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Ex-FDA chief rebukes Trump over claim that "deep state" has slowed virus treatments

Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said Sunday that he rejects President Trump's claim that the "deep state" at the FDA is delaying coronavirus treatments and vaccines for political reasons, telling CBS News' "Face the Nation": "It is a foundational truth that what guides that agency is science."

Why it matters: Gottlieb served as FDA commissioner for two years under the Trump administration. He pushed back on claims from Trump and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows that the agency's bureaucrats don't understand the "urgency" of the moment, saying: "To say these products aren't moving at a historic pace I think is wrong."


Driving the news: Trump plans to announceat a press conference Sunday an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma, which has already been given to more than 70,000 individuals, the Washington Post reports.

  • Many scientists and physicians say the convalescent plasma might be helpful in treating patients, but warn that it's far from a breakthrough. The plasma is rich in antibodies but there isn't enough evidence to conclusively say it works.
  • Last week, the New York Times reported that the FDA was close to granting an emergency authorization for plasma, but that top health officials intervened because they believed that data from recent trials was too weak.

What they're saying: "I think a lot of that was about plasma, that tweet," Gottlieb said. "There were perceived delays in authorizing plasma under emergency use authorization. It was reported this week that NIH had some misgivings about FDA going forward with that authorization."

  • "But there's reasons some people have some questions about that," he added. "The trial that that's going to be based on, 70,000 patients, wasn't a very rigorously done trial."
  • "I believe plasma's probably beneficial, it's probably weakly beneficial in the setting of this treatment. But I think some people wanted to see more rigorous data to ground that decision. I think that's part of what is going on here with respect to that tweet and questions about the FDA decision-making."

Why the startup world needs to ditch "unicorns" for "dragons"

When Aileen Lee originally coined the term "unicorn" in late 2013, she was describing the 39 "U.S.-based software companies started since 2003 and valued at over $1 billion by public or private market investors."

Flashback: It got redefined in early 2015 by yours truly and Erin Griffith, in a cover story for Fortune, as any privately-held startup valued at $1 billion or more. At the time, we counted 80 of them.

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Scoop: Facebook's new moves to lower News Feed's political volume

Facebook plans to announce that it will de-emphasize political posts and current events content in the News Feed based on negative user feedback, Axios has learned. It also plans to expand tests to limit the amount of political content that people see in their News Feeds to more countries outside of the U.S.

Why it matters: The changes could reduce traffic to some news publishers, particularly companies that post a lot of political content.

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Scoop: Amazon quietly getting into live audio business

Amazon is investing heavily in a new live audio feature that's similar to other live audio offerings like Clubhouse, Twitter Spaces and Spotify's new live audio platform, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: As with Amazon's efforts in podcasting and music subscriptions, the company sees live audio as a way to bolster the types of content it can offer through its voice assistant, Alexa, and its smart speaker products.

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Hurricane Ida exposes America's precarious energy infrastructure

The powerful hurricane that plunged New Orleans into darkness for what could be weeks is the latest sign that U.S. power systems are not ready for a warmer, more volatile world.

The big picture: “Our current infrastructure is not adequate when it comes to these kinds of weather extremes,” Joshua Rhodes, a University of Texas energy expert, tells Axios.

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"We must go further": 70% of adults in European Union are fully vaccinated

About 70% of adults in the European Union are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The milestone makes the E.U. one of the world's leaders in inoculations, after an initially lagging vaccine campaign, the New York Times notes.

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What Elizabeth Holmes jurors will be asked ahead of fraud trial

Jury selection begins today in USA v. Elizabeth Holmes, with the actual jury trial to get underway on Sept. 8.

Why it matters: Theranos was the biggest fraud in Silicon Valley history, putting both hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of patients' health at risk.

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