Here's what we're talking about:
- Lab leak versus animal spillover: Evidence for each theory of the coronavirus pandemic's origin
- Marjorie Taylor Greene's spokesman is just like his boss
- A small investor dealt Exxon a historic defeat in a fight to address the climate crisis
One thing to look out for today: President Joe Biden visits Cleveland to speak about the economy at 2:20 p.m. ET.
With Jordan Erb
1. Biden seeks to identify the pandemic's origin: The president is giving the US intelligence community 90 days to try to find a "definitive conclusion" to something that has perplexed health experts for the past year: figuring out the origin of the coronavirus pandemic. Biden's order to intelligence agencies to "redouble their efforts" comes during a broader reexamination of the "lab-leak theory," or the possibility that the novel coronavirus leaked out of a lab in Wuhan, China, as opposed to moving from animals to people.
- Why this is happening now: Eighteen scientists from the US, the UK, Canada, and Switzerland recently published a letter in the respected journal Science saying they thought the lab-leak theory remained viable. The annual World Health Assembly this week sparked renewed pressure to go beyond an investigation earlier this year by the World Health Organization. Some experts say the WHO investigation was overly dismissive of the leak theory. (The Washington Post has a handy timeline detailing the theory.)
Congress also wants to get involved: Democratic lawmakers are backing calls for a congressional investigation into the pandemic's origins, Politico reports. Biden's announcement is also a shift in the administration's previous deferral to WHO, which struggled to get China to fully cooperate with its investigation.
- We may never know: The delay in accessing key places in China may make a definitive answer impossible to find. In the meantime, there are still experts who support WHO's conclusion that the virus most likely jumped to people from bats via an intermediary host. An intermediate host has not been found, though Dr. Anthony Fauci pointed out to lawmakers that such a host hadn't ever been found for other contagions such as the Ebola virus.
2. Marjorie Taylor Greene's spokesman is just like his boss: Boundaries mean nothing to the self-styled iconoclast Nick Dyer. He recently took it upon himself to confront Rep. Eric Swalwell about the California Democrat wearing a mask after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance changed. And his dealings with the press have been adversarial, to say the least. And much like his current boss, Dyer uses social media to lash out at all types of enemies.
3. Nine people were killed in a shooting in San Jose: A mass shooting at a Valley Transportation Authority rail yard in downtown San Jose, California, left 10 people dead including the shooter. Sources told the Los Angeles Times the gunman set his home on fire and then drove to a VTA union meeting, where he began shooting. "What the hell is wrong in the United States of America? What the hell is wrong with us?" Gov. Gavin Newsom said, lamenting the frequency of such shootings.
How thoughts and prayers became a cliché: Presidents, mayors, and many more officials are struggling to figure out what to say as mass shootings keep happening without any big changes to American gun policy in sight.
4. JPMorgan says ending unemployment benefits is "tied to politics, not economics": JPMorgan's financial research team said Republican governors in the 24 states planning to end the $300 federal unemployment supplements early were not making their decisions based on economic data. The wrote that such programs were most likely contributing to the limited number of workers currently searching for new jobs. But they noted that neither unemployment rates, earnings growth, nor participation levels were driving states to halt jobless aid early. One estimate found 2.1 million workers would lose benefits completely.
5. Sen. Susan Collins is trying to save the Capitol riot commission: Collins, a Republican from Maine, suggested amendments to the House-passed bill that would require a more bipartisan effort in hiring staff members for the investigation, Politico reports. She also wants to end the panel sooner after it delivers its final report at the end of the year. It's unclear whether her changes will garner the support of nine other Republicans. The future of the commission could be determined today.
6. Exxon humbled in historic win for climate activists: A bitter proxy fight between Exxon Mobil and Engine No. 1, a small investor that controls just a 0.02% stake in the company, led to a monumental victory of securing two seats on Exxon's board of directors. The small investor focused its pitch around green-energy initiatives, executive pay, and the diversification of Exxon's fossil-fuel business. More on the fight here.
- Royal Dutch Shell was also dealt a major rebuke: Shell suffered from a first-of-its-kind ruling of a Dutch court that found the company partially responsible for the climate crisis, The Wall Street Journal reports. Shell has been ordered to cut its carbon emissions by 45% by 2030.
7. Amazon announces nearly $9 billion deal to buy MGM: The acquisition of MGM Studios could mean a big expansion of Amazon Prime's streaming inventory to include MGM's big-name movies and TV shows. Amazon has been knuckling down on investment in its media division as demand for streaming has boomed during the pandemic.
8. Deceased senator's son claims Trump offered a possible bribe to end 'Spygate' inquiry: Sen. Arlen Specter, a Republican from Pennsylvania who switched parties at the end of his career, led a one-man investigation into the New England Patriots scandal known as Spygate after the team was caught videotaping opposing coaches' signals to help win. Specter had previously claimed that in 2008 a mutual friend of his and the Patriots owner Robert Kraft's made reference to "a lot of money in Palm Beach" if the investigation was ended. After years of searching, ESPN reports they have identified that man as former President Donald Trump, who was said to be acting on Kraft's behalf. Kraft denied involvement in any such plot. A spokesman for Trump also rejected the claim that such an offer was made.
9. Remembering John Warner: A World War II veteran who served as Navy secretary from 1972 to 1974, Warner was first elected to the Senate in 1978, eventually serving five terms before announcing his retirement in 2007 and leaving the upper chamber in 2009. Warner was a centrist Republican whose six-year marriage to the film icon Elizabeth Taylor brought a slice of Hollywood glamour to the Old Dominion when he campaigned for his first race in 1978. He was 94.
10. Howard University named its College of Fine Arts after alum Chadwick Boseman: Boseman, a Howard graduate who played Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, died of cancer in August. He was 43 years old. His family said he "would be overjoyed by this development."
- The announcement comes months after Boseman lost this year's best-actor Oscar to Anthony Hopkins - one of the most shocking Oscar upsets of the year.
Today's trivia question: Which building were lawmakers forced to meet in after the British burned down most of the Capitol in 1814? Email your guess and a suggested question to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Yesterday's answer: General Electric was the last of the original 12 companies to leave the Dow index. GE had been kicked off before, but it has not returned since its final ouster in 2018.