WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

Trump’s phone calls – So… Russian and Chinese spies are listening in on phone calls from the president of the United States because he refuses to stop using his personal phone? Sounds like a story we’ll be hearing more about. President Trump has dismissed the report as “wrong,” “long,” and “boring.”


Cameroon corruption – Earlier this week, Clement Atangana, president of Cameroon’s Constitutional Council, announced his finding that President Paul Biya, in power since 1982, had won a seventh term as president and that opposition charges of fraud were without grounds. Later in the week, Cameroon’s government issued a public tender for construction of a $475,000 house for Mr. Atangana. Your Friday author is sure this is just a crazy coincidence, but we’ll keep watching just in case.

Ethiopia’s First Female President – Ethiopia’s parliament has appointed Sahle-Work Zewde to be the country’s first female head of state. The post of president is ceremonial in Ethiopia; real power lies with the prime minister. But Zewde insists this is still an important moment for her country. “In a patriarchal society such as ours, the appointment of a female head of state not only sets the standard for the future but also normalizes women as decision-makers in public life.” For the moment, she is Africa’s only female head of state.

Us vs Them: The American Gender Edition – A new poll on US midterm elections from Quinnipiac University found that Democrats lead among women on a generic congressional ballot by a margin of 58 percent to 33 percent, and that Republicans lead among men by 50 percent to 42 percent. If the election results match this poll, this will be the largest gender gap in US midterm elections in 60 years.

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

Death comes to Russia – Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that any foe who launched a nuclear war on Russia would “drop dead without time to repent” while Russians would accept death and “go to heaven as martyrs.” This week, a man dressed as the grim reaper roamed the streets of the Siberian city of Kurgan to ask passersby which of these two options they would personally prefer. Results were inconclusive. Death has reportedly appeared in Kurgan before to protest “alcoholism, poor highway maintenance, and swimming in dangerous waters.”

Lurking saints – A Catholic Evangelical group has created a game called “Follow JC Go!” an imitation of Pokémon Go that lets players finds saints or Bible characters instead of little green monsters. Players can also raise their scores by collecting virtual water, food and "spirituality.”

Egypt Expels Mickey and Donald – Last month, a province north of Cairo announced a plan to remove Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck from classroom walls in favor of art depicting Egyptian “military martyrs.” Your Friday author is fine with this, because he much prefers Bugs Bunny to Mickey and Daffy Duck to Donald—and has no opinion on Egyptian military martyrs.

Complaints about clever dogs – Someone called Betsy Reyes of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma claims to have photographic evidence that her dog, Princess, is pretending to be a stray to persuade the night crew at a local McDonald’s restaurant to give her food. “If you see my dog @ the McDonald's on shields, quit feeding her fat ass bc she don't know how to act … She's not even a stray dog.” wrote Reyes. We’re ignoring you, Betsy, and we hope McDonalds will too, because we think canine initiative and ingenuity should be rewarded. #I’mLovingIt

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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