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.

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Does the EU really have a foreign policy?

For decades, European leaders have debated the question of whether Europe should have a common foreign policy that’s independent of the United States.

Germany, the UK, and countries situated closest to Russia have traditionally preferred to rely on membership in NATO and US military strength to safeguard European security at a cost affordable for them.

French leaders, by contrast, have argued that, with or without NATO, Europe needs an approach to foreign-policy questions that doesn’t depend on alignment, or even agreement, with Washington.

There are those within many EU countries who agree that Europe must speak with a single clear voice if the EU is to promote European values and protect European interests in a world of US, Chinese, and Russian power.

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The politics of US crime: Perception vs reality

A recent spate of violent crimes in New York City has made national headlines. Since Eric Adams was sworn in four weeks ago as mayor of America’s most populous city, violence on the streets — and the subways — has again become a major political focus. Things got even more heated this week, when two young cops were killed while responding to a domestic dispute in Harlem.

Crime is not only a dominant political issue in New York. It also resonates more broadly with American voters worried over increased lawlessness and unrest. Indeed, crime is already shaping up to be a wedge issue as Republicans vie to win control of the US Congress this November.

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Hard Numbers: South China Sea jet search, US economy surges, Cuban protesters charged, Africa gets vaxxed

FILE PHOTO of a F-35C Lightning II, assigned to the Argonauts of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, launches off the flight deck of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) on Jan. 14, 2022.


100 million: The US Navy is scrambling to find a $100 million F-35 stealth fighter jet that crashed and sank soon after taking off on Monday from an aircraft carrier in the South China Sea. One expert described the Cold War-ish race to locate the remains — stocked with classified equipment — before the Chinese do as "basically The Hunt For Red October meets The Abyss."

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The logo of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project is seen on a pipe at the Chelyabinsk pipe rolling plant in Chelyabinsk, Russia, February 26, 2020.

Nord Stream 2 used as a bargaining chip with Russia. The US now says that if Russia invades Ukraine, it’ll block the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is set to transfer even more natural gas from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. This is a big deal, considering that Germany – thirsty for more Russian gas – has long been pushing for the pipeline to start operating despite ongoing objections from Washington. The $11 billion energy project, which would double Russian gas exports to Germany, is seen as (a big) part of the reason why Berlin is reluctant to push back hard against the Kremlin over its troop buildup at the Ukrainian border. Still, German officials admit Nord Stream 2 could face sanctions if the Russians invade, suggesting that the Americans’ threat was likely coordinated with Berlin in advance. This comes amid ongoing diplomatic attempts to de-escalate the Ukraine crisis, with US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz set to meet at the White House on February 7.

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Putin Has a “Noose” Around Ukraine, Says Russia Analyst Alina Polyakova | GZERO World

What’s going on in Vladimir Putin’s mind? That’s the million-dollar question.

Ukraine and Russia analyst Alina Polyakova doesn’t think it’s anything good.

Russia's president, she says, has put a “noose” around Ukraine with a troop build-up along the border that could spell invasion in the near term. The US has led an effort to deescalate the situation through diplomacy.

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The AI Addiction Cycle | GZERO World

Ever wonder why everything seems to be a major crisis these days? For former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, it's because artificial intelligence has determined that's the only way to get your attention.

What's more, it's driving an addiction cycle among humans that will lead to enormous depression and dissatisfaction.

"Oh my God there's another message. Oh my God, there's another crisis. Oh my God, there's another outrage. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God," he says. "I don't think humans, at least in modern society where [we’ve] evolved to be in an 'Oh my God' situation all day."

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Merkin' It With Angela Merkel | PUPPET REGIME | GZERO Media

Angela Merkel is retired — but only from politics. Still, maybe she's not as good at other jobs as she was as German chancellor.


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