What We're Watching: Beijing's COVID clampdown, Nigeria attacks, COVID's cost for women and children

What We're Watching: Beijing's COVID clampdown, Nigeria attacks, COVID's cost for women and children

Beijing clamps down to stop second wave: Authorities in Beijing moved swiftly to reimpose strict lockdowns in the Chinese capital after dozens of new COVID-19 cases were linked to a sprawling wholesale food market there that supplies around 90 percent of the city's produce. Officials in charge of the municipality where the market is located were immediately fired from their posts for "failing" to curb the disease's spread. Meanwhile, thousands of residents who visited the market in early June were tracked down by authorities and ordered to self-quarantine for 14 days. The reemergence of new infections in Beijing, a city of 21 million people, highlights the coronavirus' resilience. But Beijing's decisive action – it quickly placed strict restrictions on movement for millions of residents, while also placing them under 24-hour watch by the military – also underscores the ability of an authoritarian regime like China's to swiftly employ extreme measures to squelch contagion. Whether the move works or not will be seen in the coming days.


Nigeria under attack: Nigerians are reeling after Islamist groups carried out three attacks in the country's northeast over the weekend, killing at least 60 people. An Islamic State offshoot claimed responsibility for the onslaught, which included the torching of a truck with 15 people inside it, and a raid on a military base that hosts personnel from a number of international NGO's. These deadly episodes came just days after Boko Haram militants razed a village in northern Nigeria, killing 80 people. The violence reflects a larger surge of jihadist activity in the vast Sahel region in recent years. The UN recently said that since 2016, the combined terrorist-attack casualties in the West African countries of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger have leapt five-fold. And militants are taking advantage as local governments and security forces are distracted by the fight against COVID-19.

COVID endangers women and children: The direct health risks posed by the novel coronavirus are well known. But less emphasis has been placed on the indirect burdens of the pandemic on already vulnerable populations. The World Health Organization has now warned that because health systems in developing countries have been overwhelmed by COVID-19, many women are at greater risk of dying from complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Lack of access to critical medical care could result in increased infant and child mortality rates, too, the group has said. Even before the pandemic, millions of women in Africa, Asia and Latin America struggled to access safe, affordable, and timely sexual and reproductive healthcare, with 94 percent of all maternal mortalities occurring in low income countries. Maternal and newborn deaths are now expected to skyrocket in remote and poor areas, the WHO says, far outpacing the number of deaths from COVID-19 itself.

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The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Ian Bremmer is joined on GZERO World by artificial intelligence scientists Kai-fu Lee, who recently wrote about how AI will change the world over the next two decades, precisely to talk about AI's future. After this week's Facebook debacle, how can we align interest to regulate AI-driven algorithms? Will AI steal all our jobs? And what should we do to learn from AI to improve our lives before it gets smarter than us?

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

US elections officials have always persuaded losing candidates that they've, ahem, lost. Now it's worse because there's a new paradigm, according to former DHS and Election Assistance Commission official Matt Masterson, policy fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory. Candidates that won't accept defeat regardless of the margin or evidence of fraud, he says, are undermining trust in the system — and election officials are ill-equipped to deal with this problem.

Matt Masterson made these remarks during a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Who's most responsible for spreading misinformation online? For Ginny Badanes, senior director for Democracy Forward at Microsoft, the problem starts with those who create it, yet ultimately governments, companies and individuals all share the burden. And she's more interested in what we can do to respond.

Ginny Badanes spoke at a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. In this video, watch Ian Bremmer's conversation with Lebanese journalist and author Kim Ghattas on GZW talking about the future of Lebanese politics and sectarianism in the county after the after the blast. It was originally published on August 19, 2020.

In Lebanon, "a majority (are) united in wanting a different future, a future that is non-sectarian, that is non-corrupt, that provides prosperity, justice, dignity for people," journalist Kim Ghattas told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

In this interview, Ghattas discusses the opportunity that could arise from the tragedy of the Beirut explosion which killed 200 and injured thousands more. The Lebanese are "fed up" with the militant group Hezbollah, she tells Bremmer, and want to strive for a government that better resembles the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of its citizens.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Lebanon Post-Blast: Rage in the Streets of Beirut.

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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