What We're Watching: EU accession, Nigerian visas, and a Hollywood legend's departure

The EU's new accession rules – After months of EU infighting over the status of two western Balkan countries that want to join the bloc, the EU has streamlined the accession process. France, the Netherlands and Denmark have blocked the start of EU accession talks for Albania and North Macedonia, arguing that their political systems require reform. Germany, by contrast, insists that it's in the bloc's strategic interest to welcome in these western Balkan states. Now there's a compromise on the table. The new proposal gives all EU member states a role in vetting applicants and permits the EU to cut off negotiations if they slack on reforms. We're watching to see whether all 27 member states agree to this new way of doing things, but all eyes are really on French President Emmanuel Macron in particular. Et vous Monsieur President?


A Nigerian welcome – Nigeria, Africa's largest economy, is opening its doors to its neighbors. President Muhammadu Buhari this week unveiled a new immigration policy that grants visas on arrival to citizens of any of the 55 African Union member states. The measures, which aim to attract more innovation and talent into Nigeria, come amid broader economic integration efforts on the continent. On July 1, the new 54-country $3 trillion African Continental Free Trade Area will enter into force, though only about half of its signatories have ratified the agreement so far. Later this year the African Union is supposed to issue its own continental passports that will enable visa-free travel between all member-states.

Paths of Glory – Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas passed away this week at the age of 103 after jutting his jaw and gritting his teeth through more than 90 movies. Sure, he was Spartacus and (a peculiarly American) Vincent Van Gogh. But to see his true greatness, we'll be rewatching that other Stanley Kubrick-directed film, Paths of Glory.

What We're Ignoring

Russian TV's crowning conspiracy theory – Donald Trump used to give out crowns at his beauty pageants, right? Ok, and the word corona, as in "coronavirus," derives from the Latin word for "crown," correct? Need we say more? Russia's widely-watched, state controlled Channel One news says this coincidence makes it "absolutely clear" that the US developed the coronavirus in order to take down China. Granted, the virus is probably hurting China's economy more than Trump's scattershot trade war ever did, but this etymology-as-epidemiology sleuthing is contagiously stupid even by Russian state TV standards.

Eni's luminescent solar concentrators can help smart windows and next-generation buildings generate electricity. But even Eni hadn't imagined using this technology to create eyeglasses capable of charging mobile phones and headsets.

Introducing Funny Applications, Eni's video series that imagines new, unexpected uses for technology. Watch the premiere episode.

We've written recently about how the COVID-19 pandemic will hit poorer countries particularly hard. But the burden of the virus' spread also falls more heavily on working class people even in wealthy countries, particularly in Europe and the United States. This is exacerbating the divide between rich and poor that had already upended the political establishment in countries around the world even before anyone had heard of a "novel coronavirus."

Why?

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Meet Mark Wetton, a Kentucky-based businessman who owns a dust-collection factory in Wuhan. He has been there since the beginning of the outbreak, and describes the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak there, life in lockdown, and what things are like today as the city finally begins to reopen its borders and come back to life. He also shares some lessons learned that he hopes Americans will heed.

The coronavirus is likely to hit poorer countries particularly hard, but it is also laying a bigger burden on working class people even in wealthy ones. As less affluent people suffer disproportionately not only from the disease, but also from the economic costs of containing it, we can expect a worsening of income inequalities that have already upended global politics over the past few years. Here is a look at inequality in some of the countries hardest hit by COVID-19 so far.

500 million: The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic could plunge 500 million people into poverty, according to a new report released by Oxfam. As incomes and economies continue to contract, global poverty will increase for the first time in 30 years, the report predicts, undermining many of the gains of globalization that have pulled millions out of poverty in recent years.

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