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.

Are the US and China headed for a new Cold War over technology? Judging by what we heard a few days ago at the Munich Security Conference, a major trans-Atlantic gathering for world leaders and wonks, you'd certainly think so. US, European, and Chinese officials at the event all weighed in with strong words on the US campaign against Chinese 5G giant Huawei and much more. Here are the main insights we gleaned from the proceedings:

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Bloomberg takes the stage – Tomorrow's Democratic debate will be the first to feature media tycoon Mike Bloomberg, who in recent weeks has thrown hundreds of millions of dollars behind an ad campaign designed to position himself as a viable, moderate candidate who can beat Trump. As his support in national polls has climbed to nearly 20 percent, Bloomberg – who largely sat out the earlier rounds of Democratic campaigning – has come under attack for sexist comments in the past as well as his support, as NYC mayor, for "stop and frisk" policing tactics that disproportionately targeted people of color. Bloomberg will immediately be at war not only with the moderates whom he wants to displace – Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Joe Biden – but especially with the front running left-progressive Bernie Sanders. It will likely be quite ugly and we're certainly tuning in.

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150: As the Chinese government continues to expand travel restrictions, hoping that reducing human contact will stop the virus from spreading further, at least 150 million people are now facing government restrictions dictating how often they can leave their homes. That's more than 10 percent of the country's total population who are currently on lockdown.

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While attending the Munich Security Conference, former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was asked to respond to the news of the first coronavirus death outside of Asia. The victim, a Chinese tourist who arrived in France in January, was among 11 confirmed cases in that country. "I think everybody in the world needs to be concerned," Kerry told GZERO.

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