Then and Now: Hong Kong and Lebanon in turmoil, Ramaphosa on the spot

Three months ago: Lebanon in turmoil Three months ago we unpacked countrywide protests over corruption and the economy that brought Lebanon's capital, Beirut, to a standstill. At the time, thousands of protesters called in particular for reforms to Lebanon's sectarian power-sharing system, which currently gives the country's top jobs to people based on their religion. Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned, and has since been replaced by Hassan Diab, a university professor who has the backing of the powerful Shia Hezbollah party – designated a terrorist group by the United States – but not the Sunni-bloc. This will make it hard for him to unify the country and secure the Western aid needed to rescue Lebanon's teetering economy. Diab has appointed a new, ostensibly technocratic cabinet in a bid to meet protesters' demands for a break from the old guard. But thousands of demonstrators took to the streets again this week, decrying the new ministers' connections to the political elite. Meanwhile, as the political crisis deepens, Lebanon's economy is on the brink of collapse: Banks are tightening restrictions on foreign currency withdrawals, fueling more public rage.


Six months ago: Hong Kong's enduring protests Back in August, we checked in on the increasingly ferocious protests in Hong Kong, which had been going on for about eight weeks. What started as a rebuke of legislation that would allow extradition of suspected criminals to mainland China has since morphed into an enormous, sometimes violent, political movement in defense of Hong Kongers' political liberties. Despite the fact that the size of protests has waned in recent months, protesters aren't giving up. Thousands of black-clad demonstrators have continued to flood the streets, demanding greater autonomy from Beijing, as well as investigations into police brutality. Meanwhile, Hong Kong police have used increasingly militant tactics to break-up crowds, including live ammunition. The recent coronavirus outbreak brings a new dimension to the seemingly intractable conflict. On one hand, it's revived Hong Kongers' resentment of the mainland: More than 7,000 health workers took part in a strike this week calling on Carrie Lam, Hong Kong's chief executive, to seal the entire border with China, something she's long resisted. But the outbreak, which has spread in Hong Kong, also makes it impossible to hold mass gatherings. Chinese officials have called protestors "terrorists," and have amassed forces across the border. But eight months later, it's still not clear if Beijing has a red line, and what it would take from protesters to trigger a full-blown Chinese military intervention.

Nine months ago: Cyril Ramaphosa faces the heat As we wrote after President Cyril Ramaphosa's electoral triumph last May, the leader of South Africa's African National Congress party (ANC) faced enormous challenges in trying to revive the country's flailing economy, plagued by decades of crooked leadership. When Ramaphosa took over as party chief from Jacob Zuma, the disgraced former president facing a host of corruption charges, he pledged to bring "ethics into politics," and to oversee South Africa's economic revival. While Ramaphosa has made some effort to ignite growth – such as "embarking on a $100 billion investment drive in five years – South Africa's economy is still on the brink. The IMF and World Bank recently urged radical reform to avoid a recession as the country grapples with spotty electricity supply problems, weak business sentiment, sky-high youth unemployment, and the worst drought in living memory. Ramaphosa's attempt at reform has largely been hampered by competing factions within the ANC itself – so far, he's failed to consolidate control of the party to meet the country's enormous challenges.

Eni's luminescent solar concentrators can help smart windows and next-generation buildings generate electricity. But even Eni hadn't imagined using this technology to create eyeglasses capable of charging mobile phones and headsets.

Introducing Funny Applications, Eni's video series that imagines new, unexpected uses for technology. Watch the premiere episode.

We've written recently about how the COVID-19 pandemic will hit poorer countries particularly hard. But the burden of the virus' spread also falls more heavily on working class people even in wealthy countries, particularly in Europe and the United States. This is exacerbating the divide between rich and poor that had already upended the political establishment in countries around the world even before anyone had heard of a "novel coronavirus."

Why?

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Meet Mark Wetton, a Kentucky-based businessman who owns a dust-collection factory in Wuhan. He has been there since the beginning of the outbreak, and describes the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak there, life in lockdown, and what things are like today as the city finally begins to reopen its borders and come back to life. He also shares some lessons learned that he hopes Americans will heed.

For much of the world, the rapidly expanding coronavirus pandemic is the worst global crisis in generations. Not so for terrorists, traffickers, and militant groups.

Efforts to fight coronavirus are diverting government attention and resources away from militants and gangs, creating huge opportunities, particularly for transnational terrorist groups who thrive in vacuums of security and political power, says Ali Soufan, founder of the Soufan Group, and a leading authority on global terrorist organizations.

ISIS, for example, has recently called on its followers to intensify their jihad against governments in the West and in the Muslim world, particularly in Iraq. (Though they also issued a travel advisory against heading to Europe right now, which we imagined here.) The jihadists of Boko Haram have stepped up strikes againstweak governments in West Africa. And even as Iran grapples with one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the world, its Shia proxies inside Iraq are continuing to attack US bases there as Washington withdraws troops from the country over coronavirus concerns.

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The coronavirus is likely to hit poorer countries particularly hard, but it is also laying a bigger burden on working class people even in wealthy ones. As less affluent people suffer disproportionately not only from the disease, but also from the economic costs of containing it, we can expect a worsening of income inequalities that have already upended global politics over the past few years. Here is a look at inequality in some of the countries hardest hit by COVID-19 so far.