What We're Watching: Quarantine in China

What We're Watching: Quarantine in China

A quarantine in China– Local authorities have locked down the city of Wuhan, the source of the outbreak of a new and potentially deadly respiratory virus that, as of Thursday morning, had infected more than 540 people in at least six countries. Other nearby cities were also hit by travel restrictions. Rail and air traffic out of Wuhan has been halted. Public transportation is shut, and local officials are urging everyone to stay put unless they have a special need to travel. Wuhan is a city of 11 million people, many of whom were about to travel for the Chinese New Year. We're watching to see whether these extraordinary measures help stem the outbreak, but also to see how the people affected respond to the clampdown.


Five Star turnover – On Wednesday, Luigi di Maio resigned as leader of Italy's Five Star Movement, which started as a grassroots protest movement before sweeping into political power in 2017. Di Maio's resignation amid intra-party squabbles provides yet more evidence that it's tough for a party that becomes popular by shaking a fist at the establishment to succeed once it becomes part of the establishment. Five Star remains the lead partner in Italy's governing coalition, and Di Maio's exit may slow the flow of MPs defecting from the party so that it can remain there, at least for now. But his exit comes just as his partners-turned-rivals in the far-right Lega party are set to make historic gains in this weekend's regional elections. We'll be watching to see if Di Maio's exit can boost Five Star with voters.

A butterfly effect on Mexico's police – Dozens of local police officers in the Mexican state of Michoacan have been arrested in connection with the disappearance of a prominent conservationist who manages a famous butterfly sanctuary. Homero Gómez, who has not been seen in almost two weeks, had reportedly run afoul of Michoacan's powerful criminal gangs because of his opposition to illegal logging. Mexico's underpaid and disheartened local police are often bribed or coerced into working for organized crime. We're watching to see what has become of Mr Gómez, and what effect his high-profile disappearance will have on broader national politics: since coming to power in late 2018, President Andres Manuel López Obrador has pledged to reform law enforcement in what is now one of the world's most violent countries.

What We're Ignoring

An SMS from MBS – Not only did Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman allegedly order the 2018 murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to the CIA. He – or someone with access to his phone – may also have hacked the phone of the paper's owner, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, in the months before the killing. That's according to a forensic security firm, which suspects a virus-laden video sent to Bezos from MBS's WhatsApp account was the way in. Saudi Arabia says the story is "absurd," but with UN experts calling for an investigation, we're watching to see what the fallout is, if any. In the meantime, we'll be ignoring texts, WhatsApp videos, and other digital communications we receive from the crown prince.

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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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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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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