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.

Building on its previous commitment, Walmart is investing an additional $350 billion in products made, grown and assembled in America - supporting more than 750,000 new jobs by 2030. This pledge will aim to avoid more than 100M metric tons of CO2 emissions, advance the growth of U.S. based suppliers, and provide opportunities for more than 9,000 entrepreneurs to become Walmart suppliers and sellers through Walmart's annual Open Call.

"The people are stronger," pro-democracy demonstrators chanted as news broke that the Sudanese military had staged a coup Monday, overthrowing the joint civilian-military government and dashing hopes of democracy in the war-torn country.

The backstory. In 2019, Omar al-Bashir – a despot who ruled Sudan with an iron fist for 30 years – was deposed after a months-long popular uprising.

Al-Bashir was a bad guy: he cozied up to terrorists like Osama bin Laden and dropped barrel bombs on his own people. He also embezzled truck loads of money from oil production while millions of Sudanese went hungry, and oversaw a genocide in the Darfur region that left 300,000 people dead and displaced 1.6 million.

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As COP26 nears, the need for real climate action has never been more urgent. There are reasons for hope, but many scientists believe the ambitious goal of net zero emissions by 2050 is unattainable without immediate and significant change. Governments, financial institutions, and private sector companies alike have all recognized the need for a multistakeholder approach to solving this crisis of a lifetime.

Watch "Climate Crisis: Is net zero really possible?" a one-hour virtual livestream, hosted by GZERO Media and Microsoft as part of the Global Stage series, to hear scientists, corporate leaders and policymakers debate this question and offer critical perspectives on the way forward. Live on Tuesday, November 2nd at 11am ET, we'll break down what "net zero" means, take stock of where the world is on the path to carbon neutrality, and discuss critical steps needed to make real progress.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hey everybody and happy Monday. Back in the office, getting a little cool. So I've got my sweater going on. It's the first time I've had a sweater on. What do you do with that? Discussing fashion, as I talk to you about what is on my mind this week?

And what's on my mind this week, Facebook. Facebook is on my mind. It's a tough week for Facebook. There are all sorts of whistleblowers out there. There's testimony going on. There's calls for regulation. Everybody seems unhappy with them. Indeed, you even got the government relations types, Nick Clegg, who I've known for a long time back when he was a policymaker in the UK saying that the headlines are going to be rough, but we're are going to get through it. But I will say, first of all, I'm kind of skeptical that any of this goes anywhere in terms of impact on how Facebook actually operates.

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Turkey's Erdogan ups the ante with the West: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared diplomats from 10 Western countries "persona non-grata" after the group — which includes the US, France, and Germany — called on Ankara to release Osman Kavala, a Parisian-born Turkish businessman who's been held in jail since 2017 but hasn't been charged with a crime. Erdogan says that Kavala was involved in an attempted coup against the government in 2016. This latest move is a sign of Turkey's authoritarian drift in recent years, which has seen Erdogan's government increasingly crack down on opposition members as well as journalists. It also reflects Turkey's increasingly fraught relations with the West: things got particularly bad between Washington and Ankara after Turkey purchased missile defense systems from the Russians in 2019. The Council of Europe (the EU's leading human rights organization) had previously warned that Ankara has until November to release Kavala or it would impose "infringements," though it's unclear what those would be.

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ASEAN gets tough(ish) with Myanmar: The leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations meet Tuesday for their annual summit with one notable absence: the head of Myanmar's military junta. It's a rare snub from ASEAN, a regional bloc that's gotten a lot of heat in the past for giving tyrants a free pass. The junta says ASEAN violated its traditional principles of deciding by consensus by disinviting its leader, and non-interference in domestic affairs for demanding the bloc's special envoy meet detained former leader Aung San Suu Kyi. For their part, the other ASEAN members have grown visibly alarmed at Myanmar's rapidly deteriorating political and economic situation since the February coup, and they're worried about the spillover effects of Myanmar becoming a failed state. More importantly, Myanmar is a big thorn in ASEAN's side as it walks a fine line between keeping warm ties with the US — which most members want cash and security from — and getting along with China, one of Myanmar's few remaining friends and viewed with suspicion by most ASEAN members over its South China Sea shenanigans.

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149: The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached a record-high 413.2 parts per million in 2020, 149 percent above pre-industrial levels. A new report by the UN weather agency released ahead of the COP26 climate summit found that last year's lower emissions due to COVID-related lockdowns had no impact on the overall amount of greenhouse gases causing global warming.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

Why should all eyes be on the Virginia suburbs?

I'm here in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Arlington, Virginia, where the state will be having a gubernatorial election on November 2nd. The Virginia governor election is held in the year after the US presidential election typically, and is generally seen as a bellwether for how popular the incumbent president of the United States is. In 2009, the Republican candidate won by a commanding 16 points despite the fact that Virginia has been trending more and more Democratic in recent years due to the population growth here in the suburbs, which tend to be more blue than rural areas of the state.

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