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Scoop: U.S. and Israel huddle on drone threat from Iran

The Biden administration and the Israeli government held talks recently on countering the proliferation of Iranian drones and cruise missiles among its proxies in Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon, Israeli and U.S. officials tell me.

Why it matters: After several drone attacks from pro-Iranian militias in recent weeks, some of which were thwarted, the U.S. and Israel are highly concerned that the technology will spread to additional groups who could target their forces in the region.

Driving the news: Al Asad Airbase, where most U.S. troops in Iraq are stationed, has been attacked repeatedly by pro-Iranian Shia militias. A hangar was damaged in a drone attack on May 8, and two armed drones were shot down there on June 6.

  • The Israeli air force, meanwhile, shot down an armed Iranian drone that was trying to enter Israeli airspace during the Gaza crisis on May 18.

Behind the scenes: During a meeting in Washington on April 27, national security advisor Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart, Meir Ben Shabbat, agreed to establish an inter-agency working group to focus on unmanned aerial vehicles and precision-guided missiles produced by Iran and provided to its regional proxies.

  • The group's first meeting took place three weeks ago, with the U.S. side headed by White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk and the Israeli side led by deputy national security adviser Reuven Azar.
  • The Israeli delegation proposed a regional cooperation framework involving Arab countries who face a similar threat from Iranian drones and missiles.
  • The Israeli side also proposed a no-fly zone for Iranian-made drones in the region, per Israeli officials briefed on the meeting. It's not clear how that would work.

What’s next: Israeli officials say their impression is that the working group will continue meeting because the Biden administration sees the drone threat to U.S. forces in the region as a high priority and worries that as the technology spreads the danger will only grow more severe.

U.S. market makes up more than 40% of COVID-19 vaccine sales

Data: Company filings; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The four main drug companies making COVID-19 vaccines have sold a combined $18.6 billion worth of the shots in the first half of 2021, and sales are expected to reach a combined $60 billion by the end of the year.

The big picture: Even though the U.S. represents less than 5% of the global population, the U.S. market makes up 41% of the vaccine sales.

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Biden administration offers temporary "safe haven" for Hong Kongers in U.S.

President Joe Biden on Thursday directed the Department of Homeland Security to defer the removal of Hong Kong residents currently in the U.S. for 18 months, offering them a "safe haven" to those who fear returning home.

Why it matters: The move, which could potentially extend the stay of thousands of Hong Kongers in the U.S., is the latest step the Biden administration has taken in response to Beijing's crackdown on democracy in the semi-autonomous territory.

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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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