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Expand chart
Reproduced from a Freedom House report; Chart: Axios Visuals

The slow, steady erosion of democracy around the world continued for the 13th consecutive year, according to the latest annual "Freedom in the World" report by Freedom House, a watchdog group that advocates for democracy and human rights.

The big picture: Between 1988 and 2005, democracy surged around the world. Since then, the reversal has been less dramatic, but it has been "consistent and ominous," according to the report.

  • Political rights and civil liberties became weaker in 68 countries since last year's report, and improved in only 50 countries.
  • The authors cite a shifting global balance of power in favor of countries like China, and "anger and anxiety in Europe and the United States over economic inequality and the loss of personal status" as underlying causes of the strains we're seeing on democratic institutions.
  • Globally, 39% of people live in countries deemed "free," while 24% live in "partly free" countries and 37% "not free."

A warning about the United States: The report says the U.S. freedom score has declined by 8 points (from 94 to 86) over the past eight years. It's still firmly in the "free category," but it's falling behind counterparts like the U.K., Canada, France, Australia, Germany and Japan.

  • The report blames longstanding problems like political polarization, loss of economic mobility, the influence of special interests and the rise of partisan media. But it also warns that President Trump "exerts an influence on American politics that is straining our core values and testing the stability of our constitutional system."

Other big changes:

  • Hungary was demoted from "free" to "partly free."
  • Nicaragua is now classified "not free" rather than "partly free."
  • Serbia was downgraded from "free" to "partly free."
  • Uganda was reclassified from "partly free" to "not free."
  • Zimbabwe was upgraded from "not free" to "partly free."

Go deeper

America is finally winning its fight against the coronavirus

Expand chart
Data: CSSE Johns Hopkins University; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

America’s battle against the coronavirus is going great.

The big picture: For the first time in a long time, nobody needs to cherry-pick some misleading data to make it seem like things are going well, and the good news doesn’t need an endless list of caveats, either. It’s just really good news. We’re winning. Be happy.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Over 70 dead in worst bombardments between Israel and Hamas for years

Palestinian Muslims exchange wishes for Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, near a razed building in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia, on May 13. Israeli forces said they had killed a senior Hamas commander in May 12 airstrikes. Gaza's health ministry said children died in the strikes. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

At least 67 Palestinians and seven Israelis have been killed in fighting between Israel's military and Hamas since Monday, per Reuters.

The big picture: The worst aerial exchanges of fire between Israel and Hamas since 2014 continued into early Thursday. It comes days after escalating violence in Jerusalem that injured hundreds of Palestinians and several Israeli police officers during protests over the planned evictions of Palestinian families from their homes.

Biden admin grants Colonial waiver to ease fuel shortages

Fuel tanks at Colonial Pipeline Baltimore Delivery in Baltimore, Maryland on Monday. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration approved a temporary waiver of shipping requirements late Wednesday to help Colonial Pipeline transport fuel, as service resumes across the U.S. following last week's ransomware attack that that took it offline.

Why it matters: The century-old Jones Act requires ships to be built in the U.S. and crewed by American workers, but the waiver means foreign companies can transport gasoline and diesel to areas where there are fuel shortages.