Coronavirus Politics Daily: Poland's election, Iraq on the rocks, the Peruvian urban exodus

Poland's election mess: Many countries have postponed their elections fearing that in-person polls could put voters at risk of contracting COVID-19. Not Poland. The country is still set to hold its presidential election on May 10, and any decision to the contrary will now come at the 11th hour, after a contentious debate. The ruling coalition government, led by the nationalist Law and Justice Party, wants to delay the vote by just a week or two so that a vote-by-mail system can be rolled out. Critics note that a fraud-proof system of this kind usually takes months or years to get off the ground. But the government wants to capitalize on incumbent President Andrzej Duda's strong recent polling, and is even trying to bend rules which forbid any changes to elections within six months of the vote. Opposition parties, meanwhile, worry about fraud and the public health risks of holding the vote so soon, and some have called for a boycott. Parliament is set to vote on the government backed-plan this week. The crucial vote lies with the lower house, where the governing coalition has a slim majority.

Iraq on the rocks: Even before the coronavirus pandemic, Iraq was facing multiple political and economic crises, including a potential Islamic State resurgence, grassroots anti-corruption protests, and the lack of a permanent Prime Minister. But now the oil-rich state's economy is on the brink of collapse, for two reasons. First, lockdowns around the world have cratered global demand for oil, which accounts for 90 percent of Iraq's government revenues and directly contributes nearly 40 percent of GDP. With global crude prices at their lowest levels in decades, the government is already $2 billion short. Second, Iraq's own lockdowns have proven catastrophic in a country where more than half of all workers toil in the country's informal economy, which means they can't work from home and have no jobless benefits. For many of these families, not working means not eating. When oil prices plummeted back in 2014, the IMF doled out $4.5 billion in aid to helped Iraq weather the storm. But amid the current crisis Iraq is just one of many crisis-stricken developing countries pleading with the IMF for urgent assistance.

A Peruvian exodus: Nations emerge from poverty and build middle classes when waves of people move from the countryside into cities to find better opportunities to learn, work, and earn. That's why one of the coronavirus' most damaging effects lies in its ability to force people out of cities, where infection rates are highest, back into the countryside—and perhaps back into poverty. That's the context for reports like this one, which describes the highways in Peru lined with men, women and children, burdened with their possessions, escaping the capital city of Lima on foot. Peru is especially hard hit: current data say it has the second highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Latin America, behind only the much larger Brazil. But the frantic and often uncertain exodus from the city to the countryside is an echo of what is happening in developing countries all over the world.

Paper was originally made from rags until the introduction of cellulose in 1800. Since then, it has transformed into a "circular" industry, with 55% of paper produced in Italy recovered. It no longer just comes from trees, either. Some companies produce paper with scraps from the processing of other products like wool and walnuts.

Learn more about this rags to riches story in Eni's new Energy Superfacts series.

Donald Trump can still win re-election in November, but foreign governments read the same polls we do. They know that Joe Biden heads into the homestretch with a sizeable polling lead — both nationally and in the states most likely to decide the outcome. Naturally, they're thinking ahead to what a Biden foreign policy might look like.

They're probably glad that Biden gives them a half-century track record to study. (He was first elected to local office in 1970 and to the US Senate in 1972.) The six years he spent as ranking member, then chairman, of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, his term as co-chairman of the Senate's NATO Observer Group, and his eight years as Barack Obama's vice president tell them that he's essentially a "liberal internationalist," a person who believes that America must lead a global advance of democracy and freedom — and that close cooperation with allies is essential for success.

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Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, and Vladimir Putin gather via Zoom for a meeting of the Pandemic Presidents. But who's the top Corona King of them all? #PUPPETREGIME

On the latest episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer, Zanny Minton Beddoes, Editor-in-Chief of The Economist, explains why, in her view, Cold War analogies fall short as tensions between the US and China rise. Unlike the former Soviet Union, China is an economic powerhouse and a trade partner and technology provider to nations around the world. Simply cutting off ties with China seems untenable, but, as she asks, "How can you safely continue that integration, continue that interaction, with a country whose ideology you absolutely don't share, and that you fundamentally don't trust." The full episode of GZERO World begins airing on US public television on Friday, July 31, 2020. Check local listings.

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


What happened at the antitrust hearings this week?

Well, CEOs of Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook testified in front of the Subcommittee in Antitrust of the House Judiciary Committee for five hours. There's a fair amount of nonsense and conspiracy talk, but mostly it was a pretty good hearing where the House members dug into questions about whether four companies abused their market positions to their advantage? Whether they used predatory pricing to drive competitors out of the market? Whether they used inside information from their services to identify and then copy and kill competitors? And the evidence that was presented, if I were to sum it up quickly, is, yes, they did do that. They did abuse their market power. But what wasn't presented was clear evidence of consumer harm. We know they acted in ways that distorted capitalism, but were people really hurt? That's a big question. I look forward to their report.