What We're Watching: Pakistan's COVID surge, high drama in the Himalayas, the UK's 5G problem

Pakistan's coronavirus surge: The World Health Organization is urging Pakistan to reimpose strict lockdowns, citing a surge in recent coronavirus cases in the country. Earlier this spring, the Pakistani government mandated lockdowns in some parts of the country, but opted not to order the closure of mosques, bowing to pressure from religious groups in the majority-Muslim nation. Most lockdown measures were then lifted ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr two weeks ago. Since then, the daily increase in confirmed cases has shot up from an average of about 1,700 before Eid to a record of nearly 5,400 on Tuesday, according to Al-Jazeera. The WHO says Pakistan has met none of the criteria for easing restrictions and needs to do much more testing. But Prime Minister Khan is in a tough spot. Lockdowns are not only hard to enforce, but in a country where up to three quarters of all non-farm jobs are in the informal sector and 24 percent of the population lives in poverty, shuttering businesses can have a catastrophic effect on society. To date, Pakistan has recorded more than 113,000 cases and about 2,200 deaths.


High-altitude tensions in the Himalayas: Nepal's government has just issued a new official map of the country which its neighbors in India are not going to like. In dispute is an area of about 140 square miles in the Himalayas that includes a mountain pass that India's military says is vitally important to the country's security. For the past sixty years, India has de facto controlled it, and the people who live there are Indian citizens. But last November, India published a new map that formally included the territory as a part of India, provoking fury in Nepal. In part the dispute goes back to an unclear map in a 200-year old treaty. But tensions over the area are intensifying now as Nepal has deepened economic ties with China, which Indian officials say has an interest in stoking tensions up in the mountains. Beijing is withholding comment, but the issue is drawing international attention in light of a recent uptick in high altitude border tensions between India and China directly. Keep an eye on this one: the air is thin up there, but the geopolitical drama is thick.

Can the UK do 5G without China? British telecoms giant Vodaphone has warned that if the UK government bans the use of equipment made by China's Huawei, Britain could fall behind in the global race to develop 5G technologies. The warning highlights a challenge that a number of countries around the world are facing. Blazing fast new 5G networks will massively boost technological innovation and data capabilities, underpinning a whole new generation of technologies like advanced manufacturing, the internet-of-things, and even self-driving cars. But to get there, most countries will need to rely heavily on components made by Huawei, the world's leading supplier. That's a problem for countries — especially the US and Europe — that have become more suspicious of Chinese technology. The US has already banned certain Huawei-made 5G components over fears that Beijing could use them to snoop on Americans or cripple critical infrastructure in a time of crisis. Vodafone says it can build 5G without Huawei components if it absolutely has to, but it's a lot more expensive and time-consuming to switch suppliers now. The warning comes as the UK explores ways to decrease its reliance on Chinese exports and technologies more broadly.

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.

Over the past few years, we've seen three major emerging powers take bold action to right what they say are historical wrongs.

First came Crimea. When the Kremlin decided in 2014 that Western powers were working against Russian interests in Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to seize the Crimean Peninsula, which was then part of Ukraine. Moscow claimed that Crimea and its ethnic Russian majority had been part of the Russian Empire for centuries until a shameful deal in 1954 made Crimea part of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic. Americans and Europeans imposed sanctions on Russia. But Ukraine is not part of NATO or the EU, and no further action was taken.

More Show less

"Neither America first, which is ultimately America alone, nor America the world's policeman," Sen. Chris Coons told Ian Bremmer in describing VP Joe Biden's approach to foreign policy should he win the presidential election in November. In the latest episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer, Sen. Coons provides details of how U.S. relationships with foreign governments and multilateral alliances could change in a Biden presidency. He also defended President Obama's track record, saying "I think it is a mischaracterization of the Obama-Biden foreign policy for President Trump to say that we were picking up the tab and fighting the world's wars and that we were disrespected." Coons stated that Biden would work to restore U.S. involvement in alliances like NATO, and shore up global support to pressure China on labor and environmental standards. The exchange is part of a broad conversation with the Senator about COVID response and economic relief, Russian interference in elections, and the 2020 presidential race. The episode begins airing nationally in the U.S. on Friday, July 10. Check local listings.

Jon Lieber, managing director for the United States at Eurasia Group, shares his insights on US politics:

How is coronavirus jeopardizing the legitimacy of a 2020 presidential election?

Well, what coronavirus is doing is a lot of states are worrying about people who aren't going to want to come to the polling places in the fall, and they're worried about a shortage of polling workers who are going to want to come out and volunteer to get sick by interacting with a bunch people in person. So, what they're doing is they're looking at making a shift to vote-by-mail. Most states allow some form of absentee balloting today. Five states just automatically mail you a ballot and they don't do any in-person voting. But the challenge here is that a lot of states are unprepared for the sharp increase that's expected. In the last election, 25% of ballots were cast by mail. You may see 50, 60 or even more percent of ballots cast by mail this time, which could overwhelm election administration, which happens at the state level.

More Show less

The United States and the European Union have comparable population sizes, but their COVID-19 death toll trajectories have diverged. As of July 8, the average number of new deaths every three days in the EU had fallen 97 percent since peaking at the beginning of April. The US number, however, has fallen only 67 percent over the same period. That means that although both regions' death tolls peaked with only two weeks difference, the EU has flattened its COVID-19 fatality curve faster than America. Some experts attribute the difference to EU countries' more robust public health systems and better compliance with mask-wearing and other social distancing measures.