Thursday’s top stories
The simmering conflict in Eastern Ukraine has threatened to boil over the past few days, with Russia massing troops near the border and pro-Kremlin media raising the specter of war.
Why it matters: U.S. European Command went into high alert in light of the Russian movements, which some experts speculated could presage an active Russian military intervention in the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine, where Ukraine has been fighting pro-Russian separatists for seven years.
Nearly one in five American adults is hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine, which could make it harder for the country to reach herd immunity. Meanwhile, the virus continues to mutate, with the CDC announcing this week that the British variant is dominant in the U.S.
Axios Re:Cap talks with Dr. Atul Gawande, author and Biden administration adviser, about what vaccine hesitancy means for the U.S. and the world.
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The big picture: Smugglers are pouncing on the desperation of people in Central America and South America. The smugglers promote their services on Facebook with fake promises of safe trips and easy immigration processes.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and ranking member Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) on Thursday announced their finished bipartisan proposal to counter China's rising political and financial power.
Why it matters, via Axios' China reporter Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian: This bill marks a culmination of years of growing bipartisan concern, and the rise of an increasingly authoritarian China. If it passes, it will send a strong signal to Beijing that both parties are unified in defending democratic values from authoritarian encroachment.
President Biden called gun violence in the U.S. an "epidemic" and "international embarrassment" in a press conference Thursday announcing new executive actions on gun access.
Why it matters: A recent spate of mass shootings, including two high-profile incidents that killed a total of 18 people, has fueled calls for greater action.
U.S. authorities picked up a record number of unaccompanied children —nearly 19,000— at the southern border in March, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement on Thursday.
Why it matters: Crossings of unaccompanied minors are on the rise and are expected to continue for months, possibly reaching as many as 26,000 by September, Axios previously reported.
There are a growing number of signs the bull market in equities is overheating, with indicators of investor complacency and risk-seeking reaching the highest levels since 2007 and 1999.
Why it matters: Those periods of extreme euphoria were followed by market crashes.
Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday will endorse his predecessor Terry McAuliffe in the race to succeed him, AP reports.
Why it matters: The endorsement could give McAuliffe a boost ahead of the state's gubernatorial Democratic primary, set to take place in June. Northam's endorsement is thought to carry weight in the contest, on the back of a tenure which saw Virginia shift dramatically to the left.
New rules from tech companies are making it harder for users with sketchy reputations in the real world to become famous online.
Driving the news: Twitch, the Amazon-owned livestream platform used primarily by gamers, on Wednesday unveiled a new policy to address "severe misconduct" that happens off its platform, but that may still impact its online community.
The White House wants to lower broadband prices and make the industry more competitive — a sign that President Biden's approach to the telecom sector will be much tougher than his predecessors'.
Why it matters: Tech giants and internet platforms have been in the brightest spotlight of regulatory scrutiny, but the new administration looks ready to cast a much wider net.
Never mind saving for retirement. Gen Z has embraced the stock market as a place to make short-term gains.
Why it matters: Day trading is back, turbocharged by social media and the invincibility of youth. Silicon Valley is paying attention.
The new(ish) group Law Students for Climate Accountability just launched a pressure campaign against the heavyweight law firm Gibson Dunn over its work for oil industry clients.
Why it matters: It's just one of many examples of how climate activism has been tactically evolving in recent months and years. That includes taking aim at a wider suite of corporate targets, like PR agencies and big tech, and intensifying a years-long focus on the finance sector.
President Biden is expected to present a series of executive actions on guns Thursday, including directing his Justice Department to tighten regulations on purchases of so-called “ghost guns."
Why it matters: The president has faced increased pressure from Democrats and gun violence prevention groups to act on the issue following a series of recent high-profile gun tragedies across the U.S.
Coronavirus cases are holding steady across the U.S. as vaccinations increase and states continue to loosen their safety measures.
By the numbers: The U.S. averaged about 65,000 new cases per day over the past week, essentially unchanged from the week before.
AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine took yet another public relations hit yesterday, when the European Medicines Agency announced that the shot has a "possible" link to rare blood clots, and they should be listed as a "very rare" side effect of the vaccine.
What we're watching: Even before the link was announced, the U.S. didn't need the AstraZeneca vaccine, based on its existing supply of other shots. But what the Food and Drug Administration decides to do about the vaccine — if the company seeks U.S. authorization — will likely have global ramifications.
Texas officials have launched an investigation into reports alleging sexual and other abuse and neglect at a San Antonio facility housing migrant teenagers who'd arrived from the southern border, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday.
Why it matters: The investigation into the three separate reports at the Freeman Coliseum marks the first time state officials have announced a probe into an emergency facility set up by the U.S. government in Texas in response to a significant rise in border crossings of unaccompanied youths, AP notes.
More American adults identify as Democrat than Republican, according to a Gallup poll published on Wednesday.
Why it matters: "The nine-percentage-point Democratic advantage is the largest Gallup has measured since the fourth quarter of 2012," when former President Obama was re-elected, per a Gallup statement.
The purported leader of the neo-Nazi Atomwaffen Division group has pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy and hate crime charges for threatening journalists and Jewish activists, the Department of Justice announced.
Driving the news: Cameron Shea, along with three others, was charged last year with conspiring to identify journalists and advocates "they wanted to threaten in retaliation for the victims' work exposing anti-Semitism," per the DOJ's Tuesday statement.