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Why it matters: The U.S. has responded to standoffs with North Korea, Russia, Iran and Venezuela in unorthodox and unpredictable ways. Alliances are rupturing, authoritarians are rising, and China is steadily becoming the most powerful rival America has ever faced.

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Updated 44 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 p.m. ET: 20,428,562 — Total deaths: 744,733— Total recoveries: 12,631,548Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 p.m. ET: 5,171,343 — Total deaths: 165,328 — Total recoveries: 1,714,960 — Total tests: 63,252,257Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi says Mnuchin called her, White House is "not budging" on stimulus position.
  4. Business: U.S. already feeling effects of ending unemployment benefits.
  5. Public health: America is flying blind on its coronavirus response.
  6. Education: New Jersey governor allows schools to reopenGallup: America's confidence in public school system jumps to highest level since 2004.
1 hour ago - World

Ambassador to U.K. Woody Johnson accused of inappropriate comments

Johnson (center) at Downing Street during President Trump's state visit to the U.K. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. Woody Johnson made "inappropriate or insensitive comments" in the workplace on topics "such as religion, sex, or color," according to a report from the State Department's Inspector General's Office.

Why it matters: Johnson, an heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune who owns the New York Jets football team, has been under scrutiny for his behavior as ambassador, including reportedly attempting to help steer the British Open golf tournament to one of President Trump's courses.

5 hours ago - World

U.S. threatens to veto UN peacekeeping in Lebanon over Hezbollah concerns

Peacekeepers with Lebanese troops in southern Lebanon. Photo: Jalaa Marey/AFP via Getty

The Trump administration is threatening to veto a resolution to extend the UN's long-standing peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon if its mandate isn't changed, Israeli and U.S. officials tell me.

Why it matters: The U.S. is the main funder of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which has an annual budget of $250 million. The veto threat is a tactical move, and part of a broader effort to put pressure on Iran and its proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah.

6 hours ago - Technology

Scoop: Trump's TikTok order threatens plans for 10,000 U.S. jobs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

An order from President Trump that would ban TikTok in the U.S. is putting in jeopardy TikTok's plan to hire 10,000 U.S. employees, according to a source familiar with the company's thinking.

Why it matters: When TikTok first rolled out the job pledge, it served as a carrot in the political conflict over the social video service, but it's now being held out as a stick.

Investors are betting the future is priced in euros

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

It's the euro's time now — at least that's how investors have been positioning recently.

What's happening: Speculators have raised their bets to the highest in nine years that the dollar will fall and increased bullish bets that the euro will rise to the highest level on record, Reuters reported citing data from the CFTC.

Updated 12 hours ago - World

Pandemic plunges U.K. into "largest recession on record"

The scene near the Royal Exchange and the Bank of England in the City of London. Photo: Tolga Akmen/AFP via Getty Images

The U.K. slumped into recession as its gross domestic product GDP shrank 20.4% compared with the first three months of the year, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) confirmed Wednesday.

Why it matters: Per an ONS statement, "It is clear that the U.K. is in the largest recession on record." The U.K. has fared worse than any other major European economy from coronavirus lockdowns, Bloomberg notes. And Fnance Minister Rishi Sunak warns the situation is likely to worsen.

13 hours ago - World

Lebanon reports coronavirus record: UN warns Beirut blast may drive cases higher

Protesters commemorate on Tuesday the victims of Beirut's Aug. 4 port explosion, which killed at least 158 people and injured some 6,000 others. Photo: Marwan Naamani/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

Lebanon reported on Tuesday seven deaths from COVID-19 and a record 309 new cases, taking the total number of infections to over 7,100.

Why it matters: World Organization official Tarik Jarasevic told a UN briefing in Geneva Tuesday that the displacement of some 300,000 people from the deadly explosion in Beirut's port could lead to a surge in cases. A UN report warns the emergency "has caused many COVID-19 precautionary measures to be relaxed, raising the prospects of even higher transmission rates and a large caseload in coming weeks," Reuters notes.

14 hours ago - World

EU threatens Belarus with sanctions amid third night of unrest

Belarus riot police detain protesters in Minsk on Tuesday. Photo: Sergei Gapon/AFP via Getty Images

The European Union warned Tuesday it could reimpose sanctions on Belarus as riot police clashed for a third night with demonstrators protesting this week's elections that the EU described as "neither free nor fair," per the Guardian.

Why it matters: The EU removed most sanctions against Belarus four years ago, after "Europe's last dictator" Alexander Lukashenko released political prisoners and permitted protests, AP notes. The EU said in a statement Tuesday it would be "conducting an in-depth review" into its relations with former Soviet country over his elections win claim and the deadly crackdown on protesters.

20 hours ago - Health

Fauci says he "seriously" doubts Russia's coronavirus vaccine is safe

NIAID director Anthony Fauci testifies during a July congressional hearing on Capitol Hill. Photo: Kevin DietschI/AFP via Getty Images

NIAID director Anthony Fauci cast doubt during a National Geographic discussion due to air this week on the effectiveness of Russia's registered coronavirus vaccine touted by President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.

Why it matters: "Having a vaccine ... and proving that a vaccine is safe and effective are two different things," Fauci told told ABC News' Deborah Roberts in the discussion, expected to air on Thursday. His comments add to the weight of skepticism from scientists around the world on the Russia vaccine. There is no published scientific to support support Putin's claims.

The American blog pushing Xinjiang denialism

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A website called The Grayzone has made a name for itself by denying China's campaign of cultural and demographic genocide in Xinjiang.

Why it matters: Chinese government officials and state media outlets are citing The Grayzone and its contributors with growing frequency as Beijing attempts to cast doubt on accusations of atrocities in its far Northwest region.

IG report: Saudi arms sales were legal but didn't weigh civilian casualties

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Photo: Gabriel Kuchta/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acted legally when he bypassed Congress to approve $8 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, but failed to "fully assess risks and implement mitigation measures to reduce civilian casualties" that resulted from the deal, according to a report by the State Department inspector general.

Why it matters: The 2019 sale drew bipartisan ire among lawmakers, who worried it could lead to a pattern of the administration using "emergency declarations" to circumvent Congress to approve weapons deals. The report comes two months after former Inspector General Steve Linick testified that he was pressured by a top Pompeo aide to drop the investigation.

Aug 11, 2020 - Technology

Nationalism and authoritarianism threaten the internet's universality

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Governments around the world, prompted by nationalism, authoritarianism and other forces, are threatening the notion of a single, universal computer network — long the defining characteristic of the internet.

The big picture: Most countries want the internet and the economic and cultural benefits that come with it. Increasingly, though, they want to add their own rules — the internet with an asterisk, if you will. The question is just how many local rules you can make before the network's universality disappears.

Aug 11, 2020 - Sports

Trump on the NBA: "The way they bowed to China is a disgrace"

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump criticized the NBA's ties to China during a Fox Sports Radio interview on Tuesday, saying, "The way they catered to China, the way they bowed to China, is a disgrace."

Why it matters: China is one of the biggest international markets for the NBA, and its attempts to balance those business interests alongside criticism of the Chinese Communist Party's human rights abuses has been a flashpoint for the league in recent months.

Why you should be skeptical of Russia's coronavirus vaccine claims

Photo: Alexey Druzhini/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday that his country has registered a coronavirus vaccine and said that one of his daughters has already been inoculated, AP reports.

Why it matters: Scientists around the world are skeptical about Russia's claims. There is no published scientific data to back up Putin's claims that Russia has a viable vaccine — or that it produces any sort of immunity without significant side effects.

Updated Aug 11, 2020 - Health

New Zealand reports first local coronavirus cases for 102 days

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after a press conference at Parliament on July 22 in Wellington, New Zealand. Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Auckland is locking down and the rest of New Zealand faces lesser restrictions for 72 hours after a four members of the same family tested positive for COVID-19, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: It's the first cases not in managed isolation for 102 days, Ardern said at a news briefing.

The end of Hong Kong's political freedom is here

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The end of Hong Kong's relatively free political system is no longer looming. It's here.

Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party is already wielding the new national security law it forced upon Hong Kong just over a month ago — and through the extraterritoriality enshrined in the new law, Beijing has signaled that its push against pro-democracy activism is going global.

Aug 11, 2020 - World

Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya "safe" in Lithuania

Belarusian opposition presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya during a rally in Viciebsk, Belarus. Photo: Natalia Fedosenko/TASS via Getty Images

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, Belarus' top opposition leader, is "safe" in Lithuania, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius tweeted Tuesday morning.

Why it matters: She hadn't been seen or heard from since filing a complaint at the Central Election Commission Monday amid a police crackdown on Belarusians protesting Sunday's polls that strongman President Aleksander Lukashenko claimed claimed to have won in a landslide, but which was widely viewed to be rigged, Axios Dave Lawler notes. Her team would only say of Tikhanovskaya Monday that she had "made contact" and was "fine."

Go deeper: U.S. officials condemn Belarus election and "senseless" protest crackdown

Aug 11, 2020 - World

Australia's Northern Territory extends coronavirus border restrictions to 2022

Monsoons Bar in Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory, where borders have been open to residents not in coronavirus hot spots since July 17. Those from states under restrictions must undergo a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine at their own cost. Photo: Shane Eecen/Getty Images

Chief Minister Michael Gunner told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Tuesday the Northern Territory would keep border restrictions in place for Aussie coronavirus hot spots for at least 18 months, stressing it's important to protect the NT's Aboriginal population.

Driving the news: Victoria declared a disaster last week. The state confirmed Tuesday another 331 infections, taking the total number of active cases to 7880, and 19 more deaths — equaling the national daily record it set the previous day. New South Wales (NSW) reported 22 new cases. The NT has three active cases. "We have got an indefinite ban on Victoria," Gunner said. He couldn't give a date on when the NT would ease restrictions on NSW capital Sydney as case numbers were "bubbling away."

Flashback: Australia and New Zealand reopen after coronavirus cases plummet

Updated Aug 11, 2020 - World

U.S. officials condemn Belarus election and "senseless" protest crackdown

Belarus riot police detain a protester after polls closed in the presidential election in Minsk on Sunday, the first of two nights of unrest across the country. Photo: Siarhei Leskiec/AFP via Getty Images

Trump administration members, Democratic and Republican lawmakers and former Vice President Joe Biden expressed concern Monday over Belarus' weekend elections and subsequent brutal crackdown on protesters in the country.

Why it matters: President Aleksander Lukashenko, known as "Europe's last dictator," claimed to have won in a landslide against the pro-democracy opposition in a Sunday election widely viewed as rigged.

Updated Aug 11, 2020 - World

Protests in Belarus turn deadly following sham election

Belarus law enforcement officers guard a street during a protest on Monday night. Police in Minsk have fired rubber bullets for a second night against protesters. Photo: Natalia Fedosenko/TASS via Getty Image

Protesters and security forces have been clashing across Belarus overnight in a second night of protests that has left at least one person dead, hundreds injured and thousands arrested.

Why it matters: Sunday’s rigged presidential elections have yielded political uncertainty unlike any seen in Aleksander Lukashenko’s 26-year tenure. After claiming an implausible 80% of the vote, Lukashenko is using every tool in the authoritarian arsenal to maintain his grip on power.

Updated Aug 11, 2020 - World

Trump administration: Jimmy Lai's arrest marks Beijing's "latest violation" on Hong Kong

Media tycoon Jimmy Lai at the Next Digital offices in Hong Kong in June. Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said in a statement Monday night the Trump administration is "deeply troubled" by the arrest of Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai on suspicion of "collusion with foreign powers."

Why it matters: The arrest Monday of the most prominent person under the new national security law that gives Beijing more powers over the former British colony comes amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and China.

Aug 11, 2020 - World

The world's longest-serving leaders

Data: Axios Research; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko's grip on power is being tested like never before in his 26-year tenure, with clashes across the country following Sunday's sham election.

The big picture: Lukashenko has weathered more storms than most. Just nine leaders who were in power when he was elected in 1994 — during Bill Clinton's first term — are still in office.

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