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.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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