Coronavirus Politics Daily: Alaska's COVID dilemma, global child deaths set to rise, Spain fears second wave

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Alaska's COVID dilemma, global child deaths set to rise, Spain fears second wave

Alaska's brush with COVID-19: Until now, the US state of Alaska has been unscathed by the coronavirus crisis. But with the state's lucrative fishing season about to start, hundreds of fishing boat crews from around the country have descended on Alaskan villages, bringing the disease with them. The first coronavirus case was identified recently in the town of Cordova, when a Seattle-based worker tested positive. The pandemic puts Alaskan officials in a bind: they want to protect their residents, but they don't want to cripple the fishing industry, which generates $5 billion a year and accounts for 8 percent of statewide employment. But continuing with business as usual poses huge risks for workers, many of whom work in crowded fish processing plants – similar to the assembly line in meat-processing centers that have proven to be vectors of disease around the world. Local officials are weighing the dilemma at a time when Alaska has already taken a financial hit because of plummeting prices for oil, its main economic engine, as well as disruption to tourism, another big local industry.


Spain fears second wave: Spain, one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, has recently been slowly loosening lockdown restrictions as the peak of its outbreak recedes. But on Thursday, the country recorded 217 COVID-19 deaths, the highest daily toll in over a week, sparking fears of a second wave of infection. While things are significantly better than in early April, when almost 1,000 Spaniards died daily from the disease, preliminary anti-body testing across the country shows that only 5 percent of Spain's population, around 2.4 million people, have contracted the virus. Public health experts say that's well below the herd-immunity threshold that would allow society to return to something resembling normalcy. Whether the government will now move to slow or reverse the cautious reopening remains to be seen.

Global child mortality rates set to rise: Public health experts are warning that as lockdowns and travel restrictions reduce access to preventive care and vaccinations around the world, 1.2 million children could die over the next six months alone. This would be the first rise in global child mortality in six decades. Among the countries expected to be hardest hit are Brazil, Nigeria, Somalia, and Pakistan. At the beginning of the COVID outbreak, public health officials already warned of a resurgence of infectious diseases like measles and malaria. The UN, meanwhile, has warned that widespread hunger because of job losses could also compound health outcomes for millions of children and has appealed to the international community for $1.6 billion in aid. "We must not let decades of progress on reducing preventable child and maternal deaths, be lost," a UN spokesperson said.

Two Black women hugging, with one woman pictured smiling

With half of all Black Americans excluded from the financial mainstream and Black-owned small businesses blocked from funding, we're working with city leaders and providing digital access to essential financial tools for immediate impact in Black communities. Learn more.

Ian Bremmer interviews economist Larry Summers on GZERO World. Summers served as the Treasury Secretary under President Clinton and as the Director of the National Economic Council under Preisdent Obama. He sounded the alarm bell about inflation back in February 2021 when few people were talking about it. Part of the reason prices are rising so much today, Summers says, is because the Biden administration made the political decision to do "too much stimulus," a big mistake in his view. Summers discusses how supply chain problems are also contributed to the highest levels of inflation in the US in 30 years.

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Australian Open - First Round - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 21, 2020 China's Peng Shuai in action during the match against Japan's Nao Hibino

The Women’s Tennis Association this week decided to suspend all tournaments in China, over doubts that the country’s star player Peng Shuai is safe and sound. Peng recently disappeared for three weeks after accusing a former Vice Premier of sexual assault. Although she has since resurfaced, telling the International Olympic Committee that she’s fine and just wants a little privacy, there are still concerns that Peng has been subjected to intimidation by the Chinese state.

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

How is Europe dealing with new omicron version of the pandemic?

Well, I mean the big issue isn't really that one, the big issue if you see the havoc that is created in several European countries at the moment is the delta. The delta is making impressive strides, particularly in countries that have a slightly lower vaccination rates. So that's the number one fight at the moment. And then we must of course prepare for the omicron as well.

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Caravan of Taliban soldiers with guns held upright

Listen: With the US gone and the Taliban back in control, Afghanistan faces a long winter. Mounting food insecurity and a crumbling economy have left many Afghans feeling abandoned. The international community could help solve this humanitarian crisis, but can they trust the Taliban?

Ian Bremmer sat down with journalist and author Ahmed Rashid to learn more about the Taliban today. Few people know more about the Taliban than Rashid, who wrote the book on the group — literally. In the months after 9/11, his critically acclaimed 2000 study Taliban became a go-to reference as the US geared up to invade Afghanistan and knock the militant group from power. Twenty years later, how much has the group changed since the days of soccer-stadium executions, television bans, and blowing up world heritage sites?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

What are the DSA and the DMA?

Well, the twin legislative initiatives of the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act are the European Union's answer to the challenges of content moderation online and that of the significant role of major market players, also known as gatekeepers in the digital markets. And the intention is to foster both more competition and responsible behavior by tech companies. So the new rules would apply broadly to search engines, social media platforms, but also retail platforms and app stores.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What is happening to Roe v. Wade?

Well, this week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case called Dobbs v. Jackson, which challenges a Mississippi law that would outlaw abortions after 15 weeks in the state. That law itself is a direct challenge to the legal precedent set by Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years ago, which is one of the most politically important Supreme Court decisions in American history. It has driven deep polarization between the right and the left in the US and become a critical litmus test. There are very few, if any, pro-life Democrats at the national level and virtually no pro-choice Republicans at any level of government. Overturning Roe has been an animating force on the political right in the US for a generation. And in turn, Democrats have responded by making protecting Roe one of their key political missions.

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What We're Watching: Angela Merkel's punk rock farewell, Iran nuclear talks resume

Angela Merkel's punk rock farewell. Although she doesn't officially step down as German Chancellor until next week, Angela Merkel's sendoff took place on Thursday night in Berlin, with the traditional Grosser Zapfenstreich — a musical aufweidersehen, replete with torches and a military band. By custom, the honoree gets to choose three songs for the band to play. Among Merkel's otherwise staid choices was a total curveball: You Forgot the Colour Film, a 1974 rock hit by fellow East German Nina Hagen, a renowned punk rocker. The song, a parody bit about a man who takes the singer on vacation but has only black-and-white film in his camera, was understood as a dig at the drabness of life in the East. We're listening to the tune, and... digging it, kind of — but we still prefer Merkel's own Kraftwerk-inspired farewell song from Puppet Regime. Eins, zwei, drei, it's time to say goodbye...

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