What We're Watching: Panama’s Election and A Fresh Old Face in Argentina

Panama's election – On Sunday, voters in Panama will head to the polls to choose a new president. Corruption looms large in the first election since the 2016 release of the Panama Papers exposed the involvement of Panamanian banks and politicians in money laundering and transnational kickback schemes. But one conspicuously absent issue is: China. Panama and Beijing have become a lot closer in recent years, in part because of the Central American nation's critical position in global trade (the canal, yes). We're watching to see not only who wins the election, but how the next president balances between Panama's traditional allies in Washington and a more assertive China.

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's poll numbers – Things just keep getting worse for Argentine President Mauricio Macri. A business-friendly centrist who rose to power in 2015, Mr. Macri is expected to seek reelection in October. But the economy is collapsing around him and now polls show that his likely opponent, former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, would beat him in a head-to-head runoff by a whopping 9 points. That's true even though Ms. Kirchner favors a return to questionable protectionist policies and currently faces charges for bribery, embezzlement, and money laundering.

What We're Ignoring: King Thai's the Knot and A War on Weekends

A royal wedding in Thailand – Thai King in Waiting Maha Vajiralongkorn announced this week that he's gotten married, just days before his long-awaited coronation. The lucky bride is Suthida Tidjai, a former flight attendant promoted to a position within the royal guard and given a generalship in the Thai military. We are ignoring this because, for one thing, she is Vajiralongkorn's fourth wife (watch out Larry King!), but mainly because the bigger story in Thailand is that social tensions are still high following elections in which the military junta that runs the country is accused of rigging the vote. Monarchic nuptials seem like a distraction.

Italy's War on the War on Weekends – The populist coalition of Lega and the Five Star Movement is now debating a measure that would force stores to close on Sundays, in order to get Italians to spend more time in church and with their families. We are ignoring this, because for one thing, anyone who has spent time in Italy knows that Italian shopkeepers are perfectly capable of making themselves scarce on Sunday without a formal law. But more importantly, the measure could cost some 2 billion euros in tax revenue and imperil 150,000 jobs.

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.

British economist Jim O'Neill says the global economy can bounce back right to where it was before, in a V-shaped recovery. But his argument is based on a lot of "ifs," plus comparisons to the 2008 recession and conditions in China and South Korea that may not truly apply. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group's Robert Kahn take issue with O'Neill's op-ed, on this edition of The Red Pen.

Today, we're taking our Red Pen to an article titled "A V-Shaped Recovery Could Still Happen." I'm not buying it. It's published recently by Project Syndicate, authored by British economist named Jim O'Neill. Jim O'Neill is very well known. He was chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. He's the guy that coined the acronym BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India, China. So, no slouch. But as you know, we don't agree with everything out there. And this is the case. Brought to you by the letter V. We're taking sharp issue with the idea that recovery from all the economic devastation created by the coronavirus pandemic is going to happen quickly. That after the sharp drop that the world has experienced, everything bounces back to where it was before. That's the V. Economists around the world are debating how quickly recovery will happen to be sure. But we're not buying the V. Here's why. W-H-Y.

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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.

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Nicholas Thompson, editor-in-chief of WIRED, provides his perspective on technology news:

Will the new audit of Facebook civil rights practices change the way the company operates?

Yes. It came under a lot of pressure from civil rights activists who organized an advertising boycott. And then an internal audit on Facebook's effect on civil rights came out. It was quite critical. Those two things, one after the other, will surely lead to changes at the company.

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The United States and the European Union have comparable population sizes, but their COVID-19 death toll trajectories have recently become very different. Since the beginning of July, the average number of both new fatalities and new deaths per 1 million people is rapidly increasing in the US while it remains mostly flat in the EU. We compare this to the average number of new cases each seven days in both regions, where the US trend continues upward but is not surging like the death toll. EU countries' robust public health systems and citizens' willingness to wear masks and maintain social distance could explain the disparity.