Coronavirus Politics Daily: Macron warns EU, Brazil health minister sacked, Africa faces a tough trade-off

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Macron warns EU, Brazil health minister sacked, Africa faces a tough trade-off

Macron's stern warning to the EU: As coronavirus lockdowns push Europe towards its sharpest economic downturn since World War II, French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday that the EU has an important decision to make: It can unify and implement a bloc-wide economic response to the crisis, or prepare for the EU to crumble. Macron told the Financial Times that if Europe fails to agree on a common strategy for giving financial relief to hard hit countries like Italy, Spain, and France, it will end up fatally empowering Euroskeptic forces that are already hammering the EU's bumbling response to the economic crisis. But despite several attempts to broker a bloc-wide economic response to the crisis, the EU has so far come up short. Macron is pushing for a bloc-wide "rescue fund" that would provide economic relief based on countries' current needs, rather than the size of their economies – a proposal that Germany and the Netherlands have so far rebuffed. The French leader echoed the gloomy sentiment expressed by the Italian prime minister that the future of the EU project depends on the Union's willingness to cough up more cash – and fast.


Brazil health minister sacked: It was only a matter of time before Brazil's firebrand president Jair Bolsonaro, an avowed social distancing skeptic, fired his popular health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who has supported strong measures by Brazil's state governors to contain the expanding COVID-19 epidemic in Brazil. That time was Thursday afternoon, when Mandetta announced his own dismissal. Clashes over social distancing may not have been the only reason Mandetta was let go — the charismatic and politically savvy doctor-in-chief was surging in popularity polls, ringing up an approval rating of 76 percent against just 30 percent for Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly scoffed at the seriousness of COVID-19. In fact, more than 80 percent of Bolsonaro's own supporters approved of Mandetta's work. But that's all water over the dam now — the new health minister, sworn in Friday, is an oncologist with a business background named Nelson Teich. He has advocated an approach that pays greater attention to the economic implications of massive lockdowns. So far, Brazil has registered about 2,000 deaths, out of a population of 211 million. What happens to that trajectory next is largely in Teich's hands, with Bolsonaro at his back.

Africa faces a grim trade-off: African countries have so far avoided the worst of the coronavirus pandemic — they show some of the lowest COVID-19 death rates per 1,000 people in the world — but things could get soon get ugly. A new report from the UN warns that because of weak health systems, urban crowding, and the impossibility of social distancing for vast informal economies, as many as 3.3 million of the continent's 1.2 billion people could die of the disease unless stricter measures are taken to prevent its spread. If those measures are taken, the report says, it could save 3 million lives but here's the catch: they could also cost some 20 million jobs, plunging as many as 30 million people into poverty.

That's Bank of America's new target in its Environmental Business Initiative in order to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon, sustainable economy.

Here's how it will drive innovation to address climate change.

On Tuesday, a major US intelligence report said the top threat to America right now is China. A day later, John Kerry, the Biden administration's "climate czar," got on a plane to... China.

Such is the drama of ties between the world's two largest economies these days.

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Should the Biden administration "reverse course on China" in the hope of establishing a friendlier relationship, as diplomat Kishore Mahbubani argues in a recent Financial Times op-ed? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Michael Hirson take out the Red Pen to explain why it's not that simple.

And today, we are talking about the United States and China. The relationship between the two most powerful nations in the world is the worst it's been since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Pundits and policymakers alike all around the world are trying to figure out how Washington and Beijing can at least stop the bleeding because a reset is nowhere in the cards.

That's the topic of the op-ed that we are looking at today. It's from the Financial Times, written by Singaporean diplomat Kishore Mahbubani, and the title summarizes the key argument: "Biden should summon the courage to reverse course on China." Meaning, he should throw out the Trump era approach and open the door to more cooperation and kinder, gentler relations.

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More than a dozen COVID-19 vaccines have been fully approved or are currently in early use globally, and COVAX, the global initiative started last year by the World Health Organization and other partners, is pushing for equitable access to vaccines for all. But most of the half billion jabs given so far have gone to citizens of wealthy countries, with half going to the US and China alone. What's the problem with so-called vaccine nationalism? Ian Bremmer explains that besides the clear humanitarian concerns, the continued global spread of COVID increases the risk of new mutations and variants that can threaten the entire world, vaccinated or not.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Should wealthy individuals and nations shoulder more of the burden in addressing climate change? Pulitzer Prize-winning climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert argues that Big Tech leaders like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk should shift more of their focus to fighting for our own planet's survival, instead of space exploration. "We're doing as much as we can to make life difficult on planet Earth for ourselves. But there's virtually nothing we could do to make it as difficult as life on Mars, where there's, among other things, no oxygen." Kolbert, the author of Under a White Sky, discusses why it's so crucial for a few rich countries to bear most of the climate burden, since they're also the biggest emitters. Her conversation with Ian Bremmer is featured in the upcoming episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting this Friday, April 16. Check local listings.

In recent days, Northern Ireland has seen some of its worst street violence in over a decade. The anger has subsided a bit this week, but post-Brexit fears leave many uncertain about their future in a deeply divided land with a long history of political violence between Irish republicans and UK unionists.

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Fighting climate change is about making the planet get less hot. The more quickly countries slow down their carbon emissions, the faster that'll happen. All the more important for the nations that pollute the most — but not all of them are on board. Although the majority, including China, are setting future targets to go Net Zero, India doesn't want to commit (yet) to when to stop burning fossil fuels to spur economic growth. We take a look at when the world's top polluting economies intend to go carbon-neutral, compared with their share of global emissions, of renewable energy as a source of electricity, and percentage of global coal consumption.

Peruvian runoff: Perú's presidential election is going to a runoff in June between two surprise and polarizing contenders, each of whom won less than 20 percent of votes in a highly fragmented first round. Pedro Castillo, a far-left union leader and teacher who benefited from a late surge in the polls, will battle rightwing populist Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the country's imprisoned former strongman. Castillo wants to rewrite the constitution to weaken the political influence of the country's business elite and maybe to allow the state to nationalize parts of the mining sector to pay for social programs for the poor. Fujimori wants to use mining revenues to create jobs by investing in infrastructure and healthcare. The runoff will probably be a national referendum on Fujimori, a divisive figure running for the top job for the third time. No Peruvian president has ever left office without facing corruption charges, but Fujimori already faces several — and she'll avoid jail time if she wins.

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