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.)

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Iran has vowed to avenge Sunday's attack on its Natanz nuclear facility. Tehran blames Israel, which — as in the past — has neither confirmed nor denied it was responsible. And all this happens just days after indirect talks on US plans to rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resumed in Vienna. What the Iranians do now will determine the immediate future of those negotiations, a Biden administration priority.

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750 million: While struggling with one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world right now, India has approved Russia's Sputnik V COVID vaccine. Moscow has a deal in place to produce 750 million doses of the shot in India.

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In recent weeks, both Pfizer and Moderna have announced early phases of vaccine trials in children, and Johnson & Johnson also plans to start soon. If you know a kid who wants to learn about vaccines, how they work, why we need them, this story is just what the doctor ordered.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Welcome to your week and I've got your Quick Take and thought I would talk a little bit about where we are with Iran. One of the Biden administration's promises upon election was to get the Americans back into the JCPOA, the Iranian nuclear deal. As of last week, negotiations are formally restarted, and pretty quickly, in Vienna, they're not direct. The Americans and Iranians are both there, but they're being intermediated by the Europeans because they're not yet ready to show that they can talk directly to each other. That's Iran being cautious in the run-up to their presidential election coming this summer. But the movement is there. So far the talk has largely been about sequencing the Iranian government, saying that all of the sanctions need to be removed before they're willing to go back into the deal, because the Americans after all, unilaterally withdrew from a deal that the Iranians were indeed adhering to, and the inspections did confirm that.

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Ukraine is once again in a tough spot.

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Andean aftermath: Two big weekend elections in South America produced two stunning results. In Ecuador's presidential runoff, the center-right former banker Guillermo Lasso upset early frontrunner Andrés Arauz, a leftist handpicked by former president Rafael Correa. Lasso will take power amid the social and economic devastation of the pandemic and will have to reckon with the rising political power of Ecuador's indigenous population: the Pachakutik party, which focuses on environmental issues and indigenous rights, is now the second-largest party in parliament. Meanwhile, in a big surprise next door in Perú, far-left union leader Pedro Castillo tallied up the most votes in the first round of that country's highly fragmented presidential election. As of Monday evening it's not clear whom he'll face in the June runoff, but three figures are in the running as votes are counted: prominent neoliberal economist Hernando De Soto, rightwing businessman Rafael López Aliaga, and conservative Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the country's imprisoned former strongman. Meanwhile, in the congressional ballot, at least 10 parties reached the threshold to win seats, but there is no clear majority or obvious coalition in sight.

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A controversial new World Health Organization report on the origins of the coronavirus that suggests it likely originated from a bat but transferred to humans via an intermediary animal. Could the virus have emerged from a Chinese lab, as former CDC Director Robert Redfield recently suggested? That's the least likely scenario, says the WHO's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan. "The betacoronaviruses are very, very common in bats and there's a lot of genetic similarity between the SARS-CoV2 and many of the viruses in the...bat species," Dr. Swaminathan told Ian Bremmer in an interview on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 9. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

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