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.

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The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Ian Bremmer is joined on GZERO World by artificial intelligence scientists Kai-fu Lee, who recently wrote about how AI will change the world over the next two decades, precisely to talk about AI's future. After this week's Facebook debacle, how can we align interest to regulate AI-driven algorithms? Will AI steal all our jobs? And what should we do to learn from AI to improve our lives before it gets smarter than us?

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

US elections officials have always persuaded losing candidates that they've, ahem, lost. Now it's worse because there's a new paradigm, according to former DHS and Election Assistance Commission official Matt Masterson, policy fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory. Candidates that won't accept defeat regardless of the margin or evidence of fraud, he says, are undermining trust in the system — and election officials are ill-equipped to deal with this problem.

Matt Masterson made these remarks during a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Who's most responsible for spreading misinformation online? For Ginny Badanes, senior director for Democracy Forward at Microsoft, the problem starts with those who create it, yet ultimately governments, companies and individuals all share the burden. And she's more interested in what we can do to respond.

Ginny Badanes spoke at a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. In this video, watch Ian Bremmer's conversation with Lebanese journalist and author Kim Ghattas on GZW talking about the future of Lebanese politics and sectarianism in the county after the after the blast. It was originally published on August 19, 2020.

In Lebanon, "a majority (are) united in wanting a different future, a future that is non-sectarian, that is non-corrupt, that provides prosperity, justice, dignity for people," journalist Kim Ghattas told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

In this interview, Ghattas discusses the opportunity that could arise from the tragedy of the Beirut explosion which killed 200 and injured thousands more. The Lebanese are "fed up" with the militant group Hezbollah, she tells Bremmer, and want to strive for a government that better resembles the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of its citizens.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Lebanon Post-Blast: Rage in the Streets of Beirut.

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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