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Scoop: White House bars Cabinet from commencement addresses

An anti-coronavirus edict will keep a group of high-profile speakers from taking the podium at this year's college commencement ceremonies: Biden administration Cabinet members.

Why it matters: Speakers who'd normally serve as the new administration's face to the public — or sell President Biden's array of new policies — are banned from speaking in person because the White House doesn't want to encourage super-spreader events.


  • “The White House and administration remain vigilant to the public health challenges posed by the pandemic, and we’re taking every step necessary to prevent the spread of the virus and model leadership for the country,” a White House official told Axios in a statement.
  • Members can still speak virtually.

But, but, but: The rules don’t apply equally to everyone.

  • The president himself is scheduled to deliver the keynote address in person during the U.S. Coast Guard Academy's graduation ceremony May 19.
  • Tradition has the commander in chief rotate annually among the four service academies.
  • Coast Guard officials said this year's exercise will again be closed to the public, and the number of guests will be greatly reduced from past years because of the pandemic, the Associated Press reported.

Vice President Kamala Harris will deliver the keynote address at the Naval Academy’s commissioning ceremony this month, a White House official told the Capital Gazette.

  • The ceremony will be in person but at limited capacity.
  • In addition, first lady Jill Biden will deliver a commencement address at George Mason University next Friday — but virtually.

Between the lines: The Centers for Disease Control's latest guidance says people can gather outside or conduct activities outdoors without wearing a mask.

  • The exception is certain crowded settings and venues, such as concerts.

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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