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.

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.

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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"Neither America first, which is ultimately America alone, nor America the world's policeman," Sen. Chris Coons told Ian Bremmer in describing VP Joe Biden's approach to foreign policy should he win the presidential election in November. In the latest episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer, Sen. Coons provides details of how U.S. relationships with foreign governments and multilateral alliances could change in a Biden presidency. He also defended President Obama's track record, saying "I think it is a mischaracterization of the Obama-Biden foreign policy for President Trump to say that we were picking up the tab and fighting the world's wars and that we were disrespected." Coons stated that Biden would work to restore U.S. involvement in alliances like NATO, and shore up global support to pressure China on labor and environmental standards. The exchange is part of a broad conversation with the Senator about COVID response and economic relief, Russian interference in elections, and the 2020 presidential race. The episode begins airing nationally in the U.S. on Friday, July 10. Check local listings.

Jon Lieber, managing director for the United States at Eurasia Group, shares his insights on US politics:

How is coronavirus jeopardizing the legitimacy of a 2020 presidential election?

Well, what coronavirus is doing is a lot of states are worrying about people who aren't going to want to come to the polling places in the fall, and they're worried about a shortage of polling workers who are going to want to come out and volunteer to get sick by interacting with a bunch people in person. So, what they're doing is they're looking at making a shift to vote-by-mail. Most states allow some form of absentee balloting today. Five states just automatically mail you a ballot and they don't do any in-person voting. But the challenge here is that a lot of states are unprepared for the sharp increase that's expected. In the last election, 25% of ballots were cast by mail. You may see 50, 60 or even more percent of ballots cast by mail this time, which could overwhelm election administration, which happens at the state level.

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The United States and the European Union have comparable population sizes, but their COVID-19 death toll trajectories have diverged. As of July 8, the average number of new deaths every three days in the EU had fallen 97 percent since peaking at the beginning of April. The US number, however, has fallen only 67 percent over the same period. That means that although both regions' death tolls peaked with only two weeks difference, the EU has flattened its COVID-19 fatality curve faster than America. Some experts attribute the difference to EU countries' more robust public health systems and better compliance with mask-wearing and other social distancing measures.