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House report says "serious failures" by Boeing and FAA led to 737 MAX crashes

The House Transportation Committee on Wednesday released a scathing report, highlighting "repeated and serious failures" by Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration that preceded two deadly 737 MAX jet crashes in 2018 and 2019.

The big picture: The 239-page report says the crashes, which killed 346 people, were the result of a "horrific culmination" of poor technical assumptions by Boeing’s engineers, a lack of transparency by Boeing’s management and insufficient oversight by the FAA.


The report's findings:

FAA management overruled the conclusions of their own technical experts "at the behest of Boeing."

  • This was consistent with a recent survey in which FAA employees said they believed management was more concerned with helping the aviation industry achieve its goals.
  • The FAA's oversight structure for Boeing created "inherent conflicts of interest that have jeopardized the safety of the flying public," pointing to instances in which Boeing employees who work on behalf of the FAA didn't alert the agency about potential certification and safety issues.

Production pressures at Boeing to compete with its European counterpart Airbus led to "extensive efforts to cut costs, maintain the 737 MAX program schedule, and avoid slowing the 737 MAX production line."

  • Boeing made "faulty assumptions" about the plane's MCAS software, designed to push the nose of the plane down in certain conditions given the plane's structural changes from a traditional 737. Many pilots worldwide weren't aware of the system.
  • Boeing also "withheld crucial information from the FAA, its customers, and 737 MAX pilots," including about the MCAS software.

The bottom line: "The fact that a compliant airplane suffered from two deadly crashes in less than five months is clear evidence that the current regulatory system is fundamentally flawed and needs to be repaired," the report concluded.

Read the report.

Go deeper: Everything you need to know about the Boeing 737 MAX crashes

Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that restrictions imposed on New York places of worship by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the coronavirus pandemic violated the First Amendment, per Bloomberg.

Why it matters: The decision in a 5-4 vote heralds one of the first significant actions by the new President Trump-appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues.

Editor's note: This a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

Trump agency head who often skips mask tests positive for coronavirus

The acting administrator of the United States Agency for International Development informed senior staff Wednesday he has tested positive for coronavirus, two sources familiar with the call tell Axios.

Why it matters: John Barsa, who staffers say rarely wears a mask in their office, is the latest in a series of top administration officials to contract the virus. His positive diagnosis comes amid broader turmoil at the agency following the election.

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COVID-19 shows a bright future for vaccines

Promising results from COVID-19 vaccine trials offer hope not just that the pandemic could be ended sooner than expected, but that medicine itself may have a powerful new weapon.

Why it matters: Vaccines are, in the words of one expert, "the single most life-saving innovation ever," but progress had slowed in recent years. New gene-based technology that sped the arrival of the COVID vaccine will boost the overall field, and could even extend to mass killers like cancer.

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Beware a Thanksgiving mirage

Don't be surprised if COVID metrics plunge over the next few days, only to spike next week.

Why it matters: The COVID Tracking Project warns of a "double-weekend pattern" on Thanksgiving — where the usual weekend backlog of data is tacked on to a holiday.

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Trump pardons Michael Flynn

President Trump on Wednesday pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts.

Why it matters: It is the first of multiple pardons expected in the coming weeks, as Axios scooped last night.

This is a breaking story and will be updated with more details.

The emerging cybersecurity headaches awaiting Biden

The incoming administration will face a slew of cybersecurity-related challenges, as Joe Biden takes office under a very different environment than existed when he was last in the White House as vice president.

The big picture: President-elect Biden's top cybersecurity and national security advisers will have to wrestle with the ascendancy of new adversaries and cyberpowers, as well as figure out whether to continue the more aggressive stance the Trump administration has taken in cyberspace.

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Past friction between Biden and Erdoğan foreshadows future tensions

Ankara — The incoming Biden administration's foreign policy priorities and worldview will collide with those of the Turkish government on several issues.

Why it matters: The U.S. needs its NATO ally Turkey for its efforts to contain Russia, counter Iran and deal with other crises in the Middle East. But relations between Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are expected to be strained.

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Tesla's wild rise and European plan

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Tesla's market capitalization blew past $500 billion for the first time Tuesday.

Why it matters: It's just a number, but kind of a wild one. Consider, via CNN: "Tesla is now worth more than the combined market value of most of the world's major automakers: Toyota, Volkswagen, GM, Ford, Fiat Chrysler and its merger partner PSA Group."

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