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.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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