Coronavirus Politics Daily: Argentina on the brink, Egypt's emergency law abuse, Hong-Kong's political fever

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Argentina on the brink, Egypt's emergency law abuse, Hong-Kong's political fever

Argentina's economy on the brink: Mired in economic crisis, Argentina is on the verge of defaulting on its international loans for the ninth time in its history. Years of economic mismanagement had pushed Argentina into a recession even before the government imposed one of the tightest coronavirus lockdowns in Latin America in late March. The country's already weak currency, meanwhile, has taken a further hit because of the health crisis, pushing up the cost of $500 million in interest due over the next few weeks. The country's leftwing government says that, given soaring healthcare costs and emergency financial aid being doled out to help Argentines weather the COVID-19 storm, it can't make the payment and has appealed to international creditors, including the World Bank and IMF, to delay or renegotiate about $65 billion in debt. Buenos Aires has the support of hundreds of respected international economists who have called on bondholders to take a "constructive approach" to Argentina's restructuring proposal. In normal times, Argentina would get little sympathy from international lenders fed up with its unreliability and political gamesmanship, but the global economic downturn could finally give the desperate country some leverage with economic heavyweights in Brussels and Paris.


Sisi tightens his grip: Egypt's authoritarian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is always ready to exploit a good crisis to tighten his grip on power. Last week, he amended the nation's expansive emergency laws to enhance the power of his government to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. While some of the amendments relate directly to the health crisis, others are more dubious, including laws allowing the state to restrict Egyptians from owning or exporting any goods and services, while also giving the government power to control prices. Critics say that Sisi has abused the emergency law in the past to crack down on journalists, dissidents, and political opponents. But even before last week's changes, Sisi had been using the pandemic as a guise for abuses, including the arrest of scores of Egyptians who criticized the government's response to the pandemic. Among the critics: medical professionals who complained on Facebook about a lack of protective gear. Egypt has so far registered just 9,400 cases in a population of 100 million, and only 500 deaths, but critics say the true numbers are likely much higher.

Hong Kong's political fever: The global pandemic has yet to break Hong Kong's political fever. In fact, large-scale protests have continued to erupt in response to proposed new laws that demonstrators say would restrict the right of citizens to speak their minds and fatally undermine Hong Kong's considerable autonomy from mainland China. On Friday, pro-democracy and pro-Beijing lawmakers ended up in a fistfight inside the Legislative Council building, a brawl that left at least one lawmaker on a stretcher and led police to force pro-democracy lawmakers out of the building. This follows the arrest of protest leaders late last month that again set the city on edge. Demonstrators in surgical masks have occupied shopping malls with the promise of more disruptions to come.

"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.

Viktor Orbán, Hungary's far-right populist prime minister, likes to shock people. It's part of his political appeal. Orbán has proudly proclaimed that he is an "illiberal" leader" creating a frenzy in Brussels because Hungary is a member of the European Union.

It's been over a decade since the 58-year old whom some have dubbed "the Trump before Trump" became prime minister. In that time he has, critics say, hollowed out Hungary's governing institutions and eroded the state's democratic characteristics.

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Why do (most) world leaders drink together? It can get them to agree on stuff they wouldn't while sober. Booze "helps people get cooperation off the ground, especially in situations where cooperation is challenging," says University of British Colombia professor Edward Slingerland. Alcohol, he explains, allows you to "see commonalities rather than just pursuing your own interest," which may put teetotaler politicians — like Donald Trump — at a disadvantage. Watch his interview on the next episode of GZERO World. Check local listings to watch on US public television.

In countries with access to COVID vaccines, the main challenge now is to convince those hesitant about the jab to roll up their sleeves, and this has become even more urgent given the spread of the more contagious delta variant. So, where are there more vaccine skeptics, and how do they compare to total COVID deaths per million in each nation? We take a look at a group of large economies where jabs are available, yet (in some cases) not everyone wants one.

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:

QR codes are everywhere. Are they also tracking my personal data?

Well, a QR code is like a complex barcode that may be on a printed ad or product package for you to scan and access more information. For example, to look at a menu without health risk or for two-factor verification of a bank payment. And now also as an integral part of covid and vaccine registration. QR codes can lead to tracking metadata or personal data. And when your phone scans and takes you to a website, certainly the tracking starts there. Now, one big trap is that people may not distinguish one kind of use of QR codes from another and that they cannot be aware of the risks of sharing their data.

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Now that the Tokyo Olympics are finally underway, your Signal crew will be bringing you some intriguing, uplifting, and quirky bits of color from a Games like no other…

Today we've got— the best freakout celebrations!

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Tanzania reverses course on COVID: Just four months ago, the Tanzanian government was completely denying the existence of the pandemic. Then-President John Magufuli insisted Tanzania was COVID-free thanks to peoples' prayers, and refused to try to get vaccines. But Magufuli died suddenly in March — perhaps of COVID. His successor, current President Samia Suluhu, has acknowledged the presence of the virus in Tanzania, and although she was initially lukewarm on mask-wearing and vaccines, Suluhu has recently changed her tune, first joining the global COVAX facility and now getting vaccinated herself to kick off the country's inoculation drive. Well done Tanzania, because if there's one thing we've all learned over the past 18 months, it's that nowhere — not even North Korea, whatever Pyongyang says — is safe from the coronavirus.

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16: A new study tracking Earth's "vital signs" has found that 16 out of 31 indicators of planetary health are getting worse due to climate change. Last year's pandemic-induced shutdown did little to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions, stop the oceans from warming, or slow the shrinking of polar ice caps.

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How booze helps get diplomacy done

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