What We're Watching: Hong Kong streets, Brazil's prisons, TikTok in India

The Chinese Army Stirs in Hong Kong –Yesterday the Chinese army in Hong Kong released a video of its troops undergoing anti-riot training, while the local garrison commander warned street protesters not to threaten the "life and safety of Hong Kong citizens" or upend the "one country two systems" model of governance (Hong Kong is part of China but enjoys more freedoms than the mainland.) Until now, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China has stayed out of the eight-week long, increasingly ferocious standoff between protesters and local police. But as the unrest grinds on and protesters increasingly take aim at mainland control over the territory, we are watching to see whether Beijing is about to take more drastic action to suppress dissent.

Brazil's Prison Problem – Earlier this week a fight between rival gangs in a Brazilian prison left close to 60 people dead. Sixteen of them had been decapitated. The clash at the Altamira complex in northern Brazil came just two months after a riot in another prison killed 55. Brazil is one of the most violent countries on earth, and rightwing President Jair Bolsonaro was elected in part on promises to "stuff the jails" with criminals. But the country's prison system is already hopelessly overcrowded – more than 700,000 prisoners (almost half of whom are in pre-trial detention) languish in facilities designed to hold just 400,000 people.

India's Sectarian Tensions Go Global on Social Media – Team 07, a group of five 20-something Indian Muslims famous for their viral comedy videos on the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok, will soon be appearing in a Mumbai court to face criminal charges. They were arrested after a local Hindu nationalist political party complained about a video where the group, commenting on the recent lynching of a Muslim man, appeared to encourage the victim's relatives to seek revenge. We're watching this story closely for what it tells us about sectarian divides in India, but also to see how Chinese social media giants navigate tricky local politics far from home.

What We're Ignoring

Kim's gonna Kim – North Korea earlier this week fired two short-range missiles into the sea in the second round of weapons tests that Kim Jong-un has conducted since his meeting with Donald Trump at the DMZ last month. The move signals that Kim may be displeased: with the slow pace of talks with the US, South Korea's decision to buy a bunch of new US-made fighter jets, and upcoming joint US-South Korea military drills. We are ignoring the move, however, because Kim's good friend Donald Trump doesn't seem much fazed by the rocket tests – he has in fact sought to downplay them. The bigger question remains: can Kim get the US to agree to sanctions relief in exchange for merely freezing his nuclear program, rather than abandoning it altogether? The clock is ticking.

Governments of the developed world are finally responding with due sense of urgency, individually in 3 different ways.

1st, stand health care systems up so they won't get overwhelmed (late responses). The private & public sector together, building additional ICU beds, supply capacity and production of medical equipment and surge medical personnel in the US, Canada, across Europe & the UK. Unclear if we avoid a Northern Italy scenario. A couple days ago, Dr. Fauci from the NIH said he was hopeful. Epidemiologists and critical care doctors don't feel comfortable. Not in New York, Chicago, LA, Boston, Philadelphia, New Orleans. In Europe, particularly London, Madrid, Catalonia, Barcelona, might be significantly short.

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Brazil's governors take on Bolsonaro: We've previously written about the tensions between local and national governments over coronavirus response, but few places have had it as bad as Brazil. As COVID-19 infections surged in Brazil, the country's governors quickly mobilized – often with scarce resources – to enforce citywide lockdowns. Brazil's gangs have even risen to the occasion, enforcing strict curfews to limit the virus' spread in Rio de Janeiro. But Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, has mocked the seriousness of the disease and urged states to loosen quarantines in order to get the economy up and running again. "Put the people to work," he said this week, "Preserve the elderly; preserve those who have health problems. But nothing more than that." In response, governors around the country – including some of his allies – issued a joint letter to the president, begging him to listen to health experts and help states contain the virus. The governor of Sao Paulo, Brazil's economic powerhouse, has even threatened to sue the federal government if Bolsonaro continues to undermine his efforts to combat the virus' spread.

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The major outbreaks of coronavirus in China, Europe, and the United States have garnered the most Western media attention in recent weeks. Yesterday, we went behind the headlines to see how Mexico and Russia are faring. Today, we'll look at three other potential hotspots where authorities and citizens are now contending with the worst global pandemic in a century.

Start with India. For weeks, coronavirus questions hovered above that other country with a billion-plus people, a famously chaotic democracy where the central government can't simply order a Chinese-scale public lockdown with confidence that it will be respected. It's a country where 90 percent of people work off the books— without a minimum wage, a pension, a strong national healthcare system, or a way to work from home.

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In the end, it took the coronavirus to break the year-long deadlock in Israeli politics. Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu will still face corruption charges, but he has yet another new lease on political life, as he and political rival Benny Gantz cut a deal yesterday: Bibi will continue as prime minister, with Gantz serving as Speaker of the Knesset, Israel's parliament. After 18 months, Gantz will take over as prime minister, but many doubt that will ever happen.

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