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Ari Winkleman

Is omicron the best thing that’s happened since the pandemic started?

With the omicron COVID variant fast conquering every corner of the globe, people and governments are once again forced to make difficult decisions about pandemic policy and personal behavior. Borders are closing and testing sites are overwhelmed.

But is there something different about this wave from previous ones? We sat down with Eurasia Group public health expert Scott Rosenstein to get some perspective.

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Omicron Will Be Home for Christmas | Quick Take | GZERO Media

Omicron will be home for Christmas

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Happy Monday, and yeah, I think I'm still talking to you about the pandemic. I was hoping I would be talking a lot less about the pandemic these days, but we are in the midst of very significant learning on the omicron variant, and I thought I would share what we know and what we really don't know, because the headlines obscure that.

What we know: Big news is that the vaccines don't work very well at all to prevent spread. And that's even true for the mRNA vaccines, the best vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, that if you've taken two shots, which means that you're considered fully vaccinated and you've got your app, or you've got your vaccine passport, you really aren't protected from getting infected from omicron. Pfizer showing after two vaccine jabs something like 23% effectiveness, which is not effective at all. And the non-mRNA vaccines look like they're even worse, which means that a very, very transmissible strain is not being prevented by the vaccines. That's the bad news, and it's bad news.

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Omicron in EU Not as Much of a Concern as Delta | Sweden's Female PM | Europe In :60 | GZERO Media

EU battles delta variant with omicron next; Sweden government turmoil

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

How is Europe dealing with new omicron version of the pandemic?

Well, I mean the big issue isn't really that one, the big issue if you see the havoc that is created in several European countries at the moment is the delta. The delta is making impressive strides, particularly in countries that have a slightly lower vaccination rates. So that's the number one fight at the moment. And then we must of course prepare for the omicron as well.

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Is the world really building back better? Watch our live discussion today at 11am ET

"Pandemic" was the most used word of 2020. "Delta" looks set to inherit this year's title.

Vaccination rates are ticking up slowly. Governments aren't talking to each other enough. Parts of the world are back to normal, while others are still locked down.

Have we actually made any progress since the COVID-19 outbreak?

Unfinished Business: Is the World Really Building Back Better?

Wednesday, September 22nd, 11am ET/ 8am PT

Watch the event here.

Our speakers:

Special appearance by António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.

Visit gzeromedia.com/globalstage to watch on the day of the event.

Slowing Jobs Growth Means More Fiscal Space for Democrats | US Politics In :60 | GZERO Media

Will Joe Manchin thwart Biden's spending? FDA credibility hit

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

What does the disappointing jobs number mean for the Democrats' agenda?

Well, payroll employment in August came in well under expectations with under 300,000 jobs created. This is in contrast to the last several months, which really saw a torrid pace of job creation as the US started to recover from the pandemic and restrictions were lifted. With new mask mandates and the Delta variant spreading, Americans are slowing down their pace of activity and slowing down spending, which means you could see more economic volatility in the next couple of months. At the same time, Democrats are attempting to find consensus around a major new spending initiative, which would spend up to $3.5 half trillion over the next 10 years. This initiative isn't really about coronavirus pandemic recovery, or even stimulus, it's about expanding the size and scope of government for increased transfer payments and increased subsidies for education services and healthcare and also, of course, on infrastructure. The slowing jobs growth creates more fiscal space for Democrats to borrow more, and that's a real sticking point because you have moderates like Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia, who says the US is already at their borrowing limit and shouldn't be borrowing more to spend money. This is going to be the major storyline in Washington for the next several months because it's also probably going to be the last big initiative of the Biden administration before the midterm elections next year.

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Is Australia still the lucky country?

Over the past 18 months, national governments have tried a lot of different stuff to get the relentless pandemic under control. These approaches range from the radical (hello, Sweden), to the punitive, to the downright risible.

Naturally, I have been focused on the goings on down under in Australia, my home country, where the people I care about most have been hermetically sealed off from the rest of the world since March 2020.

The Australian government has enforced the most stringent curbs on movement of any democratic country in the world. Its punishing international travel ban, which includes blocking Australians from leaving the continent, has been likened to North Korea. So what's been happening, and why does it really matter?

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