Coronavirus Politics Daily: Bolivia's endless "interim," Philippines' war on the media, EU asserts itself in the Balkans

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Bolivia's endless "interim," Philippines' war on the media, EU asserts itself in the Balkans

Bolivia's endless "interim:" Coronavirus makes it hard to hold elections these days, and that seems to suit Bolivia's interim president Jeanine Áñez just fine. Áñez, an outspoken conservative, took power last fall after the Andean country's long-serving leftist president Evo Morales was ousted amid protests over election fraud. At the time, Áñez was expected to stick around for a few weeks to organize a new, fair election and then stand aside. But she quickly took bold steps to undo Morales' legacy and then, despite initially claiming no interest in the presidency, launched her own candidacy. The election was supposed to have been held last weekend, but was cancelled over public health concerns. Now parliament, still controlled by Morales' party, has voted to hold the ballot within 90 days. But Áñez, who is polling behind Morales' preferred candidate despite her well-regarded response to the coronavirus pandemic, says that's too soon to do it safely. That sets up a bitter fight in an already deeply polarized country, and it doesn't help that low oil prices are throttling Bolivia's gas-exporting economy. Until the elections issue is resolved, expect things to get ugly in the "interim."


Duterte's government gags the media: In an unprecedented move, the Philippines government ordered the nation's largest broadcast network, ABS-CBN, to shutter its operations Tuesday, leaving blank the screens of millions of Filipinos seeking news about the coronavirus pandemic. President Rodrigo Duterte, a rough-spoken populist who often targets the press, said the order to close down radio and television operations came from an independent commission. But critics, including some who are aligned politically with the president, say it's an attempt to muzzle any criticism of his response to the coronavirus crisis. Reporters have already documented inadequate protection for healthcare workers and poor social support amid lockdowns which has led to widespread hunger. During Duterte's tenure, the Philippines has become one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist, ranking 136th in this year's World Press Freedom Index.

EU counters China and Russia in the Balkans: During a videoconference with six Balkan countries – Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia, and North Macedonia – the EU delivered a clear message: stop falling for overtures from China and Russia. As protective equipment has been in short supply around the world in recent months, Beijing and Moscow have both enthusiastically sent gear to many countries, drawing praise particularly from Eastern European countries that have complained of insufficient support from Brussels. But during the videoconference, representatives from all 27 EU states pushed back on this narrative, reiterating that the 3.3 billion euros recently doled out to states from the West Balkans by the bloc far outweighs anything Moscow or Beijing have sent through. But beneath the great power geopolitics, are the Balkan states playing a shrewd game of their own? They want to join the EU, and they may wager that showering praise on Russia and China will spook Brussels into speeding those talks. Whether that approach will work during a pandemic and global depression is less clear.

This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

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Whenever Burkina Faso is in the news, it's often about how the crisis-ridden country has got caught up in the crosshairs of horrific jihadist violence plaguing the Sahel.

But this week, the nation of 20 million was celebrating because Hugues Fabrice Zango won its first-ever Olympic medal after finishing third in the men's triple jump in Tokyo.

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Should people get COVID vaccine booster shots? Not yet, says the World Health Organization, which is pushing for rich nations or those with access to jabs to hold off until at least the end of September so all countries get to fully vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations before some jump ahead with boosters. But the WHO's call has fallen on deaf ears in nations like Israel, France, Germany and Russia, which are already planning to offer boosters, in part to better protect people against the more contagious delta variant. What's more, mRNA vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna are recommending supplemental doses for the same reason. The problem is that, beyond the obvious moral imperative for equal access to vaccines, if the rich continue hoarding jabs while vaccination rates stay low elsewhere, the virus will continue to thrive — and mutate into new, potentially even more infectious variants that sooner or later will reach every corner of the planet.

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80: If polar ice caps continue to melt at their current pace due to climate change, 80 percent of all emperor penguins will be wiped out by the end of the century because they need the ice for breeding and keeping their offspring safe. American authorities want to list emperor penguins, which only live in Antarctica, as an endangered species so that US fishing vessels will be required to protect them when operating in their habitat.

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Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent COVID-19 policy developments:

The Biden administration extended an eviction moratorium even after the Supreme Court said they couldn't, what's next?

Well, the CDC imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium in light of increased risk from evicted people because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court in June ruled that they (CDC) overextended their authority in doing so and mandated that the moratorium expire on schedule in July. A group of progressive activists weren't happy about this and raised a huge stink in Congress, but Congress recessed for their August vacation before they could solve the problem, putting big pressure on President Biden to extend the moratorium even though he said he didn't think that it would pass constitutional muster. The CDC did it anyway, extending the moratorium until October 3rd, which is a time that's short enough to probably avoid it being overturned by lawsuits, but long enough that Congress has time to figure out how to either extend it on a bipartisan basis or put more money into a rental assistance fund that few people have taken advantage of so far. This whole incident shows the power of progressive activists in the Biden administration who were able to elevate the profile of this issue and potentially prevent millions of people from losing their homes this summer.

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On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer takes a look at the yin and the yang of alcohol's role in high-level diplomacy and society at large. Alcohol can bring people together just as easily as it can tear them apart. From a 1995 Clinton/Yeltsin Summit where a drunk Yeltsin almost derailed Bosnian peace talks, to Obama's Beer Summit and the recent G7 Summit, booze plays a part in how world leaders interact. Globally, alcohol consumption has been steadily increasing, by over 70 percent between 1990 and 2017, according to one report. . Low and middle-income nations like Vietnam, India, and China are a driving force behind that trend, with drinking in Southeast Asia rising by over 34 percent between 2010 and 2017. And yet, amidst this global booze boom, the world has only grown more and more divided.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

Equestrian jumpers, and their horses, are disciplined species. They don't appreciate surprises very much.

But many participants were caught off guard during this week's individual jumping qualifiers in Tokyo by a very daunting statue of a sumo wrestler on the hurdle course (which is dotted with statues paying homage to traditional Japanese culture, like geisha kimonos, cherry blossoms, and taiko drums).

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