Coronavirus Politics Daily: Spain's blame scandal, Wuhan's testing scheme, Nigeria's food crisis

Spain blame game begins – As Spain slowly moves beyond the worst public health phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, the first big political crisis of the finger-pointing phase has arrived. On Monday, Spain's left-wing government sacked the head of the Guardia Civil police in Madrid. Conservative opponents of the government immediately pointed out that the Madrid police had recently filed a report alleging that the government's decision to approve a massive March 8 rally for women's day contributed to the virus' devastating spread in the weeks afterward. The approval for that rally is currently under investigation by a Spanish court. The government denies that the sacking was related, but the second in command of the national Guardia Civil has already resigned in protest as well. Meanwhile, as Spain's notoriously sluggish and fragmented judicial system comes back online, courts are facing a deluge of cases involving bankruptcies as well as lawsuits alleging that the national government mishandled the crisis. The cases could take years to adjudicate.


Nigerians need food – Nigeria's government has issued a clear message to the country's farmers: produce more food. The authorities say the country has run out of funds to import food for its people to eat, but workers say that years of chronic under-investment in the country's agricultural sector has meant that even before the pandemic they were struggling to supply enough produce for Nigeria's 200 million people. They warn that millions could now starve unless the government itself brings in more rice and other staples. Food prices in Nigeria have surged since the coronavirus crisis hit Africa, while the already-flailing economy has taken a massive hit from falling oil prices, a crucial revenue stream for the continent's largest economy. Even before the pandemic, famine-induced food shortages had pushed millions below the poverty line, while ongoing conflict with Islamist militant groups have displaced more than 2.5 million people. The IMF now predicts that Nigeria's economy will contract by at least 1.5 percent this year, a massive blow for a country where 3 million people already depend on food aid to survive.

Wuhan's testing miracle – Authorities in Wuhan, China, appear to have pulled off the impossible, testing almost 7 million residents for COVID-19 in 10 days after a handful of new infections was detected in that city earlier this month. The ambitious testing scheme, dubbed a "10-day battle" by state officials, is an attempt to prevent a second wave of infection in the city where COVID-19 first surfaced back in December. Indeed, it was an impressive operation: to put the feat in perspective, testing 7 million people in 10 days means testing 8 people every second of every day. How did they do it? Medical booths were set up in every neighborhood so that all residents could easily access testing, while technicians paid home visits to elderly and disabled residents who were unable to leave their homes. On Friday alone, Wuhan performed around 1.47 million tests, compared to 394,296 tests performed throughout the entire US on the same day. Some countries have pointed to Wuhan as a model for mass testing schemes, but researchers say that it's not a foolproof system and that it risks overwhelming labs, while the push to rush through testing batches could produce faulty results.

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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