What We're Watching: India has the world's fastest growing epidemic, clashes in Darfur, US election calendar

What We're Watching: India has the world's fastest growing epidemic, clashes in Darfur, US election calendar

COVID-19 pummels India: India, home to 1.3 billion people, passed a grim milestone recently as the country with the fastest growing epidemic in the world, according to Bloomberg's COVID tracker. Reporting over 1.43 million cases on Monday, a 20 percent week-on-week increase, it now trails only the US and Brazil in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases. Indeed, several factors have complicated India's efforts to contain the virus. Workers who toil in the country's robust informal sector do not have the luxury of working from home. Meanwhile, social distancing and hygienic upkeep are all but impossible for millions of people living in crowded slums. On Monday, India recorded one of its highest daily caseloads, with almost 50,000 reported infections, likely a gross undercount considering that the country still has one of the lowest testing rates in the world. (India is testing around 12 people per 1,000, compared to 153 in the US, 130 in the UK, and 184 in Russia.)


Fresh wave of violence in Darfur: At least 60 people have been killed in clashes in Sudan's Darfur region in recent days, the latest episode in a string of violent incidents that threaten to destabilize the country's nascent transitional government. Clashes between the Masalit ethnic group and other Arab tribes broke out after some 500 armed militants stormed the Masteri village on Saturday, and proceeded to loot homes and food markets. This attack coincided with the region's agricultural season, exacerbating the dire humanitarian situation in the region (around 6.2 million Sudanese rely on humanitarian assistance to survive, according to USAID.) The recent unrest threatens the effort by Sudan's joint civilian-military government — which came to power after Omar al-Bashir, Sudan's former strongman president, was overthrown in a coup last year — to end a decades-long civil war that displaced millions of people. Al-Bashir himself is expected to face international charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in The Hague because of his government's brutal crackdown on rebellions that resulted in at least 300,000 deaths.

US election calendar: Last Sunday, many US analysts noted that the November 3 US elections were just 100 days away. This is false. President Trump has much less than 100 days to stage a comeback in a race he now appears to be losing, because more US states now allow early voting by mail, and because COVID-19 makes it more likely that tens of millions of Americans will cast mail-in ballots in September and October. The virus will likely blunt the political impact of the scaled-back party conventions scheduled for August, and as many as half of all votes cast in swing states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, and North Carolina may well be cast before the first televised presidential debate scheduled for September 28. (That debate is now looking for a new venue after COVID-19 forced the University of Notre Dame to withdraw as host on Monday.)

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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