Coronavirus Politics Daily: Burundi boots the WHO, vaccine squabbles, Haiti braces for an outbreak

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Burundi boots the WHO, vaccine squabbles, Haiti braces for an outbreak

Burundi expels the WHO: Just days before Burundians head to the polls to elect a new president and parliament, the government has expelled officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) who are in that country to help steer the government's pandemic response. Burundi's government did not give a reason for the dismissal, but critics say it was a reprisal against WHO personnel who had criticized the ruling party, currently led by President Pierre Nkurunziza, for holding large political rallies in recent weeks that have been banned in most parts of Africa, and for threatening citizens who called out the government's poor response to the outbreak. This isn't the first time that Burundi's ruling party, which won the vote in 2015 in an election that many say was illegitimate, has booted out UN representatives who raise human rights concerns. Burundi's officials, for their part, point to the country's low infection rate (there are currently around 30 confirmed cases of COVID-19) as proof of their success in handling the crisis, but critics say that's only because of the country's limited testing capacity. The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, says that the health infrastructure in Burundi – where half the population of 11 million is food insecure – is so weak that the WHO's support and expertise are needed now more than ever.


Vaccines: who gets them? As labs around the world race to develop a coronavirus vaccine, a thorny question looms: who gets them first? It's a moral, medical, and monetary dilemma that spilled into the open this week when the head of French Pharma giant Sanofi suggested the US would get first dibs on vaccines from the company. His reasoning? Washington put up big money to fund the vaccine development, which isn't cheap. But his remarks provoked an angry response in France, with President Emmanuel Macron summoning the Sanofi boss for a meeting to ask him why les Americains should get the vaccine before, say, the French. Sanofi, the world's third largest vaccine-maker, has since walked back the idea, saying Friday that any vaccine would be available in all regions of the world at the same time. Still, the problem remains: with supplies of any vaccine sure to be extremely limited at first, what's the right criterion for whether you can get one – your passport or your wallet? Is a global rationing system possible? Tough questions with a silver lining: merely asking them will mean that a vaccine is finally close.

Haiti's border problem: Haiti and the Dominican Republic share an island and a border, but so far, their experiences of the coronavirus pandemic have been markedly different. The DR, a popular tourist destination, has suffered the worst outbreak anywhere in the Caribbean, with about 12,000 cases, while Haiti, which has grown increasingly isolated after a year of political unrest, has registered just 230. But now as 150,000 Haitian migrants working in the Dominican Republic lose their jobs (and their legal status) and are forced to return home, they risk bringing the virus with them. At the moment, around 22,000 homeward-bound Haitians are crossing the border every week. Public health experts warn that Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, could not handle a serious outbreak of disease. The country's decrepit health care system would reportedly need an additional 8,000 hospital beds in order to accommodate a surge in cases. Even before the coronavirus outbreak, Haiti had been rocked by a series of crises including perennial political corruption scandals, a catastrophic earthquake, and violent political protests. As coronavirus crosses the border, the challenges for the country will be immense.

"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.

Alcohol. It's a dangerous drug that has ruined countless lives and derailed many a global summit. But it's also humanity's oldest social lubricant, a magical elixir that can fuel diplomatic breakthroughs, well into the wee hours of the night. As Winston Churchill once quipped, "I've taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me." On GZERO World, we take a deep dive down the bottle and examine the role alcohol has played in society, politics, and global summitry—from the earliest hunter-gatherer days to that memorable Obama Beer Summit in 2009. Joining Ian Bremmer is philosopher Edward Slingerland, whose new book Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way Into Civilization makes a compelling, if nuanced, case for alcohol's place in the world.

Also: since alcohol isn't the only social drug, a look at the state of marijuana legalization across the US and around the world.

A few weeks ago, a Signal reader emailed me to ask why so much of our coverage of the world is so damn dark. Aren't there any good news stories out there?

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Listen: A deep dive down the bottle to examine the role alcohol has played in society, politics, and global summitry—from the earliest hunter-gatherer days to that memorable Obama Beer Summit in 2009. Joining Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast is philosopher Edward Slingerland, whose new book Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way Into Civilization makes a compelling, if nuanced, case for alcohol's place in the world.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

There's a lot of doom and gloom in the world these days, and much cause for pessimism. Still, the advent of new technologies and scientific advancements has lifted billions out of poverty and increased quality of life for many over the last half century. Since 1990, global average life expectancy has increased by eight years to 73, while GDP per capita has also grown exponentially, doubling over the past decade alone. We take a look at how life expectancy and GDP per capita have evolved globally from 1960-2019.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

Why can't President Biden order a vaccine mandate for all Americans?

Well, the reason is it's out of his powers. The one of the fundamental challenges in the pandemic is that the federal government has actually been fairly limited in the steps they can take to stop the spread of the virus. So, that's why you've seen President Biden order masks on transit, mass transit, airplanes, and the like. But he can't order masks in workplaces because that's not within his power. That power lies within state governments. State governments and other entities, like employers, can require vaccinations before you come into their buildings, or you come back to school, or you go to work in your office. But the federal government can't do that. What Biden is doing is, allegedly, supposedly going to announce a mandate for federal workers to get vaccinated.

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American gymnast Sunisa "Suni" Lee, 18, stunned spectators around the world with her breathtaking performance in Tokyo Thursday that earned her the gold.

Here are some interesting facts about Suni Lee, the gymnast queen:

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"Super Mario" takes his chances: Less than five months after becoming Italy's consensus prime minister, Mario Draghi's coalition government is on shaky ground over Draghi's proposed judicial reforms. "Super Mario" — as he's known for saving the Eurozone as European Central Bank chief during the financial crisis — wants to dramatically speed up Italy's famously slow courts. But his push to reduce judicial backlogs is opposed both by the populist 5-Star Movement, the coalition government's biggest party, and by prosecutors because many cases could be scrapped before reaching a verdict. Draghi, upset that this resistance is stalling his other initiatives to cut Italian red tape, has decided to roll the dice anyway: he'll put his plan to overhaul the courts to a no-confidence vote in parliament. If Draghi wins, he gets the reforms passed without debate; if he loses, the PM technically has to resign, but he'll keep his job because he has enough votes even if the 5-Star Movement bows out of the coalition.

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