Coronavirus Politics Daily: COVID in the rainforest, Ethiopia ballot delayed, Norway feels different

Coronavirus Politics Daily: COVID in the rainforest, Ethiopia ballot delayed, Norway feels different

Coronavirus reaches the rainforest: Brazil has reported the first case of coronavirus within one of its more than 300 indigenous tribal communities, after a 20-year old medical worker deep in the Amazon rain forest has tested positive. Officials believe the woman, who lives more than 500 miles from the nearest major city, was infected by a doctor in the area who had recently returned from a vacation in southern Brazil, where the virus has already spread rapidly. Brazil's 850,000 indigenous are at high risk, as they live in highly communal fashion, in remote areas that lack extensive healthcare infrastructure. For some historical context, these people are, themselves, the descendants of the barely 10 percent of indigenous peoples who survived the scourge of infectious diseases brought by European colonizers half a millennium ago.


Norway feels different now: For decades, Norwegians have thought of themselves as annerledeslandet, "the different country." Between the smart use of oil revenues that began pouring in back in the 1970s, and the country's lucrative fishing industry, Norway has enjoyed a much-coveted quality of life and economic stability. But the recent tumble in oil prices, a result of a Saudi-Russian price war and coronavirus lockdowns, has thrown the economy of Europe's largest oil producer, into disarray. In the past month, Norway's currency, the krone, has fallen by about 15 percent against the US dollar, while around five percent of the population has filed for unemployment benefits in the last two weeks alone, producing the highest unemployment level since WWII. Luckily, Norway has the world's largest sovereign wealth fund, a rainy day cushion of around $950 billion, which the government can use to boost the economy. Still, the pandemic is a real test of one of the world's most well run social democracies. After this is all over, will Norway still be different?

Ethiopia elections stalled over COVID: Ethiopia's August presidential and parliamentary elections have been postponed as the country tries to rein in its growing coronavirus outbreak. The long-anticipated polls were largely seen as a referendum on the reformist agenda of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who came to power in 2018 promising to spearhead a democratic awakening, and has since released thousands of political prisoners while lifting the country's ban on opposition parties. But Ahmed is also accused of cracking down on journalists and stifling dissent. Some observers warn that delaying the ballot could further inflame a recent resurgence of religious and ethnic tensions that has left dozens dead and displaced around three million people. Ethiopia, Africa's second-most populous country, and one of its fastest growing economies, has an uphill battle in fighting the pandemic as it grapples with limited testing resources and a neglected medical system (there are just 0.3 hospital beds per every 1,000 people, and around 435 ventilators for a population of 114 million).

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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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:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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