Bolsonaro in Brazil; Kim Jong-un health speculation; COVID-19 in Africa

What is going on in Brazil? Is it at a tipping point?

I'm not sure it's tipping point for Brazil, but it's a tipping point for Bolsonaro. When he came in, it was after years of political scandal, Lava Jato. You had impeachments, ministers getting thrown out of office. Former President Lula in jail. Dilma Rousseff impeached. Finally, somebody clean who has the former federal justice who helped put away a lot of these ministers as the new minister of justice. Now, a president that mishandled coronavirus, attacked the governors as fake news, you can't have shut downs, and cases in Brazil are spiraling much higher per capita than in other major Latin American economies; now he's gotten rid of his minister of justice. He's resigned, said Bolsonaro is interfering with investigations, getting too close to his family. That is the opposite of what you want in the midst of the worst economic contraction, maybe in Brazil's democratic history. His approval ratings are dropping, down in the low 30s. He might end up getting impeached. He'd have to lose more support. But, the idea that he governs effectively in Congress with a reformist coalition is off the table. He is in a lot of trouble. This is the beginning of what I suspect will eventually be the end of Bolsonaro. It's much harder to imagine him getting another term. Even lasting the full term.


Why is speculation surrounding Kim Jong-un difficult to confirm or debunk?

It's the world's most closed totalitarian dictatorship. We haven't heard from Kim or anyone representing Kim saying how Kim is doing for a couple of weeks. Yesterday, President Trump said we're going to hear from him soon, which is the closest we've had to intelligence, believe it or not. It sounds like Trump has heard through US intelligence that Kim Jong-un is still alive. Probably vis the Chinese. Not from the North Koreans. We still haven't heard from him and that does imply, especially given rumors and a big national holiday just a few days ago, that he's not well, not able to appear publicly for mass consumption. Does that mean he's a vegetable? No, but it does mean he's hurting, there's a real problem. If he does die, if there needs to be a transition, it's dangerous. The potential that the Chinese might have to step in is real. They would if it looked like instability could shake the regime or lead to a dispute over control of nuclear weapons and conventional forces in North Korea. Until we find out Kim Jong-un is okay, there's a lot of concern.

Finally, has Africa been spared by coronavirus?

Numbers of cases in Africa are very low. The main reason is because they're not testing. Helps that there isn't as much travel to/from Africa, which is part of why it's economically underdeveloped, but also limits cases into African countries. Chinese from Wuhan went to Africa, working there. They were in China during the New Year's celebrations and left. That's different from spread from travel that you get in the US or Europe. Also, many cases are asymptomatic. We're finding that in New York, in Massachusetts, in Washington State, in California. These are very young populations in Africa. The most populous country in Africa, Nigeria, 18 years, I think, is the average age. The vast majority of people that get this disease won't have symptoms, never mind getting sick. If you're an African leader and don't have ventilators, adequate health care personnel, test kits - and your economy's in bad shape, you keep economies open. That doesn't mean that Africa is spared because we have economic slowdown globally, and people aren't going to be traveling there, you won't get tourism, supply chains will get disrupted, but you probably don't get the kind of closures of African economies as in other countries, even emerging market economies. Even where they do, so much of the economy is informal, not controlled by the government, so it doesn't shut down. You'll see a lot of people getting sick, people dying. Whether or not that's known publicly, or it's considered dying from some other comorbidity, is an open question. But some of the poorest countries in the world probably won't have the same impact from coronavirus. If there are silver linings, we'll take them.

Demography is destiny. That ominous-sounding pronouncement, credited to French philosopher Auguste Comte, is today taken to mean that a nation's fate depends on the youthfulness of its population. For a poor country to become rich, it needs lots of young people ready to work, to support those too old or too young to work, and to pay taxes. This is called the "demographic dividend."

That's an important part of China's success story. Over the past 40 years, more than one billion people have emerged from poverty in China. Waves of young people surged from the countryside into cities to work in factories. The state invested in education, and wages helped young workers, and then their children, go to school. The state also began a drive to develop the technologies of the future, by any means necessary. In China, once dirt-poor, hundreds of millions have created a middle class.

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Get insights on the latest news about emerging trends in cyberspace from Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford University's Cyber Policy Center and former European Parliamentarian:

This week we talk about one of my favorite topics, regulation. Laws are often framed as a barrier to innovation and not always recognized as a key enabler of freedoms and the protection of rights. But what's more is that regulation is a process, and one that can have tons of different outcomes. So, being in favor or against regulation doesn't mean anything. Except that those who oppose any changes are apparently benefiting from the status quo.

Is the world at a tipping point when it comes to regulating big tech?

And I would say absolutely. The outsized power of big tech is recognized more broadly because the harms are so blatantly clear. Harms to democracy, public health, but also to fairness in the economy are all related to the outsized power of unaccountable and under-regulated big tech. Now, what's significant is that this debate has finally hit home in the United States after it was already recognized as a problem in many other parts of the world.

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Do we spend too much time thinking about our own carbon footprints and not enough time thinking about bigger factors? Climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert acknowledges it's necessary for individuals to make changes in the way they live, but that isn't the number one priority.

"What would you do to try to move this battleship in a new direction? It requires public policy levers. And it requires … some pretty serious legislation." Ian Bremmer spoke with Kolbert, an award-winning journalist and author and staff writer at The New Yorker, on a new episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Watch the episode: Can We Fix the Planet the Same Way We Broke It?

Not everyone thinks that President Biden's decision to pull all US troops out of Afghanistan by 9/11/21 is a good idea. Conservative Congressman Mike Waltz (R-FL), a combat-decorated Green Beret with multiple tours in Afghanistan, thinks that the US still needs to maintain a small presence in the country to avoid incurring "massive risks." In a spirited discussion with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, Waltz, who served as counterterrorism advisor in the George W. Bush administration, argues, "The next 9/11, the next Pulse Night Club, which is right on the edge of my congressional district, the next San Bernardino, that's now on Biden's watch. He owns it with this decision." Their conversation is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which airs on US public television starting Friday, April 23. Check local listings.

Vaccines are the best hope to end the COVID-19 pandemic. But rich countries are hogging most of the doses, with more than 83 percent of shots administered to date having gone to residents in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Most poor countries will have to wait years to achieve widespread vaccination, according to one study.

To address this inequity some stakeholders are pushing hard for waivers to intellectual-property (IP) rights through World Trade Organization trade rules so that manufacturers in poorer countries can make their own vaccines locally. India and South Africa have been leading the charge, which would essentially mean that deep-pocketed pharma companies like New York-based Pfizer, for instance, would have to hand over the keys to the kingdom, allowing local companies in New Delhi and Johannesberg to make generic versions of their vaccines.

Unsurprisingly, the debate has gotten fiery, with passionate arguments emerging both for and against.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What are the Russians up to against Ukraine?

We simply don't know, except the fact that they're concentrating a huge amount of military forces. And you don't do that for nothing or for fun. They are there for a purpose, to have pressure or to undertake limited to larger operations. We simply don't know. And when Putin delivered his State of the Union speech the other day, he didn't say a thing about this. They are now talking about withdrawing the forces. But let's wait and see. They have talked about withdrawing forces from Syria for a long time, but we haven't seen that as of yet.

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Australia rips up Belt & Road deal: Australia cancelled two 2018 deals signed between Victoria, Australia's wealthiest state, and the Chinese government, that committed the two sides to working together on initiatives under China's Belt and Road infrastructure development program. Foreign Minister Marise Payne said that the agreements "were adverse to our foreign relations." Similar deals between Victoria and institutions in Iran and Syria were also abandoned by the Australian government this week, under a 2020 law that allows Canberra to nullify international agreements struck at local and state level. (Australian universities say the "foreign veto bill" amounts to "significant overreach.") Meanwhile, Beijing hit back, calling the move "unreasonable and provocative," and accusing Canberra of further stoking divisions after a series of escalatory moves by both sides that have seen China-Australia relations deteriorate to their worst point in decades. Chinese investment in Australia dropped by 62 percent last year, a massive blow for Australia's export-reliant economy.

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