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Pandemic worsens; defunding the police; debt crisis & Europe leadership

Ian Bremmer provides his perspective in a bit more than 60 seconds:

First, the W.H.O. says the coronavirus situation is "worsening" worldwide. Where is it getting worse?

Well, still in about a dozen US states where the reproduction number is greater than 1.0. In other words, we have flattened the curve in the United States as a whole. And New York City has a lot fewer, the metro area, has a lot fewer cases than it used to, a lot fewer deaths. But in 12 states across the country, you still actually have significant increases exponentially, though largely from lower numbers of cases. So, there's that. Most of that's in the south. Some of the Midwest. And hopefully won't expand dramatically on the back of all of the protests we've had for the last week and a half.


I'm of two minds there. I mean, on the one hand, most of those people, as you watched on television, are wearing masks and it's outdoors. And the super spreader incidents that we've seen so far are almost all indoors - meat packing, processing facilities and churches and nightclubs in South Korea. But, you know, you listen to Fauci, you listen to others, and the concern is that we're going to see more cases on the back of that. So, if that happens, then US, too.

But mostly coronavirus is getting worse in the developing world, particularly South America, particularly Brazil, Mexico, most other South American countries, and a lot of other countries, too, like in Pakistan, Iran has a major new outbreak now. And these are countries that do not have the money, the political wherewithal, the health care capacity to do enough testing or to really respond with lockdown. So, I mean, the expectation is not only are those numbers going up as we can monitor, but the numbers of cases that are asymptomatic or that have other diseases going along with them and we're never going to know are really cases, is a lot higher, probably two to five times higher than what is reflected in the data right now.

Another question, with calls to defund the police echoing across the United States, what does that actually mean?

Well, number one, it means it's not going to happen because Trump opposes it. And Biden, who is the presumptive Democratic nominee, also opposes it. Now, I mean, I understand that a lot of people that are looking at systemic racism in police departments and all of the abuses of police authority that have happened over the course of the decades, and we're certainly still seeing and seeing very visually on videotape, right now, leads to a very emotive reaction. And defunding police sounds like you're taking away their money and there won't be a police department. And particularly the chair of the Minneapolis council was not very clever in what she had to say about that and provided great soundbites for people that wanted to paint it as if we're going to have anarchy. That's not the case. It's more about demilitarization of the police. It's more about trying to train in ways and provide technical capabilities that would stop from the use of escalation and force in most cases.

It certainly means, it could mean that budgetary priorities are going to change. There's no question about that. But I think the biggest issue is that if you don't change the nature of policing, the police unions continue to be incredibly strong and they really prevent you from taking the kinds of systemic reform that are required to respond to the demands of the population. And I mean, the population that's making those demands, you know, maybe 20 years ago, was primarily the black population in the US. It's not anymore. And what's so interesting is just how much President Trump himself and law and order is not reflected in the way the American population as a whole believes that this response should be treated.

Very few people out there presently support a lock them up and throw away the key. Or you remember when Trump was arguing, "yeah, yeah, put that guy in the paddy wagon. Rough him up a little first," for someone that was shouting and causing mischief in a Trump rally. There are very few Americans that actually support that. There's some, but it's nowhere close to Trump's actual support base of 35%, 40%, maybe even 45&. So, I do think that you're going to see more systemic reform of the police departments across the country. And some of what we've seen in Camden, New Jersey, an experiment I suspect that you're going to see a lot more of both here in my neck of the woods, but also more broadly.

Finally, it's all pandemic and protests in the news cycle. What other global stories should I be paying attention to?

Well, I mean, I certainly think the potential for an emerging market debt crisis, I mean, as the markets in the United States do very well. But the ability of right now, middle income emerging markets to borrow is very, very high. Interest rates are low and they're getting the money they need. It's only the poorest countries that are really squeezed and need the emergency funding right now. I suspect in 12 and six months' time, that squeeze is going to grow. And the potential to have real banking crises that metastasized beyond the emerging markets is real. And we should not in any way feel comfortable just because jobs are coming back in the United States. I'd also say focus on leadership in Europe. The fact that the Germans and Angela Merkel is doing so well right now, not only in terms of response to coronavirus, but in terms of getting relief to southern Europeans that need it and creating a seven year European budget that will get approved in fairly uncontroversial fashion, either in short order or certainly by the end of this year, no one would have expected that a few months ago. That's a pretty big story.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

Over the weekend, some 40,000 Russians braved subzero temperatures to turn out in the streets in support of imprisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. More than 3,000 protesters were arrested, and Navalny called on his followers to prepare for more action in the coming weeks.

But just who is Alexei Navalny, and how significant is the threat that he may pose to Vladimir Putin's stranglehold on power in Russia?

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The United States has never been more divided, and it's safe to say that social media's role in our national discourse is a big part of the problem. But renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher doesn't see any easy fix. "I don't know how you fix the architecture of a building that is just purposely dangerous for everybody." Swisher joins Ian Bremmer to talk about how some of the richest companies on Earth, whose business models benefit from discord and division, can be compelled to see their better angels. Their conversation was part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take (part 1):

Ian Bremmer here, happy Monday. And have your Quick Take to start off the week.

Maybe start off with Biden because now President Biden has had a week, almost a week, right? How was it? How's he doing? Well, for the first week, I would say pretty good. Not exceptional, but not bad, not bad. Normal. I know everyone's excited that there's normalcy. We will not be excited there's normalcy when crises start hitting and when life gets harder and we are still in the middle of a horrible pandemic and he has to respond to it. But for the first week, it was okay.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Russian opposition leader Navalny in jail. Hundreds of thousands demonstrating across the country in Russia over well over 100 cities, well over 3000 arrested. And Putin responding by saying that this video that was put out that showed what Navalny said was Putin's palace that costs well over a billion dollars to create and Putin, I got to say, usually he doesn't respond to this stuff very quickly. Looked a little defensive, said didn't really watch it, saw some of it, but it definitely wasn't owned by him or owned by his relatives.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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