What we're watching: Argentina back to the future?

Argentina's "Back to the Future" Vote – In 2015, Argentines chose a radically different direction for their country. By electing the pro-business Mauricio Macri as president, they rejected more than a decade of left-wing Peronist populism in favor of an experiment with economic reforms to open the economy. When they head back to the polls this Sunday for the first round of the next presidential election, it looks like they'll render a stark verdict: it hasn't worked. The "dream" that Macri promised has become a nightmare, because his economic reforms inflicted enough pain to provoke popular backlash, but without reassuring investors that the government was committed to long-term change. The Peronist party, led by Alberto Fernandez with former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner as his running mate, is the clear favorite to win, perhaps without a second-round runoff. We're watching to see how Argentines understand their past and how they want to move toward the future.


Kurds Without Guns – Think of the Kurds now retreating from northeast Syria as part of the recent US-Turkey and Turkey-Russia deals, and you'll probably picture men with guns. But more than 176,000 civilians, nearly 80,000 of them children, have been forced from their homes in that region, according to the UN. It's not clear where these people will go. In their place, Turkey's government says it will dispatch large numbers of Syrian Arab refugees who are now living in camps inside Turkey. In short, Turkey is remaking the ethnic balance inside the borders of another country as part of a deal with Washington.

Baby Shark: The Protest Remix – A woman driving through Beirut with her 15 month-old son in the passenger seat finds her vehicle surrounded by dozens of shouting protesters. The child becomes frightened. To reassure the thoroughly befuddled toddler, protesters begin dancing and singing "Baby Shark" a hit children's tune that's been watched close to 4 billion times on YouTube. We're watching (and rewatching) this video of the incident, because we're almost as amused and bewildered as the kid.

What We're Ignoring:

Les Expos sont là! - It took more than half a century, but the Montreal Expos have finally advanced to baseball's biggest stage, the World Series! The pride of Quebec and their mascot Youppi! have taken the first two games in this best-of-seven series from the Houston Astros. It's a....wait, what? Ah...It appears the Expos left Montreal in 2004 to become the Washington Nationals. So, ya know, never mind.

The danger to informal workers grows: Coronavirus lockdowns have created a world of uncertainty for businesses and workers around the world. But one group of people that could be hit particularly hard are those working in the so-called "informal economy," where workers lack formal contracts, labor protections, or social safety nets. Nowhere is this challenge more widespread than in Africa, where a whopping 85 percent of the work force toils in the informal sector. These workers, which include street vendors, drivers, and the self-employed, don't have the luxury of working from home, which makes social distancing unviable. As a result, many continue to go to work, risking exposure to the virus, because not turning up is often the difference between putting food on the table and starving. What's more, even where governments are trying to provide support, many people lack bank accounts, complicating efforts to get them aid. In Nigeria, for example, some 60 percent of people do not even have a bank account, according to the World Bank.

More Show less

As Europe inches past the peak of COVID-19 deaths and the US slowly approaches it, many poorer countries are now staring into an abyss. As bad as the coronavirus crisis is likely to be in the world's wealthiest nations, the public health and economic blow to less affluent ones, often referred to as "developing countries," could be drastically worse. Here's why:

More Show less

What's the new normal going to look like? Now that numbers are at least plateauing, if not leveling off in hard hit countries in Europe. An effective lockdown may last 4 - 8 weeks. Once you start pulling back on quarantine measures, what's life look like? What's the economy look like? The idea that life is back to normal anytime soon is really, really overstated.

Assuming workplaces get fully functional with suitable personal protective equipment, feel comfortable that we're not going to get significant additional cases. In the workplace, you organize social distancing in offices, you give people more flexibility on work from home, and everybody in contact regularly with people gets masks. You should be able to get to that point within 3 months in the world's developed economies. They're there functionally in China. That allows you to get the economy going again.

More Show less

Ben White, Chief Economic Correspondent for Politico, provides his perspective on the coronavirus-related news in US politics: What's the coronavirus update?

Well, we've gotten at least a little bit of good news that perhaps the rate of deaths in New York City is plateauing and may start to come down. God willing, we'll see if that comes to pass. Also, some indications that if we keep social distancing in place through the end of May, we could see fewer deaths than we worried about and fewer hospital beds need it. So, God willing, that happens.

More Show less