The world is at a turning point. Help shape our future by taking this one-minute survey from the United Nations. To mark its 75th anniversary, the UN is capturing people's priorities for the future, and crowdsourcing solutions to global challenges. The results will shape the UN's work to recover better from COVID-19, and ensure its plans reflect the views of the global public. Take the survey here.
Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday. To understand what that means for the country's politics and public health policy, GZERO sat down with Christopher Garman, top Brazil expert at our parent company, Eurasia Group. The exchange has been lightly edited for clarity and concision.
<p><strong>Chris, Brazil has been one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, in part because President Jair Bolsonaro has <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/is-bolsonaro-going-bust" target="_self">systematically downplayed</a> the seriousness of the disease. Now that he has it, do you expect any change in his government's public health approach?</strong><br/></p><p>Garman: Very unlikely. The president has made his bed over the past four months, trying to downplay the severity of the pandemic, arguing it is a "small flu" and not wearing facemasks in public. If his symptoms are not severe, and he has a clean bill of health in 10 to 14 days, he is likely to use that as justification for the idea that Brazil can "live with the virus." </p><p>If he is hospitalized that narrative will be harder to defend, but he is still unlikely to change his approach — politically, he has already gone too far down the path of defending his strategy to have a meaningful turnabout. </p><p><strong>Why is the issue of coronavirus so politically polarizing in Brazil?</strong> </p><p>Bolsonaro was already a highly polarizing president, Covid-19 just exacerbated that rift tremendously — the question of how to manage the pandemic itself became a point of political division between those who support or oppose the president. </p><p><strong>If Bolsonaro is incapacitated, or worse, who would take over?</strong></p><p>The Vice President Hamilton Mourão would assume office in case the president is incapacitated or passes away. </p><p><strong>Tell us a little bit about Hamilton Mourão. Who is he and what kind of president would he be? Any concerns about his military background?</strong> </p><p>Mourão is a general and, as such, there would be some discomfort in Congress with a military man assuming the presidency. But it would be quite manageable. In fact, the relationship between the executive branch with congress, the courts and the media would probably improve. </p><p>Mourão has proved to be a quite moderate voice in the administration, and would look to work with Congress and the courts. And the top brass of the military, including Mourão, has been very aligned with the (reformist) economic policies endorsed by Minister of Economy Paulo Guedes, both when it comes to fiscal responsibility and even their agenda to privatize state owned enterprises. The military brass is pretty far removed from the military of the 1970s who promoted a very interventionist economic policy under military rule. </p><p><strong>If Bolsonaro recovers swiftly, how might that play politically?</strong> </p><p> It certainly would reinforce his talking points that the country can live with the virus and that one shouldn't shut down the country because of it.</p>
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July 07, 2020
The Trump administration sent shockwaves through universities this week when it announced that international students in the US could be forced to return to their home countries if courses are not held in classrooms this fall. Around 1 million foreign students are now in limbo as they wait for institutions to formalize plans for the upcoming semester. But it's not only foreign students themselves who stand to lose out: International students infuse cash into American universities and contributed around $41 billion to the US economy in the 2018-19 academic year. So, where do most of these foreign students come from? We take a look here.
For years, the Philippines has struggled with domestic terrorism. Last Friday, Rodrigo Duterte signed into law a sweeping new anti-terror bill that has the opposition on edge, as the tough-talking president gears up to make broader constitutional changes. Here's a look at what the law does, and what it means for the country less than two years away from the next presidential election.
The legislation grants authorities broad powers to prosecute domestic terrorism, including arrests without a warrant and up to 24 days detention without charges. It also carries harsh penalties for those convicted of terror-related offenses, with a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. Simply threatening to commit an act of terror on social media can now be punished with 12 years behind bars.
<p>Supporters of the law argue that the Philippines requires <a href="https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/opinion/article/3089558/philippines-needs-dutertes-anti-terror-bill-addressing-roots" target="_blank">stronger laws</a> to go after the communist guerrillas and Islamist militants who have harried government forces and taken hundreds of lives. On the other hand, human rights activists and the media warn that the government may weaponize the bill to <a href="https://carnegieendowment.org/2020/06/30/philippines-antiterror-bill-will-stifle-dissent-pub-82215" target="_blank">silence its critics</a>, and are pushing for the <a href="https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/07/philippine-court-asked-annul-duterte-backed-anti-terror-law-200706061933515.html" target="_blank">Supreme Court</a> to strike it down (an unlikely prospect, as it's full of Duterte appointees).</p><p>Why does the Philippines need this bill?</p><p><strong>Because it genuinely has a terrorism problem</strong>. The communist guerillas of the New People's Army have been fighting government forces in rural areas for over half a century. Meanwhile, the southern island of Mindanao has been a hotbed of Islamic extremism and separatism since the 1970s.</p><p>Three years ago, it took the military a full five months to <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2017/10/17/asia/duterte-marawi-liberation/index.html" target="_blank">liberate</a> the Mindanao city of Marawi from a ragtag group of Islamic State-linked militants. That siege, the Philippines' <a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/11/philippines-battle-of-marawi-leaves-trail-of-death-and-destruction/" target="_blank">longest-ever episode of urban warfare</a>, prompted lawmakers to move quickly on drafting new, tougher anti-terror legislation, modeled in part on similar measures taken by <a href="https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/indonesia-anti-terror-law-crisis-consensus" target="_blank">Indonesia</a> and <a href="https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/southeast-asia/article/2146431/singapores-new-anti-terror-law-takes-effect-allowing-media" target="_blank">Singapore</a>.</p><p>But it soon emerged that the bill's <a href="https://polisci.upd.edu.ph/position-paper-on-the-anti-terror-bill/" target="_blank">ambiguous and expansive definition of terrorism</a>, along with the sweeping powers it confers to a government-appointed body that designates individuals and groups as "terrorists," made the law <a href="https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1285092/anti-terror-bills-vague-definition-of-terrorism-prone-to-abuse" target="_blank">ripe for abuse</a>.</p><p><strong>That's why human rights activists and the media are worried. </strong>They <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/04/world/asia/duterte-philippines-terrorism-drug.html" target="_blank">argue</a> that it will encourage self-censorship out of fear of being prosecuted for social media posts that are critical of the government if the new anti-terrorism council — whose members are appointed by the same government — vaguely interprets them as inciting terrorism "by mean of speeches, proclamations, writings, emblems, banners or other representations." Journalists are also <a href="https://cpj.org/2020/06/anti-terrorism-legislation-threatens-press-freedom-in-the-philippines/" target="_blank">concerned</a> that they could be held liable if their (independent) reporting falls into the same broad category of "incitement" — a real threat following the recent <a href="https://www.gzeromedia.com/philippines-court-convicts-top-journalist-what-comes-next" target="_self">conviction</a> of press freedom icon Maria Ressa for cyber libel.</p><p><strong>So, why now?</strong> Duterte is now two-thirds through his six-year single term as president. Although he is constitutionally barred from running for reelection, Duterte's opponents are concerned that the 75-year-old leader might be angling to pull a 2008 Vladimir Putin move, by rewriting the constitution in a way that enables him to jump to an empowered <a href="https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/799182/duterte-wants-federal-govt-with-prime-minister-president" target="_blank">prime minister</a> role.</p><p>In fact, pro-Duterte lawmakers have been working since 2016 on a <a href="https://www.economist.com/asia/2018/06/30/the-president-of-the-philippines-wants-to-change-the-constitution" target="_blank">constitutional reform</a> project to shift the Philippines to a federal form of government. If Duterte does opt for a national referendum on constitutional changes, critics worry that the sweeping anti-terrorism legislation would give the government a powerful tool to silence dissent or unfavorable media coverage.</p><p>A dream scenario for the Philippine president…if he indeed decides he wants to stay on after 2022.</p>
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Hard Numbers: Lebanese turn to barter, Indian police arrested, Cuban mules are cut off, US COVID concerns grow
July 07, 2020
16,000: Amid a deepening economic crisis in Lebanon that has wiped out people's savings and cratered the value of the currency, more than 16,000 people have joined a new Facebook group that enables people to secure staple goods and food through barter.
<p><strong>6: </strong>Indian authorities <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-india-crime-minorities-rights-feature/indias-george-floyds-spur-calls-for-end-to-police-brutality-idUSKBN2481OQ" target="_blank">have arrested</a> six police officers in the beating death of two men whom they had detained for violating lockdown rules in the southern state of Tamil Nadu last month. The case has drawn fresh attention to the problem of police brutality in the country — more than 50 people die in law enforcement custody weekly in India.</p><p><strong>50,000: </strong>Coronavirus border closures have <a href="https://www.economist.com/the-americas/2020/07/04/the-pandemic-shuts-down-a-lifeline-for-cuba" target="_blank">cut off travel </a>for the roughly 50,000 Cuban <em>mulas</em> — "mules" — who bring home scarce goods from abroad for the island's inefficient state-run economy every year. They also bring in nearly half of the country's annual $1.8 billion in cash remittances.</p><p><strong>49: </strong>Nearly half of Americans, 49 percent to be precise, are <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/808653be-b651-41aa-81b7-5f8ec3831e25" target="_blank">worried </a>that the coronavirus crisis will get worse in their communities, according to a new FT/Peterson poll. That's up 14 points from a month ago.</p>
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