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Coronavirus Politics Daily: Banging at Bolsonaro, warning for Africa, enlisting tech

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Banging at Bolsonaro, warning for Africa, enlisting tech

Banging pots at Bolsonaro – How do you protest your government while following social distancing guidelines? Grab a pot, head to the window, and bang it loudly. That's what millions of Brazilians did this week to vent frustration at President Jair Bolsonaro's poor handling of the coronavirus crisis. Bolsonaro at first derided the pandemic as a media-fueled "hysteria." Then, shrugging off social distancing recommendations, he egged on a mass pro-Bolsonaro demonstration last weekend. To top it off, despite being exposed to the disease during a recent trip to Donald Trump's Florida estate, he showed up at the event to glad-hand, fist bump, and take selfies with his supporters. With two of his ministers among the more than 500 positive cases of COVID-19 in Brazil, Bolsonaro's government is finally mounting a rear-guard action to squelch the outbreak and soften the economic blow. But we'll see if that stops the racket echoing through the streets of Sao Paulo and Rio. To date these are the largest protests against Bolsonaro since he took office just over a year ago.


WHO's stark warning for Africa – The director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has told African nations to "prepare for the worst," warning that lax measures to curb transmission of COVID-19 will be catastrophic for the world's poorest continent and its 1 billion people. Africa's handling of the pandemic has received little global attention as Europe takes the spotlight. But medical experts are worried about the pandemic hitting African countries that have weak health systems, poor infrastructure, inept governments, and populations disproportionately affected by HIV and other infectious diseases. Though initially slow to act, Burkina Faso, which recorded its first death from the virus Wednesday, has now closed its schools and banned public gatherings. South Africa, the continent's largest economy and sub-Saharan Africa's worst hit country, has implemented travel restrictions, but commuters continue to cram into trains. Meanwhile, the country's health minister recently warned that cases are piling up at an "explosive" rate.

Tech fights coronavirus – Tech companies have joined the fight against COVID-19 in amazing ways: facial recognition is helping to enforce quarantines. Artificial Intelligence is being trained to detect, predict, and treat COVID-19 cases. Cellphone data is being used to track outbreaks. Social media platforms are deleting misinformation about the virus. Right now, it's all tech on deck to fight a pandemic that could cause a global depression. But these approaches raise big questions about privacy, personal data, and free speech that may arise more forcefully once the pandemic has passed.

Wales, early 19th century: During breaks from his law studies, William Robert Grove indulges in his passion for science to become an inventor. On his honeymoon in Europe, he learns about the new energy source everyone's talking about: electricity. After learning that electricity allows water to be broken down into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, his intuition leads him to an idea that ends up making him a pioneer of sustainable energy production.

Watch the story of William Robert Grove in Eni's MINDS series, where we travel through time seeking scientists.

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele is an unusual politician. The 39-year old political outsider boasts of his political triumphs on TikTok, dons a suave casual uniform (backwards-facing cap; leather jacket; tieless ), and refuses to abide by Supreme Court rulings.

Bukele also enjoys one of the world's highest approval ratings, and that's what helped his New Ideas party clinch a decisive victory in legislative elections on February 28, securing a close to two-third's supermajority (75 percent of the vote had been counted at the time of this writing).

His triumph will resonate far beyond the borders of El Salvador, Central America's smallest country, home to 6.5 million people. Now that Bukele has consolidated power in a big way, here are a few key developments to keep an eye on.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and as we head into the weekend, a Quick Take on, well, the first bombing campaign of the new Biden administration. You kind of knew it was going to happen. Against some Iranian-backed militias in Syria, looks like a couple of dozen, perhaps more killed, and some militia-connected military facilities destroyed. I think there are a few ways to look at this, maybe three different lenses.

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Iran rules out nuclear talks… for now: Iran has reportedly rejected an offer to join direct talks with the US and EU over its nuclear program, saying it won't start the conversation until sanctions on Iran's economy are eased. To be clear, this does NOT mean that prospects for reviving the Iran nuclear deal are dead. Europeans and the Biden administration want a return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, and Iran certainly needs the economic boost that would come from a removal of sanctions. But Tehran is going to try to maximize its leverage before any talks begin, especially since this is a sensitive election year in in the country. Iran's leaders are going to play hard to get for a while longer before edging their way back to the bargaining table. Still, it's high stakes diplomacy here between parties that have almost no mutual trust — and one misstep could throw things off track quickly.

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18: A week after threatening protesters with a severe crackdown, Myanmar's ruling junta killed at least 18 people across the country in the bloodiest day of clashes since the generals staged a coup last month.
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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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Biden strikes Syria. Now what?

Quick Take