The grand (economic) reopening debate is on!

The grand (economic) reopening debate is on!

Barely a month ago, the big debate about quarantines in Europe and the US was about whether it made sense to close much of the economy in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

But this week, with the increase in COVID-19 deaths seeming to slowin some of the major early epicenters, the debate about when, and how, to "reopen" our economies is getting a boost, for two big reasons.

First, the global economy is officially in a tailspin. The International Monetary Fund has just released a grim new global outlook that minces no words: "The Great Lockdown" has pushed the world into the biggest economic disaster since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The numbers are staggering. The global economy will contract thirty times more than it did during the 2009-2010 recession. Among major economies, only China and India will grow this year, and just barely.

Second, companies and banks have bad news. This week we'll get quarterly earnings reports from some of the largest companies and banks in the world, giving us a better sense of how the quarantines have hit their revenues, their balance sheets, and their hiring plans. E-commerce giants and disinfectant companies probably have great news to share – but major sectors like manufacturing, tourism, and hospitality are crushed.

The double-dose of tough economic news will inflame an already burning question: given that a vaccine is (at best) a year away from widespread availability, when is the right time to re-open the world's devastated major economies, and what does that look like? Here are a few things to consider as the debate unfolds.

First, it's not simply a trade-off between public health and economic health. Absent public confidence that the virus is at least under control, many businesses and workers won't be comfortable heading back to work, no matter what politicians say. And from a political perspective, no mayor or governor or president wants to rush to reopen, only to have to shut down again if the (inevitable) second wave overwhelms hospitals again. That would make both the economic and epidemiological crises much worse.

Second, it's not about flipping a switch. Reopening of economies will happen in small steps, as public health officials and political leaders – especially mayors and governors – and businesses work to establish the basic conditions for a return to economic activity. On the one hand, that requires a clearer picture of who has the disease and where it is spreading so that new outbreaks can be stopped. It also means equipping workplaces, public spaces, and public transportation to meet social distancing guidelines that will remain with us in some form until we're all vaccinated.

Third, there will be a huge fight over privacy. Most reasonable reopening plans involve a mixture of widespread testing to determine who is sick and who is immune, as well as extensive contact tracing in order to swiftly isolate new outbreaks. Either of these things would require a massive expansion of centralized authority (on the part of governments or tech companies) to administer tests, compile and access the results, and trace contacts. Questions about privacy and government reach will come to the fore very quickly, as we've already seen in responses to the recently announced Google/Apple partnership on contact tracing.

Bottom line: The debate over reopening will be contentious, and progress will be slow. One thing is certain: nothing that we think of as "normal" is coming any time soon.

Here's a thought: What does a sports stadium look and sound like if there are three blocked-off seats between each fan who's there? And do the smaller number of seats go to the highest bidder?

This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

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Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent COVID-19 policy developments:

The Biden administration extended an eviction moratorium even after the Supreme Court said they couldn't, what's next?

Well, the CDC imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium in light of increased risk from evicted people because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court in June ruled that they (CDC) overextended their authority in doing so and mandated that the moratorium expire on schedule in July. A group of progressive activists weren't happy about this and raised a huge stink in Congress, but Congress recessed for their August vacation before they could solve the problem, putting big pressure on President Biden to extend the moratorium even though he said he didn't think that it would pass constitutional muster. The CDC did it anyway, extending the moratorium until October 3rd, which is a time that's short enough to probably avoid it being overturned by lawsuits, but long enough that Congress has time to figure out how to either extend it on a bipartisan basis or put more money into a rental assistance fund that few people have taken advantage of so far. This whole incident shows the power of progressive activists in the Biden administration who were able to elevate the profile of this issue and potentially prevent millions of people from losing their homes this summer.

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On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer takes a look at the yin and the yang of alcohol's role in high-level diplomacy and society at large. Alcohol can bring people together just as easily as it can tear them apart. From a 1995 Clinton/Yeltsin Summit where a drunk Yeltsin almost derailed Bosnian peace talks, to Obama's Beer Summit and the recent G7 Summit, booze plays a part in how world leaders interact. Globally, alcohol consumption has been steadily increasing, by over 70 percent between 1990 and 2017, according to one report. . Low and middle-income nations like Vietnam, India, and China are a driving force behind that trend, with drinking in Southeast Asia rising by over 34 percent between 2010 and 2017. And yet, amidst this global booze boom, the world has only grown more and more divided.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

Equestrian jumpers, and their horses, are disciplined species. They don't appreciate surprises very much.

But many participants were caught off guard during this week's individual jumping qualifiers in Tokyo by a very daunting statue of a sumo wrestler on the hurdle course (which is dotted with statues paying homage to traditional Japanese culture, like geisha kimonos, cherry blossoms, and taiko drums).

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For Dick Pound, the longest serving member of the International Olympic Committee, protesting at the Games is fine — as long as it doesn't "interfere" with the competition itself or awards ceremonies. The Olympics, in his view, are an oasis of calm in the middle of an increasingly tense world, and "we shouldn't be spoiling that by pointing out the obvious , which is that there are social and political problems." Watch his interview with Ian Bremmer on the latest episode of GZERO World on US public television.

India's rape problem: Hundreds of protesters have flocked to the streets of New Delhi for four days straight after a 9-year old girl was raped and murdered in a small village outside the capital while going to fetch water for her family. Some demonstrators burned effigies of India's PM Narendra Modi, saying that the government has not done enough — or anything, really — to address the country's abysmal rape problem: there were more than 32,000 rapes recorded in 2019, certainly a vast undercount given the stigma associated with reporting sexual assaults in India. The scourge of sexual violence against women and girls in India was brought to light in 2012 when a 23-year-old woman was gang raped and murdered while traveling on a bus in the nation's capital, prompting international outrage. Four men have been arrested in connection with this week's attack, though they have not been charged. The city of New Delhi, meanwhile, has ordered an inquiry to probe events surrounding the young girl's death, though Indians who have been sounding the alarm on violence against women for decades aren't expecting much to come of it.

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It's been 365 days since twin blasts at a Beirut port decimated Lebanon's capital. More than 200 people were killed and some 7,000 were injured, yet accountability has been scarce. There is ample evidence that multiple Lebanese officials knew that ammonium nitrate was being improperly stored at the port. Four high-ranking politicians, including former PM Hassan Diab, have been charged by a Lebanese judge, but they all refuse to cooperate with the ongoing investigation.

Since then, Lebanon's already-dire economic and financial crises have only intensified. The Lebanese pound, the national currency, has plummeted, losing 90 percent of its value since 2019, when the country's economic crisis erupted. And more than 50 percent of the population is now living below the poverty line.

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