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

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.

Carbon has a bad rep, but did you know it's a building block of life? As atoms evolved, carbon trapped in CO2 was freed, giving way to the creation of complex molecules that use photosynthesis to convert carbon to food. Soon after, plants, herbivores, and carnivores began populating the earth and the cycle of life began.

Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

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On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

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Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the Supreme Court vacancy:

Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

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In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

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Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

UNGA Livestream