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Coronavirus Politics Daily: Bolsonaro vs govs, Wuhan ashes vs statistics, US states vs each other

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Bolsonaro vs govs, Wuhan ashes vs statistics, US states vs each other

Brazil's governors take on Bolsonaro: We've previously written about the tensions between local and national governments over coronavirus response, but few places have had it as bad as Brazil. As COVID-19 infections surged in Brazil, the country's governors quickly mobilized – often with scarce resources – to enforce citywide lockdowns. Brazil's gangs have even risen to the occasion, enforcing strict curfews to limit the virus' spread in Rio de Janeiro. But Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, has mocked the seriousness of the disease and urged states to loosen quarantines in order to get the economy up and running again. "Put the people to work," he said this week, "Preserve the elderly; preserve those who have health problems. But nothing more than that." In response, governors around the country – including some of his allies – issued a joint letter to the president, begging him to listen to health experts and help states contain the virus. The governor of Sao Paulo, Brazil's economic powerhouse, has even threatened to sue the federal government if Bolsonaro continues to undermine his efforts to combat the virus' spread.

Ashes to ashes for Wuhan's official death toll: As months-long social distancing restrictions were loosened this week in Wuhan, China, ground zero of the coronavirus crisis, families were finally able to collect the cremated ashes of loved ones who had succumbed to the disease. But as images of thousands of cremation urns flooded social media, many began to question the official government narrative, which puts Wuhan's coronavirus death toll at just 2,535. Many governments around the world have long been skeptical of the Chinese government's COVID-19 death tally, particularly in light of reporting on Wuhan's inundated medical system, as well as Beijing's initial attempt to cover up the scope of the outbreak. Lending weight to these suspicions, Bloomberg points out that the number of cremations in Wuhan in the fourth quarter of 2019 was 1,583 higher than those in the fourth quarter of 2018, and 2,231 higher than the same period in 2017. As Europe, the US, and many parts of the world now grapple with a surge in COVID-19 deaths, many point to Wuhan as somewhat of a "success" story in curbing the virus' spread. But if these numbers are in fact false, the Chinese government is responsible for another indiscretion: spreading false hope.

Every state for itself in the US? The US federal government's spotty preparedness for the coronavirus outbreak has already created tension between the hardest hit states and the White House, but now it's also turning states against each other. Indiana governor Eric Holcomb earlier this week said his state can't send much needed ventilators to New York State, which is grappling with nearly 40,000 confirmed cases, because he has to prepare for a looming surge in his own state, which has so far registered just 645. "We're not in a position right now…to be focused outside of our borders," he said. Note: Borders. As the coronavirus outbreak stalks a growing number of state governors are thinking in terms of "borders." Keep an eye on this dynamic, particularly if the White House's effort to source emergency manufacture of ventilators continues to falter.

Microsoft released a new annual report, called the Digital Defense Report, covering cybersecurity trends from the past year. This report makes it clear that threat actors have rapidly increased in sophistication over the past year, using techniques that make them harder to spot and that threaten even the savviest targets. For example, nation-state actors are engaging in new reconnaissance techniques that increase their chances of compromising high-value targets, criminal groups targeting businesses have moved their infrastructure to the cloud to hide among legitimate services, and attackers have developed new ways to scour the internet for systems vulnerable to ransomware. Given the leap in attack sophistication in the past year, it is more important than ever that steps are taken to establish new rules of the road for cyberspace: that all organizations, whether government agencies or businesses, invest in people and technology to help stop attacks; and that people focus on the basics, including regular application of security updates, comprehensive backup policies, and, especially, enabling multi-factor authentication. Microsoft summarized some of the most important insights in this year's report, including related suggestions for people and businesses.

Read the whole post and report at Microsoft On The Issues.

Donald Trump's presidency has irked a lot of people around the world. And in fairness, that's no surprise. He was elected in part to blow up long-standing assumptions about how international politics, trade, and diplomatic relations are supposed to work.

But while he has correctly identified some big challenges — adapting NATO to the 21st century, managing a more assertive China, or ending America's endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — his impulsive style, along with his restrictions on trade and immigration, have alienated many world leaders. Global polls show that favorable views of the US have plummeted to all-time lows in many countries, particularly among traditional American allies in Europe.

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GZERO Media, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Eurasia Group, today hosted its second virtual town hall on the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine and the challenges of its distribution.

The panel was moderated by New York Times science and health reporter Apoorva Mandavilli and featured Gates Foundation's Deputy Director of Vaccines & Human Immunobiology, Lynda Stuart; Eurasia Group's Rohitesh Dhawan, Managing Director of Energy, Climate & Resources; Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman; and Gayle E. Smith, the president & CEO of ONE Campaign and former Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Watch the full video above.

The enormous scale of the coronavirus pandemic was captured earlier this week as the global death toll surpassed 1 million people. As the weight of the grim milestone sunk in, the New York Times noted that COVID-19 has now killed more people this year than the scourges of HIV, malaria, influenza, and cholera — combined. While some countries like Germany and South Korea are models in how to curb the virus' spread through social distancing and mask wearing, other countries around the world have recently seen caseloads surge again, raising fears of a dreaded "second wave" of infections. Here's a look at countries where the per-capita caseload has spiked in recent days.

"The jury is out" European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde says when asked if things in Europe will get economically worse before they get better. "All I know is that it's going to be a journey, and probably a long journey." Her conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of a new GZERO World episode.

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