What We're Watching: Iraq's new PM, conflict avocados

Iraq's new prime minister: After two months of political stalemate and mass anti-government protests, Iraq has a prime minister. Mohammed Allawi, a former communications minister who resigned from that post in 2012 after accusing the government of corruption, will now run the country until early parliamentary elections are held at a yet to be determined date. Allawi, a Shia, is the cousin of former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. His first few hours on the job haven't been easy: despite making overtures to the protesters in which he praised their "bravery," hundreds of people took to the streets Sunday in Baghdad and the country's predominantly Shiite south to oppose Allawi who, they say, represents the same corrupt political elite that's long failed them. But Allawi also enjoys the backing of Moqtada el-Sadr, the country's most powerful Shia cleric, and that counts for a lot. We're watching to see if Allawi can restore order to Iraq's unsettled internal politics, while also balancing Iraq's dicey relations with the US and Iran. No easy task, even for the deftest of politicians.


Narcos and avocados: Americans' increased use of synthetic opioids like fentanyl has cratered prices for organic opium in Mexico, forcing gangs there to turn to an unlikely alternative source of income: the avocado. The tropical fruit (yes, it's a fruit, don't @ us) has enjoyed a huge boom in the US in recent years, opening up $2bn in trade for Mexican farmers. And with opium prices falling, the narcos have swooped in to extort avocado farmers and hijack their shipments. The Financial Times reports that some municipalities are hiring special security services just to protect the avocado industry. You can learn more about the story in the excellent Netflix series Rotten. In the meantime, the next time you order an avocado toast at brunch, gaze deep into that green paste and contemplate the harrowing journey that it took to reach you. Opioids. Avocados. Violence. It's all connected. Enjoy!


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.

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.

500 million: The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic could plunge 500 million people into poverty, according to a new report released by Oxfam. As incomes and economies continue to contract, global poverty will increase for the first time in 30 years, the report predicts, undermining many of the gains of globalization that have pulled millions out of poverty in recent years.

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