Coronavirus Politics Daily: Iran's parliament convenes, Americas become epicenter, India lifts lockdown

Iran's parliament sits (at a distance): They arrived in masks. They had their temperature taken. And then 268 members of Iran's newly elected parliament were sworn in, convening for the first time, with the appropriate distance between members. The body, which has no influence over foreign policy but does shape economic policy and the annual budget, is this time dominated by religious conservatives who are suspicious of engagement with the West, after many moderates and reformers were disqualified ahead of the most recent election in February. The new parliament has its work cut out: Iran's economy is in freefall as a result of US sanctions, low oil prices, and a coronavirus outbreak that was one of the worst in the Middle East. According to official data, which are widely suspected of being spotty, there have been 141,000 confirmed cases and 7,500 deaths. Two of the dead were newly elected members of parliament.

The new pandemic epicenter: First, it was East Asia. Then Europe was ravaged by COVID-19. The United States followed. And while the death tolls continue to creep upwards in all of those places, Latin America is now the global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the World Health Organization. There are close to 2.5 million confirmed cases and at least 143,000 deaths in the region. Brazil, which earlier this week registered the world's highest daily increase in COVID-19 deaths, leads the region with more than 375,000 confirmed cases and 24,000 fatalities. But WHO officials are concerned about surging numbers in Peru, Chile, and Central America. As we've written, the pandemic poses an acute double-edged challenge to Latin America: underfunded health systems will strain to cope with a public health crisis, while the economic impact of measures meant to contain the virus could plunge tens of millions of people back into poverty. It's about to get very real.

India eases as infections rise: In March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered a sudden lockdown of the entire country, giving India's more than 1.3 billion people a mere four-hours notice. Chaos ensued. In recent weeks, Modi has begun easing the lockdown, not because the number of coronavirus infections is falling, but because the country's economy is imploding. There are still no large public gatherings allowed and no flights arriving from outside the country, but people are again on the streets, in stores, in factories, on trains, and on domestic flights. The number of new cases, meanwhile, is still on the rise. Only Brazil, Russia, and the United States are adding more new cases each day. Hospital authorities in Mumbai and Delhi are scrambling to prepare for a likely surge in cases. At the same time, more than 100 million Indians have so far lost their jobs, and the country's already thin social safety net is nowhere near meeting the challenge. By mid-July India may have a million COVID cases, according to a University of Michigan model. If so, India may simply have traded one form of deadly chaos for another.


Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick joins That Made All the Difference podcast to discuss how his career as a surgeon influenced his work as an educator, administrator and champion of underserved communities, and why he believes we may be on the cusp of the next "golden generation."

Listen to the latest podcast now.

It's been a bad week at the office for President Trump. Not only have coronavirus cases in the US been soaring, but The New York Times' bombshell report alleging that Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to kill US troops in Afghanistan has continued to make headlines. While details about the extent of the Russian bounty program — and how long it's been going on for — remain murky, President Trump now finds himself in a massive bind on this issue.

Here are three key questions to consider.

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Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED, discusses technology industry news today:

Do some of the Facebook's best features, like the newsfeed algorithm or groups, make removing hate speech from the platform impossible?

No, they do not. But what they do do is make it a lot easier for hate speech to spread. A fundamental problem with Facebook are the incentives in the newsfeed algorithm and the structure of groups make it harder for Facebook to remove hate speech.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Yes, still in the middle of coronavirus, but thought I'd give you a couple of my thoughts on Russia. Part of the world that I cut my teeth on as a political scientist, way back in the eighties and nineties. And now Putin is a president for life, or at least he gets to be president until 2036, gets another couple of terms. The constitutional amendments that he reluctantly allowed to be voted on across Russia, passed easily, some 76% approval. And so now both in China and in Russia, term limits get left behind all for the good of the people, of course. So that they can have the leaders that they truly deserve. Yes, I'm being a little sarcastic here. It's sad to see. It's sad to see that the Americans won the Cold War in part, not just because we had a stronger economy and a stronger military, but actually because our ideas were better.

Because when those living in the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Block looked at the West, and looked at the United States, they saw that our liberties, they saw that our economy, was something that they aspired to and was actually a much better way of giving opportunities to the average citizen, than their own system afforded. And that helped them to rise up against it.

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Jon Lieber, managing director for the United States at Eurasia Group, provides his perspective on US politics:

How likely is bipartisan action against Russia in light of Taliban bounty reports?

I think it's probably unlikely. One of the challenges here is that there's some conflict of the intelligence and anything that touches on the issue of President Trump and Russia is extremely toxic for him. Republicans have so far been tolerant of that and willing to stop any new sanctions coming. I think unless the political situation or the allegations get much worse or more obvious, that stalemate probably remains.

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