Coronavirus Politics Daily: Protest in Mumbai, IMF cancels debts, women lead best COVID-19 responses

Coronavirus Politics Daily: Protest in Mumbai, IMF cancels debts, women lead best COVID-19 responses

Migrant workers protest in Mumbai: After India's government extended a nationwide lockdown until May 3, thousands of jobless migrant workers stranded in Mumbai staged a protest at a local railway station. The quarantines are especially hard on Mumbai's migrant laborers, many of whom have left their families behind to work in the city in textiles and service industries. They are now not only unemployed while India's economy is in hibernation, but also stuck in the city because public transport has been halted. Some have tried to make their way home on foot. Many say they are now staying in cramped shelters (or in some cases on the street) where social distancing is impossible and food is scarce, and they want the government to restart bus and train services so they can get home. So far, the state of Maharashtra, home to Mumbai, has been hardest hit by the virus.

Women lead on Covid-19 responses: Now more than ever, concerned citizens are turning to their elected officials to guide them through a once-in-a-lifetime global health and economic crisis. What do some of the world leaders who have shown the most innovative and compassionate approaches to managing the pandemic have in common, one Forbes analyst asks? They are women. Consider that in Taiwan, where new coronavirus cases have hovered in the single digits for weeks, President Tsa Ing-wen was an early adopter of data technology to trace those infected. She also ramped up production of crucial protective equipment before global supplies dwindled. Meanwhile, in New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has been praised for closing borders and enforcing home quarantines early, despite the low number of cases in her country. Arden has also taken to Facebook to respond directly to questions from concerned New Zealanders, while reassuring children that the Easter Bunny and tooth fairy are essential workers. Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, meanwhile, held a special conference specifically for children where she spent half an hour answering their questions. Meanwhile, in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasized the severity of this crisis early, before rolling out one of the world's most consistent testing programs, which has contributed to Germany's relative success in dealing with the pandemic.

IMF cancels debt for poor nations: Amid what could be the worst global economic crisis in 90 years, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed Monday to annul six months of debt repayments for 25 of the world's poorest countries. Many of these cash-strapped countries, which include those mired in conflict like Yemen and Afghanistan, as well as low-income countries in Africa, have limited medical supplies, few doctors, and poor healthcare systems – a serious outbreak of COVID-19 in any of these countries would be catastrophic. More than 90-countries have so far lobbied the IMF for financial assistance in recent weeks, in an unprecedented appeal for help from the Fund. The IMF says that emerging market economies will need at least $2.5 trillion this year to make ends meet.

A sector that's rapidly expanding, domotics - domus (home) plus robotics - are smart houses that manage temperature and lighting to minimize wasted electricity. For example, smart thermostats sense your presence and set the temperature according to your needs, saving 20% a year on heating bills. Watch this episode of Eni's Energy Shot series to learn how domotics save money and increase a home's value.

Even if the US, Europe, China, and India reduce carbon emissions at the rate they've promised, much climate damage has already been done. That shouldn't stop these and other countries from doing all they can to meet their net-zero emissions targets, but they also better start preparing for a world of people on the move.

Climate change will displace an unprecedented number of people in coming years, creating not just a series of humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, but lasting political, economic, and social upheaval as those of us who live on higher ground try to find a sustainable place for these climate refugees to live.

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When will it be safe for the world's children to be vaccinated against COVID-19? The World Health Organization's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, says that vaccines are being tested in children down to the age of six or even lower, and promises that data on children will be shared as soon as it's available. She also notes that there are not enough studies on transmission in schools, and the WHO has advised governments to prioritize schools "over other things like shopping malls or cinema halls or pubs." Dr. Swaminathan spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 9. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Over the past half century, climate change has had an immense impact on the farmers who produce the food we eat. A new study by Cornell University shows that global warming has knocked 21 percent off of global agriculture productivity growth since 1965, equivalent to seven years of normal growth if humans had not polluted the planet. But not all countries have been affected in the same say. Farmers in warmer parts of the world have been hit hard as conditions grow more arid, but sub-polar regions in Canada or Siberia are now actually better for agriculture because they are not as cold as they used to be. Here we take a look at how climate has affected farming productivity growth around the world.

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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A Castro-less Cuba: Raúl Castro, younger brother of the late Fidel, is expected to retire on Friday as secretary-general of Cuba's ruling communist party. When he does, it'll mark the first time since the 1959 revolution that none of Cuba's leaders is named Castro. The development is largely symbolic since Castro, 89, handed over day-to-day affairs to President Miguel Díaz-Canel in 2018. It's worth noting that US sanctions laws do specify that one of the conditions for normalizing ties with Cuba is that any transitional government there cannot include either of the Castro brothers. So that's one less box to tick in case there is a future rapprochement across the Straits of Florida. But more immediately, we're watching to see whether a new generation of leaders headed by Díaz-Canel will bring any serious reforms to Cuba. COVID has killed the tourism industry, plunging the island into an economic crisis that's brought back food shortages and dollar stores reminiscent of the early 1990s.

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16: Brazil's new plan to save the Amazon promises to curb deforestation, but not too much. Although it would reduce annual forest loss to the average recorded over the past five years, next year's target is still 16 percent higher than the Amazon's total deforestation in 2018, the year before President Jair Bolsonaro — who favors economic development of the rainforest — took office.

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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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