Thursday's world stories

May 6, 2021 - World

Blockades and ballots: A wild day in the post-Brexit U.K.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

British naval vessels dispatched to break a French blockade, Scottish nationalists attempting to break away from the U.K., and working class voters in the northeast breaking for the Conservatives after voting Labour for six decades.

Why it matters: That was just one day in the topsy turvy reality of post-Brexit Britain.

May 6, 2021 - World

Mixed response in Europe to Biden's vaccine patents bombshell

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Biden administration surprised the world last night by coming out in favor of waiving patents for coronavirus vaccines — but Europe is divided on the issue.

What they're saying: European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen said Brussels would be willing to discuss it; French President Emmanuel Macron said he backed the U.S. position, but a German government spokesman said the proposal would cause "severe complications" for vaccine production.

May 6, 2021 - World

True COVID-19 death toll is double the official numbers, study finds

Expand chart
Data: IHME; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

There have been twice as many deaths from COVID-19 around the world as have been reported, according to the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), which analyzed excess mortality and other factors.

The big picture: The U.S. has undercounted by over 300,000 deaths, while the death tolls in India and Mexico — second and third on the list, respectively — are nearly three times the official numbers, according to the analysis.

Navy is "looking into" SEAL acquitted of murder in 2019

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at a press conference on Thursday that the Navy is "looking into" the case of a SEAL acquitted of murder in 2019, reports the Washington Post.

Driving the news: On an episode of “The Line” podcast that aired Tuesday, retired Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, who was accused of war crimes, told the host that an Islamic State fighter who had been imprisoned in Iraq in 2017 died from "medical treatments" he received.

May 6, 2021 - Health

Countries testing J&J vaccine doses after contamination at Baltimore plant

The Emergent BioSolutions plant in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

The European Union, Canada and South Africa are withholding Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccines produced at an Emergent BioSolutions plant in Baltimore, Maryland, for safety testing after quality-control problems, according to the New York Times.

Driving the news: Johnson & Johnson said in March that workers at the Emergent facility, which had been producing Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines, had ruined about 15 million doses of its vaccine by contaminating a batch with ingredients used in the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Series of murders brings attention to rise of femicide in Latin America

Two murders in Puerto Rico have again brought attention to the rise in violence against women on the island.

Why it matters: Around 20 women and girls have been killed in suspected femicides so far this year, per a Puerto Rican advocacy group.

What to watch in AMLO's meeting with Harris

Three Mexico national guardsmen stand in front of the metro overpass that collapsed onto a busy highway. Photo: Julián Lopez/ Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Joint efforts to stem the increased number of migrants heading to the U.S. will likely be at the top of discussions when Vice President Kamala Harris and Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador hold their virtual meeting on Friday.

The big picture: The U.S. government has consistently asked its southern neighbor to prevent immigrants from reaching the border, mostly through threats like former President Trump’s talk of tariffs.

U.S. and Iran remain far apart as nuclear talks reach critical stage

Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif. Photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP via Getty

There are still big gaps between the U.S. and Iranian positions on what a mutual return to the 2015 nuclear deal looks like, a senior State Department official told reporters on Thursday ahead of the next round of talks in Vienna.

Why it matters: The talks are at a critical stage as key deadlines approach, after which a deal could be much harder to reach. The official said an agreement could be reached within a few weeks, but that the Iranian position will have to change significantly to make that happen.

May 6, 2021 - World

Germany opposes Biden's support for waiving vaccine patents

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking in Berlin in November 2020. Photo: Maja Hitij/Getty Images

The Biden administration's support for a proposal to waive certain patent protections for coronavirus vaccines would create “severe complications” for vaccine production, a German government spokesperson said Thursday, according to Bloomberg.

Why it matters: The patent waiver proposal, which proponents say will help increase vaccine production and deliver doses to the developing world, is working its way through the World Trade Organization and all 164 member countries will have to consent to the decision, according to Reuters.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
May 6, 2021 - Energy & Environment

China's emissions surpass all developed nations combined

Reproduced from Rhodium Group; Note: OECD tally includes all European Union member states; Chart: Axios Visuals

The distribution of global greenhouse gas emissions has reached an inflection point: China's emissions exceeded developed nations combined in 2019, a new Rhodium Group analysis concludes.

Why it matters: "The shifting dynamics of global emissions — with China surpassing the developed world for the first time — means that meeting the Paris goals will require significant and rapid action from all countries," Kate Larsen, a director at Rhodium, tells Axios.

May 6, 2021 - World

India sets new COVID world record as oxygen demand jumps seven-fold

COVID-19 patients being treated with free oxygen at a makeshift clinic in Indirapuram, Uttar Pradesh, India. Photo: Rebecca Conway/Getty Images

India has seen demand for oxygen jump "seven-fold" as the country set a new world record for daily COVID-19 cases on Thursday, per AP.

By the numbers: India's health ministry reported 412,262 new infections, taking the official tally past 21 million, and 3,980 deaths from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours. The official death toll now stands at 230,168. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher.

May 6, 2021 - World

Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong gets extra jail time for Tiananmen vigil

Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong exits a Correctional Service Department van in Hong Kong in March. Photo: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong was sentenced Thursday to 10 months in prison for taking part in an unauthorized vigil marking the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, per Reuters.

The big picture: Wong is already serving a 13.5-month prison term for organizing an unauthorized assembly during 2019 pro-democracy protests, a sentence made possible by a national security law imposed by China's government in 2020. The new sentence means additional jail time for Wong.

Argentina launches "Green Mondays" drive in bid to cut emissions

Beef cattle in Zarate, Argentina. Photor: Erica Canepa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Argentina's government has this week launched a "Green Mondays" campaign that calls on citizens to replace meals containing meat with plant-based ones on Mondays in an effort to tackle climate change.

Why it matters: Cattle ranches contribute to 22% of all emissions in Argentina, making them the "biggest contributor" in the country, per Bloomberg. The campaign is part of a growing worldwide environmental movement away from meat.

Go deeper... New culture war: the meat you eat

May 6, 2021 - World

U.K. sends patrol ships to British island amid fishing dispute with France

The HMS Tamar, one of the two ships deployed to Jersey. Photo: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images

The United Kingdom's government announced Wednesday it has deployed two Royal Navy patrol vessels to the island of Jersey "as a precautionary measure," as tensions over fishing rights escalate with France.

Why it matters: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement the government took the action to protect Jersey against potential threats of "a blockade" of French fishing boats at the island, which is off the coast of northwest France.

May 6, 2021 - World

Pentagon tracking path of falling Chinese rocket

A Long March 5B rocket, carrying China's Tianhe space station core module, lifts off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in southern China's Hainan province last Thursday. Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images

The Pentagon said Wednesday it's tracking the uncontrolled descent of the Long March-5B Y2 rocket that carried a Chinese Space Station module to orbit last week.

Details: Defense Department spokesperson John Kirby told reporters the rocket's debris was expected to return to Earth "somewhere around" May 8 and that the U.S. Space Command has said "almost the entire body of the rocket" remains intact. "It's too soon to know exactly where it's going to come down," he added.

Ukraine foreign minister: Trump years were a "difficult time"

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. Photo: Cristian Cristel/Xinhua via Getty Images

The Trump presidency was a "difficult time" for Ukraine, during which the country tried to maintain "bipartisan support" from Republicans and Democrats, Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday.

The state of play: Ukraine found itself uncomfortably involved in U.S. domestic politics on account of Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani's dealings in the country.