Coronavirus Politics Daily: Chileans riot, Belgium's sky-high numbers, Afghan doctors strike

Chileans take to the streets: When Chile declared a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic in mid-March, the country's months-long mass protests about inequality fizzled fast. But now the lockdown measures themselves are causing unrest. Riot police on Tuesday clashed with demonstrators in a Santiago suburb protesting food shortages under lockdown. The upheaval comes just days after a fresh surge in cases prompted the government to reimpose quarantine measures in the capital region. Chile has so far confirmed about 46,000 cases and just under 500 deaths. President Sebastian Piñera — who pledged an additional 2.5 million food baskets — has the difficult task of balancing public health concerns with economic ones in one of the most unequal countries in the world.


Afghan doctors demand their pay: Hundreds of medical workers in Herat, Afghanistan's third largest city, staged a walk out Tuesday because they haven't received their government-paid wages in three months despite being on the frontlines of COVID-19. The doctors and nurses who staff the city's 10 government-run hospitals say they continue to go to work despite a shortage of testing materials and protective equipment, but that they shouldn't be expected to do so for free. The government, for its part, says it's working on addressing the problem. These protests add mounting pressure on an already-stretched Afghan government, whose weak healthcare system is overwhelmed by both a surge in coronavirus cases and new war injuries amid clashes between Taliban militants and Afghan security forces. Violence has, in fact, increased since the US-Taliban peace deal was signed earlier this year.

How sick is Belgium? According to Johns Hopkins, Belgium has the highest COVID-19 mortality rate in the world. An estimated 16.3 of every 100 confirmed cases (compared to 6 in the US) has died. Belgium also has the highest death rate per 100,000 people. Why? One reason is that countries measure the disease's impact in different ways. In some, deaths are attributed to COVID only if the deceased tested positive for the virus before dying. But Belgium, by contrast, looks at the number of people who die during a particular month and compares that to past averages of deaths over the same period to determine the rate of "excess deaths" attributable to the pandemic. Some scientists say the larger number produced by that method is more accurate. Others disagree. Isn't it possible, they ask, that people with illnesses unrelated to COVID are now dying at higher rates because fear of catching it dissuades them from seeking medical treatment? As the stats debate continues, Belgium continues to distinguish itself as one of the very few places willing to post high numbers.

Paper was originally made from rags until the introduction of cellulose in 1800. Since then, it has transformed into a "circular" industry, with 55% of paper produced in Italy recovered. It no longer just comes from trees, either. Some companies produce paper with scraps from the processing of other products like wool and walnuts.

Learn more about this rags to riches story in Eni's new Energy Superfacts series.

In late 2017, Zimbabwe's long-serving strongman Robert Mugabe was deposed by the army after 37 years in power. Amid huge popular celebrations, he handed over the reins to Emmerson Mnangagwa, his former spy chief. It was an extraordinary turn of history: Mugabe, one of Africa's last "Big Men" and a hero of the country's liberation war to end white minority rule, went out with barely a whimper, placing Zimbabwe — stricken by economic ruin and international isolation — in the hands of "The Crocodile."

Mugabe has since died, but almost three years after his departure, Zimbabwe's woes continue.

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As the world prepares to mark the 75th anniversary since American forces dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, global non-proliferation efforts, first codified in Cold War-era treaties, are in jeopardy. While the overall number of nuclear weapons continues to decrease — mainly because the US and Russia have set about dismantling retired weapons — both countries, which account for 90 percent of the world's total nuclear arsenal, continue to modernize their nuclear weapons programs. Meanwhile, the New START treaty, which limits the number of long-range nuclear weapons that each side can deploy to about 1,500 apiece, is at risk of collapsing. Here's a look at which countries have nuclear weapon stockpiles and who's ready to use them.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Happy Monday, we are in August, summer, should be taking it a little easier. Coronavirus not taking the stress levels off but hopefully giving people the excuse, if you're not traveling so much, be close with your families, your loved ones and all that. Look, this is not a philosophical conversation, this is a talk about what's happening in the world, a little Quick Take for you.

First of all, you know, I'm getting a little bit more optimistic about the news in the United States right now. Yes, honestly, I am. In part because the caseload is flattening across the country and it's reducing in some of the core states that have seen the greatest explosion in this continuation of the first wave. Yes, the deaths are going up and they should continue to for a couple of weeks because it is a lagging indicator in the United States. But the fact that deaths are going up does not say anything about what's coming in the next few weeks. That tells you what's happened in the last couple of weeks.

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TikTok, ya don't stop: The wildly popular video app TikTok has been in the crosshairs of American lawmakers for many months now. Why? Because the app is owned by a Chinese company, raising national security concerns that it could funnel personal data on its 100 million American users to the Chinese government. The plot thickened in recent days after President Trump abruptly threatened to ban the app altogether, risking a backlash among its users and imperiling US tech giant Microsoft's efforts to buy the company's North American operations. After a weekend conversation between Microsoft and the White House, the sale negotiations are back on but US lawmakers say any deal must strictly prevent American users' data from winding up in Chinese Communist Party servers. The broader fate of TikTok — which has now been banned in India, formerly its largest market, and may be broken up under US pressure — nicely illustrates the new "tech Cold War" that is emerging between China and the United States. A Microsoft/TikTok deal is expected by September 15. Tick..Tock.

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