Brazil, Biden, & the Pandemic Politics

Announced that the epicenter of coronavirus is now South America. Interesting that they said South America, not Latin America. So, Mexico, where the cases are increasing and not close to peak yet, and also badly mishandling this, not a part of South America. I'm kind of wondering if there were some behind the scenes politics from the WHO.


When you look at the cases in Brazil right now, second highest number of cases in the world, a daily death toll that is now more than the United States. A horrible governance in their lack of effective response, very disunited. Lost two ministers of health in the middle of a pandemic. That's like leaving the World Health Organization in the middle of a pandemic. Who does stuff like this? Well, President Bolsonaro in Brazil does. They're the epicenter. Remember, it was China. Then it moved to Italy, then the United States. Now it's Brazil. Don't have anywhere near the economic capacity to effectively respond with relief. Brazil's fiscal response has been one of the strongest in any developing economy in the world. There has been coordination with Congress, despite the fact that the relations are deeply dysfunctional. Kind of like Pelosi-Mnuchin, working together on the fiscal response. Powell, fed chief, has been very effective in the United States, despite the fact that the red and blue divide in the US is worse than any time in our lifetimes, at a time of really horrible crisis, massive infighting, and also now a travel ban from the United States. Not on US citizens or permanent residents flying from Brazil, but everybody else. It's just one more thing to hit the Brazilian economy and currency. Not to mention all the corruption scandals that are now hitting, not just Bolsonaro and his family, but also governors. And Lavo Jato, it was all the former governors, the impeachment of the former president. They finally got past it. And now they're back in the midst of corruption scandals. Good news, strongly independent judiciary. Bad news, yet another massive political and economic distraction.

Here in the United States, the big flap was Biden finally made some news by saying that you weren't really black if you weren't voting for Biden. This interview with a well-known journalist, Charlamagne the K. It was a pretty friendly interview. Biden was obviously joking around. He's not all that funny. He's almost 80. No one was being charitable in their response that doesn't like Biden.

Biden's still not making anywhere close to the headlines that Trump is. This election is overwhelmingly about Trump. There's not a lot of enthusiasm about Biden. But after four years of Trump, there is a lot of enthusiasm against Trump. I think the turnout issue that's relevant for Biden is how many Dems are worried about social distancing and being able to vote compared to Republicans. So far, that is playing in favor of Trump.

It was obvious that Biden didn't really mean you're not a black person if you don't vote for Trump. I don't think there's a lot of concern that Biden is going to lose the black vote to Trump. 93%, 94%, 95%, it's going to be higher than what Hillary got. I remember when Trump was talking to blacks, and said, "what do you have to lose? Might as well vote for me." Four years later, I think a lot of black people have an answer to that. They're voting with their feet.

Biden within a few hours apologized. He was being glib. Trump never would have apologized. In the same way that Biden felt like he had to address Tara Reade, Trump never would have felt like he needed to address the women that accused him of sexual assault. The rules sit very differently because Trump is popular, he refuses to accept responsibility for anything and his support base loves that. The Democratic side got rid of Senator Al Franken, who was a comic, for an inappropriate joke, laying his hands on this woman's torso, upper body, when she had a metal vest on and sleeping. Can you imagine Trump or anyone in the White House resigning for something like that? Inconceivable. Biden is not going to stop trying to win being more empathetic and more human than Trump is. The media also plays by these rules to a significant degree. Things are changing in the way we address all of this and talk about it politically in the United States.

During the past year, 58% of all cyberattacks observed by Microsoft from nation-states have come from Russia. And attacks from Russian nation-state actors are increasingly effective, jumping from a 21% successful compromise rate last year to a 32% rate this year. Russian nation-state actors are increasingly targeting government agencies for intelligence gathering, which jumped from 3% of their targets a year ago to 53% – largely agencies involved in foreign policy, national security or defense. The top three countries targeted by Russian nation-state actors were the United States, Ukraine and the UK. These are just a few of the insights in the second annual Microsoft Digital Defense Report. Read additional highlights from the Microsoft on the Issues blog and find the full report here.

If you had to guess which current world leader has made the most trips to Africa, who would you say? China's Xi Jinping? Nope, hardly — he's been there just four times. France's Emmanuel Macron? Pas de tout.

The answer may surprise you: it's Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who's been to the continent more times than the leader(s) of any other non-African state. Just this week he notched his 28th visit, with stops in Angola, Nigeria, and Togo. Sure, being in power for two decades creates a lot of opportunities for exotic travel, but even Putin isn't close: he's been to Africa just five times, all to visit South Africa or Egypt.

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Former Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi was killed by rebels on 20 October, 2011, after a NATO intervention designed to protect civilians helped strengthen an uprising against his regime. Since then, the country has been mired in chaos as different factions have battled for control, resulting in extensive destruction and human causalities. Libya has been nominally governed since 2014 by warring administrations backed by foreign powers in the west and east of the country. Last year, UN mediation efforts finally began to gain traction with an agreement on a cease-fire and a roadmap for elections to be held later this year. We talked with Eurasia Group expert Ahmed Morsy to find out how things are going.

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China's GDP grew a lower-than-expected 4.9 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2021, a whopping three percentage points less than in the previous period. It's a big deal for the world's second-largest economy, the only major one that expanded throughout the pandemic — and now at risk of missing its growth target of 6 percent for the entire year.

Normally, such a drastic slowdown would have put the ruling Communist Party in a tizzy. But this time, Xi Jinping knows this is the price he must pay for his big plans to curb rising inequality and boost the middle class at the expense of the CCP's traditional economic mantra: high growth above all else.

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6,000: Poland has doubled the number of troops guarding its border with Belarus to almost 6,000 because of a surge in migrants trying to cross over (there were 612 attempts on Monday alone). Warsaw accuses Minsk of sending non-EU migrants into Poland as payback for EU sanctions against Belarus.

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Religious tension rising in Bangladesh: Clashes between Hindus and Muslims in Bangladesh have surged over the past week, leaving at least four people dead. After an image was posted on Facebook showing the Quran at the feet of a statue at a Hindu temple, Muslims burned Hindu-owned homes and attacked their holy sites. Both sides have taken to the street in protest, with Hindus saying that they have been prevented from celebrating Durga Puja, the largest Hindu festival in the country. Such acts of sectarian violence are not uncommon in Bangladesh, a majority-Muslim country where Hindus account for nine percent of the population. Indeed, as Eurasia Group's Kevin Allison recently warned, unverified social media content stoking inter-ethnic conflict is a massive problem throughout South Asia, where for many people Facebook is synonymous with the internet.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Read Ian Bremmer's wide-ranging essay in Foreign Affairs that puts in perspective both the challenge, and the opportunity, that comes from the unprecedented power of Big Tech.

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here on the road, something we haven't done very much recently, but will increasingly as we try to move through COVID. And I want to talk to you about a new article that I just put out in Foreign Affairs that I'm calling "The Technopolar Moment." Not unipolar, not bipolar, not multipolar, technopolar. What the hell does technopolar mean?

It means that increasingly big technology companies are themselves geopolitical actors. So to understand the future of the world, you can't just look at the United States, Europe and China. You need to look at the big tech companies, too.

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China gets away with a lot these days in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and elsewhere. That's because over the past decade, its economy has experienced explosive growth, making it an indispensable trading partner for almost every country in the world. At the same time, China has been expanding its share of the global economy, and is now set to overtake the US as the world's biggest economic powerhouse in the near term. We take a look at China's annual growth rate and share of the global economy based on GDP over the past decade.

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