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Key questions about the omicron variant

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Good morning everybody and I hope everyone is okay this Monday. I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving, those of you that celebrate. Of course, pretty difficult news over the weekend, and even this morning, the World Health Organization, referring to the new variant omicron of COVID as a very high global risk. And when I hear those words, obviously we get moving at Eurasia Group, a firm very much concerned about that. And indeed, this is in terms of new news about this pandemic that we've all been living with now for almost two years, this is some of the most concerning new headlines that we've seen thus far.

There are some things we know and some things we don't know, there are three things we need to know, if you want to really assess what the omicron risk represents for us and for the world: rates of infection, sickness and mortality and vaccine effectiveness. We only have strong answers about the first, which is we know that this is a lot more infectious as a variant than Delta has been, which itself was much more infectious than the original virus. And that is a very serious problem. I've spoken with a lot of the epidemiologists we know about this over the weekend, they're all extremely concerned about that.

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COVID hypocrisy & misinformation

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here from sunny Nantucket and going to be here for a little bit. Thought we would talk about the latest on COVID. Certainly, we had hoped we'd be talking less about it at this point, at least in terms of the developed world. A combination of the transmissibility of Delta variant and the extraordinary misinformation around vaccines and COVID treatment means that we are not in the position that many certainly had hoped we would be today.

The United States is the biggest problem on this front. We are awash in vaccines. Operation Warp Speed was an enormous success. The best vaccines in the world, the most effective mRNA, the United States doing everything it can to get secure doses for the entire country quick, more quickly than any other major economy in the world, and now we're having a hard time convincing people to take them. The politics around this are nasty and as divided as the country, absolutely not what you want to see in response to a health crisis.

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The 2020 pandemic was hardly “unprecedented,” says historian Niall Ferguson

"We've been dealing with pandemics from the earliest recorded history. Thucydides writes about a pandemic in the history of the Peloponnesian War. So the last thing 2020 was, was unprecedented," Stanford historian Niall Ferguson told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World. Ferguson, whose new book, "Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe," believes that the world should have been better prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic based on the numerous health crises of the 20th century, from the 1918 Spanish flu to influenza and HIV/AIDS. He provides perspective on how the COVID crisis stacks up compared to other pandemics throughout history.

Watch the episode: Predictable disaster and the surprising history of shocks

Biden-Putin summit: US wants predictability; G7's strong COVID response

Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

What topics will be in focus at the G7 summit?

Well, most importantly is the collective response to coronavirus. 1 billion vaccines, repurposed, and tens of billions of dollars in financing from the G7 to lower income economies around the world. It is by far the most significant show of leadership displayed since the pandemic started and it's coming from the United States and its allies. That is meaningful, especially given the direction that the world has been heading, this G-Zero world over the course of the past decades. It's nice to see. Lots of other issues being discussed. It's only 60 seconds. I can't go that far.

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What We’re Watching: WhatsApp sues India, US to (re)probe COVID origins, mob boss vs Turkish president

WhatsApp sues India: First it was TikTok. Then Facebook and Twitter. Now WhatsApp is the latest target of India's crackdown on online free speech. The social media messaging app, used by hundreds of millions of Indians daily, has filed a lawsuit against the Indian government to stop a new law that would require WhatsApp to trace users' encrypted messages. The law grants Delhi sweeping powers to block or remove any content that threatens national security, public order, or whatever the Indian government considers to be decency or morality. WhatsApp argues this would violate privacy rights, and is willing to fight it out in court. So far, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been successful in stifling online criticism of his government, especially over its handling of the country's ongoing COVID crisis. But WhatsApp's immense popularity among Indians gives the Facebook-owned tech firm considerable leverage, and at a moment when his approval rating has already hit all-time lows, Modi may fear a backlash if the messaging app suddenly goes offline.

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The Graphic Truth: How COVID is hitting Southeast Asia

In January 2020, Thailand became the first nation outside of China to record a case of COVID-19. But along with neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, Thailand managed to keep the coronavirus mostly at bay last year by swiftly enforcing lockdowns and other public health measures. However, having barely rolled out COVID vaccines, in 2021 many Southeast Asian nations are now grappling with massive new outbreaks of disease. Cambodia's caseload is surging, leading Prime Minister Hun Sen to say that his country was on "the brink of death." Meanwhile, Malaysian officials struggled to enforce domestic travel restrictions during Ramadan, causing cases to skyrocket in recent weeks. We take a look at COVID-19 caseloads in Southeast Asian countries with the highest daily caseloads this year.

What We're Watching: White House backs Gaza ceasefire, Southeast Asia's COVID spike, Iran's heavyweight contenders weigh in

Will there be a ceasefire in Gaza? Fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas/Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants in the Gaza Strip has now entered its second week. Over the weekend, Israel intensified its bombing of the Gaza Strip, which included targeting a building that houses Al-Jazeera and AP, two foreign media outlets, causing their reporters to hastily flee the premises (Israel has so far not substantiated its claim that Hamas intelligence operatives were working in the building.) At least 42 Gazans were killed in a single Israeli strike Sunday, bringing the Palestinian death toll above 200. Meanwhile, Hamas continued to fire rockets at southern and central Israel, resulting in several casualties. On Monday, for the first time since the violent outbreak, US President Joe Biden voiced support for a ceasefire driven by the Egyptians and others. However, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, has said that the operation will "take time," and a truce is off the table until Hamas' military capabilities are significantly degraded. Civilians on both sides continue to suffer.

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