. Mandatory evacuation orders were in effect for both fires.

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Landlords mount legal challenge to Biden administration's new eviction moratorium

A group of landlords and real-estate companies issued a legal challenge on Wednesday night in a D.C. district court to the Biden administration's new national eviction moratorium.

Driving the news: The Alabama and Georgia Associations of Realtors' emergency motion argues that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's order Tuesday barring evictions for most of the U.S. through Oct. 3 exceeds the CDC's powers, according to a statement from the National Association of Realtors.

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