First Thing: Biden finally increases refugee admissions cap

Good morning.

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Photograph: Wael Hamzeh/EPA

Joe Biden has raised the cap placed on the number of refugees admitted to the US this year, increasing the current figure fourfold to 62,500 from Trump’s record-low cap of 15,000. He also ended Trump’s restrictions on resettlements from Somalia, Syria and Yemen, and added more slots for refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Central America.

  • The president had come under fire for his delay and apparent hesitancy in replacing the cap; he announced the move to Congress back in February and had failed to enact it since, and released an emergency determination last month which said Trump’s cap “remains justified by humanitarian concerns and is otherwise in the national interest”. However, after severe blowback, the White House re-committed to increasing the cap.

  • Refugee resettlement organisations welcomed the move, with one saying it “sends a message to the world that the US is back and prepared to welcome refugees again.”.

© Photograph: Wael Hamzeh/EPA
A young Syrian refugee sitting inside a tent at a refugee camp in Akkar, Lebanon. Biden ended Trump’s restrictions on resettlements from Syria, along with Somalia and Yemen.

A metro collapse in Mexico City has left at least 2o dead

At least 20 people have died after metro overpass in Mexico City collapsed last night, leaving a train partly hanging. Another 70 were injured, authorities said. Videos and photographs circulated in the Mexican media and online show train cars dangling from the overpass as emergency services work to recover survivors. At least one car was trapped under the rubble.

According to the city’s mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, the collapse was caused by a support beam giving way. Sheinbaum said there were still people trapped inside the train but “we don’t know if they are alive”. The incident happened around 10.30pm local time on the metro’s Line 12, also known as the Gold Line.

FBI agent fired at a man outside the CIA headquarters

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Dolley Madison Boulevard was blocked off by law enforcement in response to a security-related situation outside of the secure perimeter near the main gate of CIA headquarters in McLean, Virginia, 3 May 2021. Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters

An armed man was shot by an FBI agent outside CIA headquarters on Monday, authorities said. The shooter, who has not been identified, got out of his car with a weapon and was shot and wounded by at least one federal agent. He is now in hospital, but his condition is not known. Some news outlets reported that the shooting came after an “hours-long standoff”.

  • The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell over sex trafficking has been delayed until autumn at her request. Maxwell is facing charges that she procured teenage girls for disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein to abuse. The judge said the delay was because federal prosecutors had added new charges, and coronavirus regulations made trial preparation harder.

Parts of California are under new fire warnings

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Drought has decreased the water levels in Folsom Lake in Folsom, California, US, as the US faces its driest spring in seven years. Photograph: Getty Images

Parts of northern California have been given a “red flag” fire warning, the first time the National Weather Service has triggered the alert for the region in the month of May since 2014. It comes amid dry, hot weather and strong winds, with temperatures in the region and the Bay Area set to peak 15F above average on Monday and Tuesday and 20-35mph wind gusts predicted.

The conditions have already triggered smaller fires in the region, while Cal Fire have been working to contain a 5,100-acre wildfire near San Diego in the south of the state.

  • Wildfires have been intensifying in California in recent years, as the climate crisis increases droughts leaving dry soil and vegetation which have helped kindle more intense blazes. Large parts of the state marked their driest wet season for more than 40 years this year.

  • State leaders announced a $536m budget to tackle the fires last month, with the money directed to hiring more firefighters, improving forest management, thining-out vegetation which could stoke fires, and making homes more fire-resistant.

In other news…

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People watch a Long March 5B rocket, carrying China’s Tianhe space station core module, lift off from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in southern China’s Hainan province. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

  • Part of a huge Chinese rocket is falling back to earth uncontrolled and could make a re-entry at an unknown landing point. The 30m high core of the rocket, which was launched into low orbit around Earth In late April, could make one of the largest ever uncontrolled re-entries.“It’s potentially not good,” said one Harvard astrophysicist.

  • Billie Eilish and Amanda Gorman are among those chairing the Met Gala this year, with the organisers selecting a range of young, diverse celebrities in what appears to be an attempt to sell the gala to a new generation.

  • Bill and Melinda Gates have announced their divorce after 27 years of marriage, saying they could no longer “grow together as a couple”. The Microsoft co-founder and his wife have a combined fortune of $124bn, making them among the top five richest couples in the world. The pair said they would continue to work together at their prominent philanthropic foundation.

Stat of the day: the US has more excess deaths compared to Europe each year than it lost to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020

The disparity between American and European death rates is stark; the US has roughly 401,000 excess deaths on Europe, accounting for around 12% of all US deaths before the pandemic. This percentage increases for those under 85, where one in four Americans die “simply because they do not live in Europe”, write sociologists Samuel Preston and Yana Vierboom.


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Last year, an estimated 377,000 lives were lost to coronavirus, meaning “the mortality penalty that the US pays every year is equivalent to the number of American pandemic deaths in 2020”.

Don’t miss this: the US’s problem with dental care

Millions of Americans cannot afford dental bills, including two-thirds of Medicare beneficiaries (around 37m people). Roughly 74m Americans have no dental insurance at all, and one survey suggested 6 million lost their dental insurance during the pandemic. Dental problems are suspected to be linked to a number of other serious health problems, but the cost is leaving millions without care.

Last Thing: how one man travelled through a militarised waterway to leave China for Taiwan – in a dinghy he bought online

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Taiwan coast guard patrol boats along the coast of Pratas Islands 27 January. Photograph: Reuters Photographer/Reuters

A Chinese man claims to have travelled undetected in a rubber dinghy he bought online through a heavily patrolled waterway, in an attempt to find “freedom and equality” in Taiwan. The 180km journey took a whopping 10 hours and saw the man navigate the highly militarised Taiwan Strait, which is patrolled by both Taiwanese and Chinese authorities. In the end, he was arrested after police in Taiwan received reports of a man behaving suspiciously by the docks.

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