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What We're Watching: Europe's brutal second wave, protests in Iraq, tough talk from Turkey

Europe's second wave: After a brutal spring in which Europe emerged as a coronavirus epicenter, the outbreak largely subsided across the continent in the summer, allowing many Europeans to travel and gather in large groups. But now, a second wave of infection is wreaking havoc across Europe, with the region reporting more than 1.3 million cases this past week alone, according to the World Health Organization, the highest seven-day increase to date. Former coronavirus hotspots like France, Italy, Spain, and the UK are again grappling with a record number of new cases that could soon dwarf the out-of-control outbreaks seen this past spring. Meanwhile, countries like Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic that staved off massive outbreaks in the spring are also seeing an unprecedented number of new daily cases. As Europe now accounts for around 22 percent of all new COVID infections worldwide, hospitals in many cities are being swamped as many struggle to source life-saving equipment. As a result, Spain declared a national state of emergency Sunday, imposing nighttime curfews, while Italy imposed its strictest lockdown since May. Europe's Center for Disease Prevention and Control warned against complacency, noting that while transmission is mostly between younger people, keeping the death rate low, that could swiftly change if Europe doesn't get the virus in check.

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What does a US troop withdrawal mean for Iraq?

Earlier this year, in response to diplomatic confusion over reports of an abrupt US withdrawal from Iraq, Mark Esper, the US Secretary of Defense, said decisively: "We have no plans to leave Iraq."

Now, eight months later, the Trump administration says it will reduce the number of US forces in the country to 3,000 in the coming weeks — a reduction from the 5,200 currently there. What does the US troop drawdown — and potential eventual full withdrawal — mean for Iraq, the region, and the US?

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US election seen from Iraq: Caught in the Iran-US crossfire

Farhad Alaadin is chairman of the Iraq Advisory Council, an NGO based in Baghdad.

Gabrielle Debinski: To what extent does the outcome of the US election in November matter to the Iraqi people and government?

FA: Clearly, elections in the United States affect almost every country in the world. And this is very much true for Iraq. Iraq enjoys steady relations with the United States, given the events of 2003 onward.

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Coronavirus Politics Daily: Italy snubs women, the COCAINE-19 crisis, ISIS exploits pandemic in Iraq

Italy's women snubbed in COVID response – Italy's COVID-19 commission, which was selected to advise the government on how to manage the crisis, has gathered for a televised briefing each night to update the public on the day's news. But in a country where more than half of doctors, and three-quarters of nurses, are women, Italians have noted a glaring omission: the 20-member body is made up entirely of men. Now, anger over gender inequality in the coronavirus response is gaining momentum: more than 70 women doctors and scientists have signed a petition demanding that the Italian government include females in the councils that govern the country's response to the pandemic. Female lawmakers have lodged a similar motion in the Senate. The absence of women in the policymaking process has led to some big mistakes, critics say: Prime Minister Conte's reopening plan, for example, fails to address childcare burdens, which disproportionately fall on the female population. The gender imbalance in the government's coronavirus response tracks broader inequalities in Italy, where only 53 percent of Italian women are represented in the workforce, the second lowest mark in the EU.

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Coronavirus Politics Daily: Poland's election, Iraq on the rocks, the Peruvian urban exodus

Poland's election mess: Many countries have postponed their elections fearing that in-person polls could put voters at risk of contracting COVID-19. Not Poland. The country is still set to hold its presidential election on May 10, and any decision to the contrary will now come at the 11th hour, after a contentious debate. The ruling coalition government, led by the nationalist Law and Justice Party, wants to delay the vote by just a week or two so that a vote-by-mail system can be rolled out. Critics note that a fraud-proof system of this kind usually takes months or years to get off the ground. But the government wants to capitalize on incumbent President Andrzej Duda's strong recent polling, and is even trying to bend rules which forbid any changes to elections within six months of the vote. Opposition parties, meanwhile, worry about fraud and the public health risks of holding the vote so soon, and some have called for a boycott. Parliament is set to vote on the government backed-plan this week. The crucial vote lies with the lower house, where the governing coalition has a slim majority.
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