Coronavirus Politics Daily: Asia's factories lag, Finland misses Russians, Venezuelan gas lines

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Asia's factories lag, Finland misses Russians, Venezuelan gas lines

Asia's manufacturing is still sick: Hailed for successfully managing the public health challenges of the pandemic, some of Asia's exporting powerhouses are now coming to terms with the economic impact of the crisis. A series of surveys released Monday show that the continent's crucial manufacturing sector took another hit last month as global trade continued to contract. While China's manufacturing activity expanded in May, showing some signs of a modest economic comeback, some of the region's export heavyweights have suffered their sharpest economic downturns in over a decade, as new export orders from their main trade partners remain slim. South Korea, for example, has been hailed for its apt management of the health crisis, but its exports have now slumped for three months straight, with shipments contracting 23.7 per cent year-on-year in May. Similarly, Taiwan has recorded just 7 deaths from the virus, but its manufacturing activity fell again in May from the previous month, while the IMF predicts that the economic bloc made up of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam will grow at -0.6 percent this year, down from its earlier estimate of +4.8 percent. Analysts now say that the region's economic rebound could take way longer than previously predicted.


Finland feels Russia's absence: While Finland's entire economy is reeling amid government-mandated lockdowns, the people of South Karelia, the picturesque Finnish border region that abuts Russia, are under particular stress as border closures keep out Russian tourists who are an economic lifeline for the area. Last year, some two million Russians visited, infusing cash into the lake district's tourist-dependent retail and agricultural sectors. But as Russia continues to grapple with one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world, the Finland-Russia border is unlikely to reopen before the usually-lucrative summer tourist season – and could even stay shuttered for the rest of the year. Experts now say that for every month that the border is closed, local Finnish businesses could lose an estimated 25 million euros, shedding 900 jobs in total. Indeed, it's the worst crisis to hit the area since the economic turmoil caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union some 30 years ago. Finland's tourism industry is trying to boost domestic travel and lure tourists from elsewhere in Europe, but whether this will offset the loss from Russia this summer remains to be seen.

Venezuela's pain: Venezuela faced a severe economic crisis well before coronavirus arrived, but COVID has now inflicted a new degree of pain. The country's fuel shortage not only leaves drivers walking to work, stalled in traffic, in long lines hoping pumps will contain enough liquid to partially refill empty tanks, or sucking gasoline through plastic tubing to siphon it from one vehicle to another. It now also leaves coffins containing the remains of COVID-19 victims sitting in parked hearses that are unable to reach cemeteries because they have no fuel. It's an irony made even more bitter by the reality that Venezuela has the world's largest proven reserves of crude oil.

"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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