What We're Watching: DRC's Ebola outbreak, Russia's referendum, Netanyahu's annexation push

DRC's new Ebola wave: On the verge of eradicating an Ebola outbreak in the country's east which began back in 2018, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has now identified a fresh wave of cases in the northwestern city of Mbandaka. The disease, which has a fatality rate of 25 – 90 percent depending on the outbreak's character, has already killed five people in recent weeks, prompting the World Health Organization to issue a grim warning that a surge of new cases could occur there in the coming months. (Ebola has an incubation period of about 21 days.) This comes as the central African country of 89 million also grapples with COVID-19 and the world's largest measles outbreak, which has killed 6,779 people there since 2019. In recent weeks, officials from the World Health Organization predicted that the DRC's deadly Ebola crisis, which has killed 2,275 people since 2018, would soon be completely vanquished.


Russia's referendum is on again: Coronavirus postponed, but couldn't cancel, Vladimir Putin's latest grand plan. Back in April, Russians were supposed to vote on constitutional amendments that would allow Putin to reset the clock on term limits and potentially serve as president until 2036. That vote has now been re-scheduled for July 1, and Putin has good reason to want to hold it ASAP. True, his approval rating remains at 59%, and a credible poll conducted on May 20 found that 44% intended to support the new plan with just 32% opposed. (Others were undecided.) But the health and economic damage inflicted by coronavirus has cut into his popularity enough in recent months to persuade him to act now before his margin becomes embarrassingly narrow. In the end, it's virtually assured that Putin will get the results he wants – state media will see to that. Then all he has to do is keep Russians happy with his leadership for another 16 years.

Netanyahu's annexation push: After staging an unlikely political victory in April, Israel's newly emboldened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he plans to move ahead with contentious plans to annex part of the West Bank starting on July 1. The unilateral move, deemed illegal by most of the international community, has not been coordinated with the Palestinian Authority, who preemptively rebuffed the move and threatened to tear up all agreements with Israeli military forces, crucial to the security of both. But it's not Palestinian misgivings that are holding Netanyahu back from going full steam ahead now – it's the Trump administration. While the US initially showed enthusiasm for the annexation plan, which involves Israel folding 30 percent of the West Bank into its territory, including the Jordan Valley and settlements, American delegates, including Jared Kushner who pioneered President Trump's Mideast peace plan, as well as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have since waffled on the annexation issue. The political fallout is reverberating throughout the region. Jordan, for example, which has enjoyed a cold peace with Israel for decades, threatened to reassess the peace accord if Netanyahu pushes ahead with the annexation issue.


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.

British economist Jim O'Neill says the global economy can bounce back right to where it was before, in a V-shaped recovery. But his argument is based on a lot of "ifs," plus comparisons to the 2008 recession and conditions in China and South Korea that may not truly apply. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group's Robert Kahn take issue with O'Neill's op-ed, on this edition of The Red Pen.

Today, we're taking our Red Pen to an article titled "A V-Shaped Recovery Could Still Happen." I'm not buying it. It's published recently by Project Syndicate, authored by British economist named Jim O'Neill. Jim O'Neill is very well known. He was chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. He's the guy that coined the acronym BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India, China. So, no slouch. But as you know, we don't agree with everything out there. And this is the case. Brought to you by the letter V. We're taking sharp issue with the idea that recovery from all the economic devastation created by the coronavirus pandemic is going to happen quickly. That after the sharp drop that the world has experienced, everything bounces back to where it was before. That's the V. Economists around the world are debating how quickly recovery will happen to be sure. But we're not buying the V. Here's why. W-H-Y.

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Updated as of 7/13/2020

The United States and the European Union have comparable population sizes, but their COVID-19 death toll trajectories have recently become very different. Since the beginning of July, the average number of both new fatalities and new deaths per 1 million people is rapidly increasing in the US while it remains mostly flat in the EU. We compare this to the average number of new cases each seven days in both regions, where the US trend continues upward but is not surging like the death toll. EU countries' robust public health systems and citizens' willingness to wear masks and maintain social distance could explain the disparity.

As GZERO World kicks off its third season, Ian Bremmer is examining the state of U.S. response and recovery six months into the pandemic. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) joins to discuss what Congress has done to provide economic relief to businesses and people impacted by the unexpected and unprecedented downturn, and next steps still to come. He also takes jabs at GOP Congressional colleagues who he says have "followed (Trump's) lead rather than science."

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As GZERO World kicks off its third season, Ian Bremmer is examining the state of U.S. response and recovery six months into the pandemic. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) joins to discuss what Congress has done to provide economic relief to businesses and people impacted by the unexpected and unprecedented downturn, and next steps still to come. He also takes jabs at GOP Congressional colleagues who he says have "followed (Trump's) lead rather than science."

More Show less