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What We're Watching: VP Harris on Central America trip, FBI dupes crooks, India reverses course on vaccines

VP Harris tours Central America: US Vice President Kamala Harris this week embarked on her first official foreign trip since assuming that role, making stops in both Mexico and Guatemala. After immigration became a major political headache for the Biden administration, with Central American migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border in historic numbers in recent months, Biden tapped Harris to oversee issues related to the root causes of mass migration from Central America (which he distinguishes from the so-called "border crisis''). Harris, for her part, has been pushing the US private sector to invest more in the Northern Triangle countries — Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador — that are plagued by corruption and crime, and account for the bulk of migrants arriving at the US' southern border. Harris has also engaged in vaccine diplomacy to shore up support, announcing that the US will ship COVID vaccines to both Guatemala and Mexico. Immigration is a massive electoral problem for President Biden, with polls suggesting that 48 percent of Americans disapprove of his handling of the issue. Harris is trying to fix that. But analysts say that this trip is also an opportunity for the VP to bolster her own foreign policy bonafides as she looks at a future presidential run.

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How did India’s second COVID wave get so bad?

There have been well over 18 million confirmed cases of COVID in India, second now globally to only the United States. Hundreds of thousands of new infections daily and already more than 200,000 reported deaths—though experts say that number could be 5 or even 10 times higher. Epidemiologists fear the infection rate could be as high as half a million per day by August, with as many as a million dead. India, as one newspaper headline put it, is a ship adrift. So, how did this happen? What does this all mean for India, for Narendra Modi, and for the world?

Watch the episode: India's COVID calamity

Did “complacency” cause India’s COVID explosion?

In January 2021, after India got its vaccination program underway, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared victory over "controlling corona" at the World Economic Forum. But within weeks, those words would come back to haunt him. Ian Bremmer asks Delhi-based journalist Barkha Dutt what she thinks went wrong. "I think the complacency set in because, as a percentage of infections, the fatalities seemed to be not as high as the rest of the world… but it doesn't explain to me why we should've got lulled into not needing contingencies." Their discussion about India's COVID crisis is featured on an episode of GZERO World, airing on US public television.

Watch the episode: India's COVID calamity

How one Indian-American couple raised over $500k to send oxygen equipment to Delhi

An Indian-American family in California decided to take action after acquaintances, friends, relatives and finally their own parents in Delhi became sick from COVID as the city was overwhelmed by the outbreak. In just a few days, they organized a massive logistical and fundraising effort to send critical oxygen equipment to Delhi. "We came across oxygen concentrators as one of the major needs in Delhi, as oxygen supplies were low, and agencies, hospitals, and nursing facilities were running out of oxygen and putting out SOS messages." The couple explains how they have partnered with SaveLIFE Foundation, an organization out of Delhi working directly with the local government. "India needs all the help that it can at this point in time."

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What We're Watching: India halts vaccine exports, principle vs profit in China, Nigeria's crypto fiasco

India squeezes vaccine exports as COVID crisis deepens: India has embarked on one of the world's most ambitious vaccine drives, seeking to vaccinate not only its own 1.4 billion people, but also make hundreds of millions of jabs to inoculate low-income countries under the global COVAX initiative. To date, it has sent 60 million doses to over 70 countries. But now, as India grapples with a surging COVID caseload and death rate — in part because of a new "double mutant variant" — New Delhi has placed a temporary ban on exports of the AstraZeneca jab being produced by its Serum Institute. "Domestic demand will have to take precedence," one foreign ministry official said. The move, which is expected to hinder supply chains until at least the end of April, will have massive impacts on COVAX, which is counting on India's pharma sector to get millions of doses to the neediest countries. India's ban has already frustrated supplies that were supposed to go to the UK, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil in recent days. The Serum Institute says it aims to produce 1 billion doses for low- and middle-income countries by the end of 2021, but so far, its monthly production cadence is lagging.

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Can India vaccinate everyone it wants to?

As the global vaccination race heats up, the most populous country in the world is trying to do three very hard things at once.

India, grappling with the second highest confirmed COVID caseload in the world, recently embarked on what it called "the world's largest" coronavirus vaccination campaign, seeking to inoculate a sizable swath of its 1.4 billion people.

That alone would be a herculean challenge, but India is also making hundreds of millions of jabs as part of the global COVAX initiative to inoculate low-income countries. And as if those two things weren't enough, Delhi also wants to win hearts and minds by doling out millions more shots directly to other countries in its neighborhood.

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