Welcome back to Axios World for tonight's 1,713-word (6-minute) global tour.
Situational awareness: I've just tallied up the votes for the December special report. Apologies if you replied and I haven't responded yet — I'm working my way through! I'm once again blown away by how engaged, curious and kind our readership is.
The scene of the attack on the LeBaron family. Photo: Herika Martinez/AFP via Getty
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador declared an end to Mexico’s war on the drug cartels when he took office nearly a year ago, but the gangs are only growing more aggressive.
Driving the news: Nine dual U.S-Mexican citizens — six children and three women — from a Mormon community were slaughtered on Tuesday near the U.S.-Mexico border.
The cycle of violence is driven by American demand — Mexican cartels are the top suppliers of heroin, fentanyl, meth and cocaine to the U.S.
Flashback: Mexico’s war on the cartels began in 2006 under then-President Felipe Calderón, whose strategy of taking out gang leaders spawned smaller warring groups.
When López Obrador swept to office last year in a landslide, crime ranked behind only corruption in terms of voters’ concerns.
Zoom out: Despite the continued rise in violence and a sluggish economy, a recent poll puts López Obrador’s approval rating at a remarkable 67%.
The bottom line: López Obrador has massive ambitions to lift up the poor and remake Mexico from the ground up. The cartels are standing in his way.
Internet freedom is in decline around the world, with governments using social media to monitor their citizens and spread disinformation at home and overseas, according to an annual Freedom House report.
The big picture: "What was once a liberating technology has become a conduit for surveillance and electoral manipulation," the authors write of social media.
"Sophisticated mass surveillance that was once feasible only for the world’s leading intelligence agencies is now affordable for a much broader range of states."
Countries in decline:
The flipside: Ethiopia was one of the few countries in which internet restrictions were loosened this year, under reform-minded Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Improvements were also seen in Malaysia and Armenia.
Superlatives: China is "the world’s worst abuser of internet freedom" while Iceland is "the world's best protector."
A hazy Delhi. Photo: Biplov Bhuyan/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
1. Schools have been closed, flights canceled, cars limited and all construction halted in New Delhi — India's capital and one of the world's largest metropolises.
2. Climate protests are growing increasingly disruptive in Australia, and the conservative government has responded by threatening to ban them, Axios' Rashaan Ayesh writes.
3. China's increasingly carnivorous appetites — the country now consumes 28% of the world's meat — are posing environmental and economic challenges.
4. Italy is the first country in the world to mandate that all public schools include climate change in curricula for all ages. Go deeper.
Singapore tops Gallup's annual Law and Order index — based on respondents' confidence in local police, sense of safety in their neighborhoods, and recent experiences with crime — while Afghanistan scores far below even Venezuela.
Zoom in: Just 13% of Afghans said they felt safe walking alone at night in their neighborhoods, down from 20% last year.
My thought bubble: While the U.K. scores quite high on the law and order index, on par with Canada, that didn't stop a thief from running off with my phone last week.
A video installation projected onto the Berlin Wall's East Side Gallery. Photo: Annette Riedl/picture alliance via Getty Images
Why it matters: The legacy of 1989 is the power of citizens to bring about change, but today faith in democracy is falling.
Where it stands: The Berlin Wall has now been down longer than it was up, yet the five states in the former German Democratic Republic are still playing catch-up despite $2 trillion in regional investment.
The impact: The AfD is now present in all of Germany’s 16 state legislatures but has found its stronghold in the former east.
The bottom line: On the surface, it may seem difficult to differentiate Germans once tagged as either Wessis or Ossis, but differences remain. The former east's far-right swing could now make it harder to spur the political and financial changes needed to close the gap.
Go deeper: Berlin Didn’t Want a Reagan Statue—but It’s Getting One Anyway (WSJ)
Europe is looking at America differently. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images
French President Emmanuel Macron referred to NATO as brain dead and questioned whether the alliance is still fit for purpose with America's commitment in question in an interview with The Economist.
1. The consensus behind the trans-Atlantic alliance is obsolete.
"Europe was basically built to be the Americans’ junior partner. ... And this went hand in hand with a benevolent United States, acting as the ultimate guarantor of a system ... based on the preservation of world peace and the domination of Western values. There was a price to pay for that, which was NATO and support to the European Union."
2. Europe could "disappear geopolitically" due to...
3. Europe is playing catch-up.
4. France must be a "balancing power," with "the right not to be outright enemies with our friends’ enemies."
"We can speak to people and therefore build balances to stop the whole world from catching fire."
5. Russia should be a partner.
A shepherd and his flock in Elazig, Turkey. Photo: Enver Hanci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
"One day when the diplomatic history is written people will wonder what happened here and why officials didn’t do more to stop it or at least speak out more forcefully to blame Turkey for its behavior."— William Roebuck, the top U.S. diplomat in Northern Syria, in a blistering memo that leaked to the NY Times.