Coronavirus Politics Daily: Zara cancels Bangladesh, Putin aids America, Europe helps Iran

Read our roundup of COVID-19 themes and stories from around the globe.

Europe skirts US sanctions to help Iran: While the US insists on tightening the sanctions noose around COVID-stricken Iran, European countries are now sending medical equipment. To do so, they are using for the first time a system called INSTEX, a back-channel financial mechanism created a year ago that allows Europe to maintain trade ties with Iran despite US sanctions. Recall that in 2018 the US pulled out of the multilateral Iran nuclear agreement and reimposed crippling sanctions – the Europeans stayed in the deal and have tried to salvage it. To date, Iran has suffered more than 3,000 deaths from COVID-19, one of the highest tolls in the world. Some say that Iran's failure to contain the contagion has been complicated further by US sanctions, which have thwarted the Islamic Republic's ability to fund medical imports. Tehran has urged the US to ease sanctions to no avail, but Ayatollah Khamenei has also, citing some wild conspiracy theories about the coronavirus' origin, refused medical aid from Washington.


COVID tears up Bangladesh's garment industry: Bangladesh, the South Asian country of 164 million that produces the most apparel in the world after China, is reeling as coronavirus-related economic slowdowns lead to cancellations from some of the world's biggest clothing retailers. The country has already lost around $3 billion in export revenue, and stands to lose a total $6 billion from lost revenue in this financial year alone, as brands like Zara and Gap scrap their orders. Last year, garment exports made up around 84 percent of Bangladesh's overall export revenue, accounting for some $34 billion. In a country where poverty is already widespread (one person in five lives below the poverty line) the economic fallout from the pandemic alone could be catastrophic.

Russia sends medical aid to...the US: President Trump confirmed this week that Russia had sent a planeload of masks and other medical equipment to help the US as it grapples with a rapidly expanding coronavirus outbreak. Trump reportedly accepted the offer from Vladimir Putin during a phone call this week where the two leaders discussed pandemic response efforts as well as Russia's ongoing oil price war with Saudi Arabia. Putin has already sent a highly publicized shipment of aid to Italy, even as he struggles with what could be a huge outbreak of COVID-19 at home. But watching the United States – whom Putin has for years sought to cut down to size – accept aid from Moscow, is a particularly delicious propaganda victory for the Kremlin. What will Putin use it for?

Bank of America is working to ensure small businesses are receiving much-needed relief through the Payment Protection Program (PPP). For instance, more than 98% of processed loan applications are for companies with fewer than 100 employees.

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The coronavirus pandemic has monopolized much of the world's attention for months now, but the conflicts and crises plaguing some of the most vulnerable countries have not stopped. In some cases they have only gotten worse. Here's a look at what's been happening in some of the world's most intractable hotspots in the months since the COVID-19 crisis took center stage.

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The United States reached a grim milestone Wednesday, surpassing 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus in just twelve weeks. It's the highest death toll in the world – and by a big margin. But Americans are not united by grief. In fact, they are more divided than ever. Polls show that Democrats overwhelmingly support stay-at-home orders, anxious to contain the virus' spread, while Republicans are more likely to be concerned with the economic impact of lockdowns and want to get back to work, regardless of the public health toll. Here's a look at how the pandemic, and the measures to contain it, have affected each state to date.

How are public companies giving back during the COVID-19 pandemic?

So, you've seen communities around the world come together to support each other during this pandemic. And we've seen private companies, organizations, as well as public companies use their resources. Many of those public companies are listed on the New York Stock Exchange. So, we wanted to recognize a few of those. There's too many of them to name one by one. But a few you do stand out.

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Iran's parliament sits (at a distance): They arrived in masks. They had their temperature taken. And then 268 members of Iran's newly elected parliament were sworn in, convening for the first time, with the appropriate distance between members. The body, which has no influence over foreign policy but does shape economic policy and the annual budget, is this time dominated by religious conservatives who are suspicious of engagement with the West, after many moderates and reformers were disqualified ahead of the most recent election in February. The new parliament has its work cut out: Iran's economy is in freefall as a result of US sanctions, low oil prices, and a coronavirus outbreak that was one of the worst in the Middle East. According to official data, which are widely suspected of being spotty, there have been 141,000 confirmed cases and 7,500 deaths. Two of the dead were newly elected members of parliament.
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