Hard Numbers: Spain’s migrant crisis, Iraq-Saudi border reopens, North Dakota’s COVID death rate, Argentina eyes wealth tax

Demonstration in favor of the rights of migrants in the Canary Islands, Spain. Reuters

16,700: Migrant arrivals to Spain's Canary Islands, which lie off the West African coast, have topped 16,700 so far this year, more than ten times the amount reported the same time a year ago. The surge of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa has overwhelmed Spanish authorities, who have been criticized for housing thousands of migrants in empty hotels and evicting hundreds from a makeshift camp near the port city of Arguineguín.


30: The Arar border crossing between Iraq and Saudi Arabia reopened on Wednesday for the first time in over 30 years as part of warming ties between Baghdad and Riyadh. Arar was closed in 1990, when the two countries broke diplomatic relations after Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and threatened to push onwards into the Saudi kingdom.

18.2: The US state of North Dakota now has the highest COVID-19 mortality rate in the world: 18.2 deaths per one million people. After much resistance, the governor recently issued a statewide mask mandate to contain rising cases (neighboring South Dakota — at third place in global deaths per one million people — still refuses to order its people to wear masks).

2: Argentina's lower house of parliament has approved a government proposal to impose a 2 percent tax on individuals with over $2.5 million in assets. The one-time levy — which would help fund coronavirus relief programs — is widely supported by President Alberto Fernández's working-class voter base but must be ratified by the Senate, where opposition lawmakers who reject the wealth tax argue that Argentina is still in a recession and taxes are high enough already.

"I knew that history was my life's calling."

On Bank of America's That Made All the Difference podcast, Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch shares his journey and present-day work creating exhibits that inspire visitors to help our country live up to its ideals.

A few weeks ago, a Signal reader emailed me to ask why so much of our coverage of the world is so damn dark. Aren't there any good news stories out there?

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There's a lot of doom and gloom in the world these days, and much cause for pessimism. Still, the advent of new technologies and scientific advancements has lifted billions out of poverty and increased quality of life for many over the last half century. Since 1990, global average life expectancy has increased by eight years to 73, while GDP per capita has also grown exponentially, doubling over the past decade alone. We take a look at how life expectancy and GDP per capita have evolved globally from 1960-2019.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

Why can't President Biden order a vaccine mandate for all Americans?

Well, the reason is it's out of his powers. The one of the fundamental challenges in the pandemic is that the federal government has actually been fairly limited in the steps they can take to stop the spread of the virus. So, that's why you've seen President Biden order masks on transit, mass transit, airplanes, and the like. But he can't order masks in workplaces because that's not within his power. That power lies within state governments. State governments and other entities, like employers, can require vaccinations before you come into their buildings, or you come back to school, or you go to work in your office. But the federal government can't do that. What Biden is doing is, allegedly, supposedly going to announce a mandate for federal workers to get vaccinated.

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American gymnast Sunisa "Suni" Lee, 18, stunned spectators around the world with her breathtaking performance in Tokyo Thursday that earned her the gold.

Here are some interesting facts about Suni Lee, the gymnast queen:

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"Super Mario" takes his chances: Less than five months after becoming Italy's consensus prime minister, Mario Draghi's coalition government is on shaky ground over Draghi's proposed judicial reforms. "Super Mario" — as he's known for saving the Eurozone as European Central Bank chief during the financial crisis — wants to dramatically speed up Italy's famously slow courts. But his push to reduce judicial backlogs is opposed both by the populist 5-Star Movement, the coalition government's biggest party, and by prosecutors because many cases could be scrapped before reaching a verdict. Draghi, upset that this resistance is stalling his other initiatives to cut Italian red tape, has decided to roll the dice anyway: he'll put his plan to overhaul the courts to a no-confidence vote in parliament. If Draghi wins, he gets the reforms passed without debate; if he loses, the PM technically has to resign, but he'll keep his job because he has enough votes even if the 5-Star Movement bows out of the coalition.

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700: Roughly 700 people arrested for joining the unprecedented July 11 anti-government protests in Cuba are still being held by the regime. They may now face mass show trials as Havana continues to crack down on dissent following the biggest challenge to its power in decades.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What is going on in Bosnia with Bosnian Serbs boycotting all major institutions?

Well, it's a reaction against a decision that was taken by the outgoing high representative during his very last days, after 12 years of having done very little in this respect, to have a law banning any denial of Srebrenica and other genocides. But this issue goes to very many other aspects of the Bosnian situation. So, it has created a political crisis that will be somewhat difficult to resolve.

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