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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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As India gasps for air, a government “still in denial”

According to Delhi-based journalist Barkha Dutt, while the Indian government has finally started to mobilize in response to the COVID crisis, there's still a lot of denial about the severity of the ourbreak. "Our Health Minister, for instance, made a statement in the last 24 hours saying that India is better equipped to fight COVID in 2021 than in 2020. That's simply rubbish. We had India's Solicitor General telling the Supreme Court that there is no oxygen deficit as of now. That's simply not true." In an interview on GZERO World, Dutt tells Ian Bremmer that only the connection between fellow Indians, helping each other when the government cannot, has been a salve.

Watch the episode: India's COVID calamity

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

India’s COVID calamity

India's latest COVID explosion hits home as one Delhi-based journalist speaks with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World about her own father's death from the virus. Barkha Dutt has been reporting on the pandemic in India since it began, but nothing could prepare her for the catastrophic second wave that has hit her country in the last few weeks—and that has now shattered her own family. Would her father have survived if the oxygen tank in his ambulance had been working, or if the ambulance hadn't gotten stuck in Delhi traffic? She asks similar questions of her national government. Why was it caught so unprepared by this second wave, well over a year into the pandemic? Why has India, the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world, been so slow to vaccinate its own citizens? And how much of the blame falls at the feet of Prime Minister Narendra Modi?

Podcast: Journalist Barkha Dutt on India’s COVID calamity

Listen: India's latest COVID explosion hits home as one Delhi-based journalist speaks with Ian Bremmer about her own father's death from the virus. Barkha Dutt has been reporting on the pandemic in India since it began, but nothing could prepare her for the catastrophic second wave that has hit her country in the last few weeks—and that has now shattered her own family. Would her father have survived if the oxygen tank in his ambulance had been working, or if the ambulance hadn't gotten stuck in Delhi traffic?She asks similar questions of her national government. Why was it caught so unprepared by this second wave, well over a year into the pandemic? Why has India, the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world, been so slow to vaccinate its own citizens? And how much of the blame falls at the feet of Prime Minister Narendra Modi?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Modi's COVID apocalypse

First it was Europe. Then the US. And later Brazil. Right now, India is the global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

India is breaking world records for daily COVID infections (and the real number could be much higher). Hard-hit cities like New Delhi are running out of hospital beds, while the black-market prices of oxygen and (often fake) drug remedies are skyrocketing. Since crematoriums are full, many Indians must burn their dead on the street or in mass pyres.

The country of 1.4 billion, once lauded for its better-than-expected pandemic response, is now losing the battle against a virus that has quickly overwhelmed its fragile health system. Whatever happens next, the crisis is already a major test for India's immensely popular leader.

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