Thursday’s top stories

Dave Lawler, author of World
Apr 8, 2021 - World

Russian troops mass near Ukraine's border, raising threat of wider war

Zelensky visits the troops in Donbas. Photo: Presidency of Ukraine Handout via Getty Images

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.

Apr 8, 2021 - Podcasts

Biden adviser Atul Gawande on vaccine hesitancy and herd immunity

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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How Biden has downplayed a week of crises.

Dangerous migrant journey leaves dozens of kids stranded, abandoned

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Girls thrown off the border wall and boys abandoned in the desert: Dozens of children have had to be rescued after being left stranded mid-trip to try to reunite with relatives already in the U.S.

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.

Apr 8, 2021 - World

Sens. Menendez, Risch unveil bipartisan bill to counter China

Sen. Jim Risch, right, speaks to Sen. Menendez, left, during a confirmation hearing on March 23. Photo: Greg Nash/The Hill/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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.

Biden: Gun violence in U.S. an "international embarrassment"

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.

CBP picked up a record number of children at the southern border in March

An migrant girl from Central America in Brownsville, Texas. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

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.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Apr 8, 2021 - Economy & Business

The stock market may be getting too hot

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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.

Ralph Northam backs predecessor Terry McAuliffe for Virginia governor

Terry McAuliffe and Ralph Northam during a campaign rally in Richmond, Va. in 2017. Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

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 social media rules hold users accountable for behavior offline

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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.

Biden broadband agenda takes aim at Big Telecom

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

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.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Apr 8, 2021 - Economy & Business

The teen-powered resurgence of active investing

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

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.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Apr 8, 2021 - Energy & Environment

The emerging frontiers of climate activism

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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.

Updated Apr 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden to unveil executive actions on guns

President Biden. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

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 hold steady at 65,000 per day

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

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.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Apr 8, 2021 - Health

The world is watching the FDA's AstraZeneca decision

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

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.

Updated Apr 8, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Texas launches investigation into claims of abuse at migrant facility

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott at a press conference in Austin in May 2020. Photo: Lynda M. Gonzalez-Pool/Getty Images

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.

Poll: Number of Americans identifying as Democrat the highest since 2012

Supporters holds flags as they listen to President Biden's inauguration speech on a smartphone on Jan. 20 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Nathan Howard/Getty Images

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.

DOJ: Neo-Nazi pleads guilty to hate crime, conspiracy in journalist threat case

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.