What We're Watching: German turmoil, a fishy killing in Brazil, Sinn Féin's rise, and a bat plague

Merkel's search for a successor – When Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer took the reins of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party in 2018, she was seen as the obvious successor to Merkel, who will step down next year after 15 years in power. So much for that. Yesterday, Kramp-Karrenbauer (known as "AKK") resigned her CDU post and said she won't run in next year's election. She had come under fire for the party's losses in local elections. Major gaffes about free speech and LGBT rights didn't help. The final straw came last week when a local branch of the CDU defied AKK's warning not to support a local politician who also had the tactical backing of the far-right AfD party, prompting Merkel to intervene directly. AKK's departure throws open the question of succession to Merkel and underscores the tough times for Germany's traditional centrist parties as they face stiff challenges from both the right and the left.


Dead (hit)men tell no tales in Brazil – Brazilian police on Sunday gunned down Adriano da Nobrega, a notorious hitman who was a key witness in the 2018 assassination of Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman Marielle Franco, a critic of police brutality. Nobrega had been sought for questioning, in part because the two former cops convicted of Franco's murder were thought to be members of a paramilitary gang that he ran in Rio. And the plot thickens further: Nobrega, like one of the convicted men, was close to the family of President Jair Bolsonaro. The police say that Nobrega opened fire as they tried to apprehend him, but Franco's friends and political allies are demanding more answers about the death of a man who may have known too much.

Sinn Féin– On Friday, we wrote that Sinn Féin, a party still reviled by some as the political arm of the Irish Republican Army, might break the hundred-year dominance of the country's two mainstream centrist parties. On Saturday, the party finished first in Ireland's multiparty election with 24.5 percent of the vote, almost doubling its 2016 tally. Sinn Fein party leader Mary Lou McDonald has invited other parties to open talks on forming a coalition. We're watching to see if either of the two mainstream parties will do a deal with Sinn Fein, or risk increasing its popularity by allowing it to lead the opposition. What's more, although the party's success had mostly to do with its progressive economic program, it has also called for Irish reunification, an issue that will be back on the agenda soon.

Trivia interlude: If Sinn Fein enters government in Ireland while remaining in a power-sharing deal in Northern Ireland, would it be the only political party in the world to hold political power in two different countries at the same time?

Biblical plagues of animals – Farmers in East Africa are grappling with the worst plague of locusts in living memory. Swarms of the grasshopper-like insects have already swept across parts of Ethiopia and Kenya, and could soon be headed for South Sudan, Uganda, Eritrea, Djibouti, Oman, and Yemen, according to UN experts. Unusually heavy rains from a recent cyclone have contributed to the infestation. So has conflict: one of the locusts' main breeding grounds is in Somali territory controlled by al-Shabab militants, where it's too dangerous for governments to spray effective pesticides. On a far less serious note, hundreds of thousands of bats have invaded the Australian town of Ingham, dropping their feces on schools, sidewalks, and homes and generally making life miserable for the town's badly outnumbered denizens. We were going to ignore this story about a "bat tornado," which frankly sounded like fake news, until we found out there was video.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post mistakenly said that the CDU had directly supported a member of the AfD in the Thuringia contest. In fact, the CDU had supported a candidate of the Free Democrats Party who at the same time had the tactical support of the AfD. We regret the error.

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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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