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WHO experts: "Window is closing" on study into origins of COVID-19

In an essay in the journal Nature, experts studying the origins of COVID-19 for the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the study has stalled and that the "window of opportunity" is closing to trace the virus' origins.

Why it matters: According to the scientists,"any [further] delay will render some of the studies biologically impossible," hampering understanding of the origins of COVID-19.


Driving the news: The Chinese government rejected the WHO's follow-up investigation as recently as July and has impeded the investigation, according to the report.

  • According to the report, China "was and is still reluctant to share raw data" with the investigative team.

What they're saying: "[The] window is rapidly closing on the biological feasibility of conducting the critical trace-back of people and animals inside and outside China. SARS-CoV-2 antibodies wane, so collecting further samples and testing people who might have been exposed before December 2019 will yield diminishing returns," according to the report in Nature.

  • The essay called for the "scientific community and country leaders to join forces to expedite the phase 2 studies detailed here, while there is still time."

Of note: The Biden administration has conducted its own investigation into COVID-19's origins, "including whether it emerged from human contact with an infected animal or from a laboratory accident."

  • A White House official on Wednesday acknowledged receipt of the findings of that study, and said that an "unclassified summary of key judgments" would be made public "soon."
  • Nearly two dozen AAPI civil rights groups last week warned the administration that such a study "will put our communities at risk" and legitimizes the "lab leak" conspiracy theory.
  • Thousands of anti-Asian hate incidents have been reported since March 2020, nearly half including anti-Chinese or anti-immigrant rhetoric, according to the organization Stop AAPI Hate.

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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