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.

In Italy, stacks of plastic boxes in supermarkets and stores are not garbage - they are collected and reused, thanks to a consortium that specializes in recycling them for food storage. How do these "circular" plastic boxes help reduce energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions?

Learn more in this episode of Eni's Energy SUPERFACTS series.

British economist Jim O'Neill says the global economy can bounce back right to where it was before, in a V-shaped recovery. But his argument is based on a lot of "ifs," plus comparisons to the 2008 recession and conditions in China and South Korea that may not truly apply. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group's Robert Kahn take issue with O'Neill's op-ed, on this edition of The Red Pen.

Today, we're taking our Red Pen to an article titled "A V-Shaped Recovery Could Still Happen." I'm not buying it. It's published recently by Project Syndicate, authored by British economist named Jim O'Neill. Jim O'Neill is very well known. He was chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. He's the guy that coined the acronym BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India, China. So, no slouch. But as you know, we don't agree with everything out there. And this is the case. Brought to you by the letter V. We're taking sharp issue with the idea that recovery from all the economic devastation created by the coronavirus pandemic is going to happen quickly. That after the sharp drop that the world has experienced, everything bounces back to where it was before. That's the V. Economists around the world are debating how quickly recovery will happen to be sure. But we're not buying the V. Here's why. W-H-Y.

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Over the past few years, we've seen three major emerging powers take bold action to right what they say are historical wrongs.

First came Crimea. When the Kremlin decided in 2014 that Western powers were working against Russian interests in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to seize the Crimean Peninsula, which was then part of Ukraine. Moscow claimed that Crimea and its ethnic Russian majority had been part of the Russian Empire for centuries until a shameful deal in 1954 made Crimea part of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. Americans and Europeans imposed sanctions on Russia. But Ukraine is not part of NATO or the EU, and no further action was taken.

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Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED, provides his perspective on technology news:

Will the new audit of Facebook civil rights practices change the way the company operates?

Yes. It came under a lot of pressure from civil rights activists who organized an advertising boycott. And then an internal audit on Facebook's effect on civil rights came out. It was quite critical. Those two things, one after the other, will surely lead to changes at the company.

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The United States and the European Union have comparable population sizes, but their COVID-19 death toll trajectories have recently become very different. Since the beginning of July, the average number of both new fatalities and new deaths per 1 million people is rapidly increasing in the US while it remains mostly flat in the EU. We compare this to the average number of new cases each seven days in both regions, where the US trend continues upward but is not surging like the death toll. EU countries' robust public health systems and citizens' willingness to wear masks and maintain social distance could explain the disparity.