Saturday’s top stories

Updated Jun 5, 2021 - World

Nigeria will arrest Twitter users after ban condemned by U.S.

President of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari in Maiduguri in February 2020. Photo: Audu Marte/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S., Canada, the European Union, the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland issued a joint statement Saturday condemning Nigeria's government for banning Twitter.

Why it matters: The condemnation came a day after the country's government threatened to arrest and prosecute any resident found using the app — which has been extremely popular in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation.

Jun 5, 2021 - World

Israeli security chief warns of Jan. 6-type violence

Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman. Photo: Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images

The director of Israel’s domestic security service, the Shin Bet, warned on Saturday of growing incitement that could lead to politically motivated violence.

Why it matters: Nadav Argaman's rare public statement raised concerns about the threat of a Jan. 6-style attack in Israel to prevent a peaceful transition of power if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is ousted after 12 years in office.

Listen to “Axios Re:Cap”
The pandemic rocked thousands of firms across the country, especially those in the service sector.
Jun 5, 2021 - World

Biden gets a road test

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Welcome to the foreign policy edition of our Axios AM Deep Dive series on the new Washington. Our guide is Dave Lawler, author of our twice-weekly Axios World newsletter, joined by other top Axios specialists.

Obama: Businesses must speak out against GOP voting laws

Former President Obama speaking in Detroit in October 2020. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Former President Obama accused Republicans of "rigging the game" by passing laws that restrict voting in response to baseless claims of widespread election fraud fueled by former President Trump.

Why it matters: Obama said during a virtual Economic Club of Chicago event on Friday that businesses have "a big responsibility" to speak out against the Republican-sponsored bills.

Mike Allen, author of AM
Jun 5, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Justice Department to stop seizing reporter records

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., March 11, 2021. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Justice Department will no longer secretly seize reporters' records in leak investigations, following revelations that the Trump administration obtained phone records of New York Times, Washington Post and CNN reporters.

The state of play: "Absolutely, positively it's wrong. It's simply, simply wrong. ... I will not let that happen," President Biden told CNN in May of the practice.

Federal judge strikes down California's ban on assault weapons

Photo: George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge on Friday overturned California's more than 30-year-old ban on assault weapons, ruling it unconstitutional.

The state of play: U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez said that AR-15 rifles are like Swiss Army knives, calling them a "perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment." California's definition of illegal, military-style firearms unlawfully robs law-abiding residents of weapons widely available in most other states and by the U.S. Supreme Court, the judge wrote.

Scoop: Bush family nonprofit's $5 million deal with China influence group

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A nonprofit affiliated with the late former President George H.W. Bush agreed to accept $5 million from a policy group at the center of China's U.S. influence efforts, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: As tensions escalate between the U.S. and China, leaders with the George H.W. Bush Foundation for U.S.-China Relations have sounded off for closer ties — and while criticizing Beijing in some cases, have toed China's line on some major geopolitical issues.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Jun 5, 2021 - World

The world needs a chief risk officer

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

A future that will see escalating danger from extreme risks demands a longer-term approach to handling these threats.

The big picture: The world was caught off guard by COVID-19, and millions of people have paid the price. But the pandemic provides an opportunity to rethink the approach to the growing threat from low-probability but high-consequence risks — including the ones we may be inadvertently causing ourselves.

Facebook pleases no one with Trump decision

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Facebook's decision to ban former President Trump for another two years is drawing ire from both sides of the aisle, showing that the tech giant can't please anyone until the former president is either permanently banned or allowed back on the platform.

Why it matters: These decisions will only become more polarizing as platforms reckon with free speech issues from world leaders around the world.

Jun 4, 2021 - World

In photos: World remembers Tiananmen Square Massacre

Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

Thirty-two years after the Chinese government cracked down on student protesters in Tiananmen Square, people around the world gathered to remember the bloody June 4 event and its victims.

Why it matters: Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong have long rallied around the Tiananmen anniversary, which over the years has become synonymous with the struggle against the Chinese Communist Party. This year, Hong Kong officials banned a scheduled vigil for the second year in a row.

Biden administration using surveillance app for asylum seekers

Asylum seekers from Colombia walk through the U.S.-Mexico border to turn themselves over to U.S. Border Patrol agents in Yuma, Arizona. Photo: Apu Gomes via Getty Images

U.S. border officials have quietly deployed a new surveillance app to collect and store information on asylum seekers before they enter the United States, the Los Angeles Times was the first to report.

Why it matters: The kind of technology used in the app, which relies on facial recognition, geolocation and cloud computing, remains controversial and has raised alarms about unchecked surveillance and data collection, experts told the newspaper.

Construction shocker: Sector sheds jobs

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Here’s a surprising detail from Friday's jobs report: America is seeing insatiable building demand, but the sector that most directly benefits is shedding workers.

Why it matters: A material crunch and supply chain mess are holding down job gains.

Food fears rising

A sales assistant arranges fruit in a supermarket in the Philippines. Photo: Veejay Villafranca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Global food prices aren't leaving any wiggle room for bad harvests or demand spikes.

The state of play: A UN index of food prices "has reached its highest since September 2011, climbing almost 5% last month," reports Bloomberg. Another tracker of "prices from grains to sugar and coffee is up 70% in the past year."

Jun 4, 2021 - Technology

Facebook sets Trump ban at two years in response to Oversight Board ruling

Photo Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Facebook on Friday said it will ban former President Trump from its platform for two years, and announced new policies for how it will handle speech from prominent politicians moving forward.

Why it matters: The decision will bar Trump from using the platform for the next two years as he prepares to launch a potential 2024 presidential campaign.

Jun 4, 2021 - Health

CDC head urges parents to get their teens vaccinated against COVID-19

Rochelle Walensky during a Senate subcommittee hearing in May 2021. Photo: Greg Nash/Pool/Getty Images

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, urged parents on Friday to get their kids 12 years and older vaccinated against COVID-19.

What she's saying: "I am deeply concerned by the numbers of hospitalized adolescents and saddened to see the number of adolescents who required treatment in intensive care units or mechanical ventilation," Walensky said in a statement.

Biden on jobs report: Rebooting economy is not like "flipping on a light switch"

President Biden said Friday he remains confident that his economic plans are working and that the U.S. is on the path to a full recovery, following the release of the May jobs report that came in slightly below expectations.

Driving the news: The U.S. economy added 559,000 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate fell to a pandemic-low 5.8%. Biden touted the report as "great news for our economy," while cautioning that "we're going to hit some bumps" along the path to a full recovery.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jun 4, 2021 - Economy & Business

Bill Ackman graduates from SPACs to SPARCs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Pershing Square Tontine, the SPAC formed last summer by Bill Ackman, confirmed that it's in talks to buy a 10% stake in Universal Music Group from Vivendi at a $40 billion enterprise value.

The big picture: At first glance, this isn't what Tontine was formed to do. Or what any SPAC is formed to do, since they're expected to buy/merge private companies. It also had expected to sign a deal in 2020, per this Axios Re:Cap interview with Ackman last July.

Jun 4, 2021 - World

Police ban annual Hong Kong vigil for Tiananmen Square massacre victims

Hong Kong police searching a man on June 4 at Victoria Park, where the annual Tiananmen candlelight vigil normally takes place. Photo: Chan Long Hei/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Hong Kong police on Friday arrested an organizer of the annual Tiananmen Square vigil and sealed off parts of the park where the event is usually held, according to Reuters.

Why it matters: Thousands of people typically gather in Victoria Park on June 4 to mourn those killed by Chinese troops during the bloody 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square.

U.S. unemployment rate falls to 5.8%, a new pandemic low

Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S. economy added 559,000 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate fell to 5.8% from 6.1%, the government said on Friday.

Why it matters: Vaxxed America isn't surging back to work as quickly as economists, who had predicted 670,000 new jobs, hoped it would. Still, the total number of jobs in the U.S. rose by a reasonably healthy amount in May — much faster than the anemic growth of 278,000 we saw in April.

Jun 4, 2021 - Politics & Policy

May jobs report to frame debate on Biden's spending plans

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats and Republicans are preparing to seize on today’s jobs numbers to argue for — or against — Biden’s proposal for $4 trillion in infrastructure and social safety net spending.

Why it matters: Like early in the Obama administration, the job report is serving as a monthly assessment of the president's economic policies.

EU, U.K. launch antitrust investigations into Facebook

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The European Union and United Kingdom opened dual antitrust investigations into Facebook on Friday to determine if the social media company distorts competition in the classified advertising market.

Why it matters: The new investigations are the latest salvo in European regulators' crackdown on Big Tech companies, in an attempt to even the playing field and save local businesses.

Trump's new Hillary

Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump plans to make Anthony Fauci a top target at upcoming rallies, using increased attention to the Wuhan lab-leak theory as a weapon against an official long viewed as more trustworthy.

Why it matters: Trump and conservative media have made Fauci an improbable face of the opposition, trying to give him the cartoon-villain status once accorded to former Sen. Harry Reid, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, or — in Trump’s case — Hillary Clinton.

FBI Director Wray compares ransomware threat to 9/11

FBI Director Christopher Wray speaking during a House committee hearing in April 2021. Photo: Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images

FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Wall Street Journal in an interview that the bureau is currently investigating around 100 different types of ransomware that have been used to targeted between a dozen and 100 organizations.

Driving the news: Wray said the malware attacks were similar to the challenges posed by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and he called on Russia's government to do more to crack down on cyber criminal groups based in the country.

Which states have banned trans youth in sports

Expand chart
Data: ACLUFreedom for All Americans; Cartogram: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Eight states this year have banned transgender kids from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity, per data from the ACLU and bipartisan LGBTQ advocacy group Freedom For All Americans.

Why it matters: So far, almost all of the record number of bills targeting trans youth that have actually passed are focused on sports, suggesting that more laws of this kind could be incoming.

Pandemic drove small businesses online — and they're staying

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

When the pandemic forced cities to shut down, millions of businesses moved their operations online — a shift that is having lasting impacts on hiring, real estate and the way we buy goods and services.

Why it matters: Small businesses are the engines of the economy. While many did not survive the last 15 months, new businesses have popped up and found ways to find customers in the new, all-online-all-the-time environment.

Exclusive data: Trump's traffic flop

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The blog from former President Trump — originally touted as his own social media 'platform' — generated engagement roughly on par with the top posts from mid-market local newspapers, according to exclusive data from NewsWhip.

Why it matters: Even with his considerable base of support, Trump was unable to defy the laws of social media physics by getting political followers to change their habits.

Jun 4, 2021 - Health

FDA faces critical test with Alzheimer's drug decision

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The FDA will soon decide the fate of Biogen's experimental Alzheimer's drug. But there is one glaring issue — there is no conclusive evidence the drug effectively treats the crippling neurological disease.

Why it matters: This will be one of the FDA's most important decisions in years. The outcome will show whether the federal agency sides with the overwhelming scientific consensus that the drug isn't proven to work, or with an industry and a patient population desperate for anything to be approved.