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

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.

Building on its previous commitment, Walmart is investing an additional $350 billion in products made, grown and assembled in America - supporting more than 750,000 new jobs by 2030. This pledge will aim to avoid more than 100M metric tons of CO2 emissions, advance the growth of U.S. based suppliers, and provide opportunities for more than 9,000 entrepreneurs to become Walmart suppliers and sellers through Walmart's annual Open Call.

China's GDP grew a lower-than-expected 4.9 percent year-on-year in the third quarter of 2021, a whopping three percentage points less than in the previous period. It's a big deal for the world's second-largest economy, the only major one that expanded throughout the pandemic — and now at risk of missing its growth target of 6 percent for the entire year.

Normally, such a drastic slowdown would have put the ruling Communist Party in a tizzy. But this time, Xi Jinping knows this is the price he must pay for his big plans to curb rising inequality and boost the middle class at the expense of the CCP's traditional economic mantra: high growth above all else.

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China gets away with a lot these days in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and elsewhere. That's because over the past decade, its economy has experienced explosive growth, making it an indispensable trading partner for almost every country in the world. At the same time, China has been expanding its share of the global economy, and is now set to overtake the US as the world's biggest economic powerhouse in the near term. We take a look at China's annual growth rate and share of the global economy based on GDP over the past decade.

The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What is the legacy of Colin Powell?

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell tragically died of complications of COVID-19. He was the first Black Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the first Black National Security Advisor and the first Black Secretary of State. And he leaves a legacy of a long career, dedicated almost entirely to public service.

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Can this guy defeat Viktor Orban? Hungary's opposition movement of odd bedfellows has finally settled on the person they think has the best chance of defeating PM Viktor Orbán at the ballot box: Péter Márki-Zay, a politically conservative small-town mayor from southeastern Hungary, who beat out left-leaning European Parliament member Klara Dobrev in a weekend poll. Márki-Zay has a lot going for him: as a devout Catholic and father of seven it will be hard for the ultraconservative Orbán to paint him as a progressive threat, even as Márki-Zay reaches out to reassure left-leaning groups that he will protect LGBTQ rights. What's more, Márki-Zay has little political baggage: until recently he was a marketing executive. But can the relatively inexperienced Márki-Zay keep the various opposition factions happy? The stakes couldn't be higher: since taking power more than a decade ago, Orbán has deliberately made Hungary into an "illiberal" state, cracking down on the press, undermining the rule of law, and clashing with the EU. Bonus: if Márki-Zay stays in the news, you get to say "Hódmezővásárhely" the name of the city he currently runs.

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5,600: Myanmar's military junta will release from prison 5,600 people who were jailed for protesting against last February's coup. The gesture, the first act of amnesty since the junta took power, comes just days after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which rarely interferes in members' internal affairs, said it would exclude the head of Myanmar's military from an upcoming regional meeting.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Happy Monday, everybody. And a Quick Take for you. I wanted to talk a bit about Taiwan. I'll tell you, I've talked about it in the media over the last couple of weeks and almost every questioner has been trying to prod me towards, "are we heading to war?" Then I was with some friends at the Trilateral Commission on Friday. I like that group a lot. It's one of these groups that a lot of conspiracy theorists pretend secretly run the world, like the Bilderbergers and the Council on Foreign Relations. Now having attended all three, I can tell you, if they do run the world, they are not inviting me into the rooms where they're making those decisions. If they are doing that, they're also doing a lousy job of it.

Nonetheless, it was fun until I was on stage and the first question I got was about, "Hey, so the Chinese are changing the status quo. Do you think that means we're heading towards war?" I just want to say that, first of all, I am clearly less concerned about the imminence of confrontation and military conflict between the United States and China than almost anybody out there. Accidents are certainly possible, but particularly around Taiwan, where both sides know the stakes and have made them abundantly clear for decades now, and everyone involved gets it I think it's much less likely.

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Colin Powell's legacy

US Politics

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