THREE STORIES IN THE KEY OF: UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES

Every action has a reaction—sometimes unintended. Here are three stories about the unintended consequences of governments’ actions that caught our attention this week.


Russia’s sanctions windfall: A more confrontational US foreign policy is delivering an unexpected windfall to Moscow—more money in the bank. That’s because Russia has benefited from two simultaneous effects of US sanctions. First, the price of oil, Russia’s main export, has risen steadily in anticipation of the re-imposition of US sanctions against Iran. Second, US measures against Russia itself have caused the value of its currency, the ruble, to fall by 15 percent since mid-August. The combined result is that a barrel of Russian crude, which is typically sold in dollars, is worth around 30 percent more todaythan one sold back in January.

Saudi Arabia’s tech funding: Saudi Arabia’s alleged killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has led a number of high-profile US business people to withdrawfrom an upcoming investment conference in Riyadh, a consequential development for the kingdom as it seeks to attract know-how from abroad. But the next wave of the backlash may wash over Silicon Valley—as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS, has directed at least $11 billion in Saudi funds to Silicon Valley since mid-2016, according to the Wall Street Journal. As global elites sour on MBS as a result of the Khashoggi affair, many American tech companies and entrepreneurs could soon find their sources of funds under fresh scrutiny.

US aid to Central America: A migrant caravan of at least 1,500 Hondurans is currently making the more than 3,000-mile overland journey to the United States. Yesterday, members of the caravan were detained by Guatemalan officials for making what they claim was an illegal border crossing. This story hasn’t escaped the attention of President Trump, who threatened in a recent tweet to cut off all aid to Honduras, the second poorest country in Latin America, if the group isn't quickly returned home. But a reduction in US aid to Honduras, which has already been slashed by the Trump administration (see graphic below), may simply exacerbate the factors that led these migrants to flee their country in the first place.

Brazil's governors take on Bolsonaro: We've previously written about the tensions between local and national governments over coronavirus response, but few places have had it as bad as Brazil. As COVID-19 infections surged in Brazil, the country's governors quickly mobilized – often with scarce resources – to enforce citywide lockdowns. Brazil's gangs have even risen to the occasion, enforcing strict curfews to limit the virus' spread in Rio de Janeiro. But Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, has mocked the seriousness of the disease and urged states to loosen quarantines in order to get the economy up and running again. "Put the people to work," he said this week, "Preserve the elderly; preserve those who have health problems. But nothing more than that." In response, governors around the country – including some of his allies – issued a joint letter to the president, begging him to listen to health experts and help states contain the virus. The governor of Sao Paulo, Brazil's economic powerhouse, has even threatened to sue the federal government if Bolsonaro continues to undermine his efforts to combat the virus' spread.

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Governments of the developed world are finally responding with due sense of urgency, individually in 3 different ways.

1st, stand health care systems up so they won't get overwhelmed (late responses). The private & public sector together, building additional ICU beds, supply capacity and production of medical equipment and surge medical personnel in the US, Canada, across Europe & the UK. Unclear if we avoid a Northern Italy scenario. A couple days ago, Dr. Fauci from the NIH said he was hopeful. Epidemiologists and critical care doctors don't feel comfortable. Not in New York, Chicago, LA, Boston, Philadelphia, New Orleans. In Europe, particularly London, Madrid, Catalonia, Barcelona, might be significantly short.

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The major outbreaks of coronavirus in China, Europe, and the United States have garnered the most Western media attention in recent weeks. Yesterday, we went behind the headlines to see how Mexico and Russia are faring. Today, we'll look at three other potential hotspots where authorities and citizens are now contending with the worst global pandemic in a century.

Start with India. For weeks, coronavirus questions hovered above that other country with a billion-plus people, a famously chaotic democracy where the central government can't simply order a Chinese-scale public lockdown with confidence that it will be respected. It's a country where 90 percent of people work off the books— without a minimum wage, a pension, a strong national healthcare system, or a way to work from home.

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In the end, it took the coronavirus to break the year-long deadlock in Israeli politics. Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu will still face corruption charges, but he has yet another new lease on political life, as he and political rival Benny Gantz cut a deal yesterday: Bibi will continue as prime minister, with Gantz serving as Speaker of the Knesset, Israel's parliament. After 18 months, Gantz will take over as prime minister, but many doubt that will ever happen.

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