What We're Watching: Xi's temperature, Salvini's fate, Putin's elevator

China's party line on public health – China's President Xi Jinping appears to have decided that his coronavirus communications strategy hasn't worked. On Monday, after an extended absence from political centerstage, Xi appeared in public, wearing a surgical mask, to have his temperature taken as he reviewed a coronavirus health facility in Beijing. This new attempt to reassure the public that China's top man is personally directing the crisis came right as several senior party officials in Wuhan were sacked. There are also new surveillance measures: the state has launched an app that tells users whether they've been near a person suspected of having the virus. Xi, and those around him, are grappling with a problem familiar to authoritarian systems in moments of crisis: a party that holds a monopoly over political power also has a monopoly on responsibility when things go wrong. We're watching to see how these new messages play with an anxious Chinese public.


Watching people watching Putin watch them – A prankster in Moscow last week hung a gigantic portrait of Putin in his building's elevator and secretly filmed his neighbors' reactions. The result is superb. No one is thrilled. Almost all of the responses, ranging from incredulous to amused to overtly annoyed, boil down to: "what the f**k?". Watch it all the way through – the last guy's reaction is probably the best of the bunch. It's a great little snippet of how ordinary folks regard Putin in their daily lives – 70% approval rating or not.

Salvini in the dock – The Italian Senate will decide tomorrow whether far-right firebrand politician Matteo Salvini should face prosecution for refusing, when he was Interior Minister, to allow a coast guard ship that rescued 131 migrants in the Mediterranean to dock at an Italian port. Salvini, who heads the far-right anti-immigration Lega party, skirted prosecution last year when the senate gave him parliamentary immunity, but they'll vote again on Wednesday. Salvini says he sees potential criminal proceeding as "medals for having defended Italy's borders." But if the case moves ahead and Salvini is found guilty, he faces up to 15-years in prison. Salvini is a shrewd and very popular politician, but is he really willing to risk years behind bars?

Eni's luminescent solar concentrators can help smart windows and next-generation buildings generate electricity. But even Eni hadn't imagined using this technology to create eyeglasses capable of charging mobile phones and headsets.

Introducing Funny Applications, Eni's video series that imagines new, unexpected uses for technology. Watch the premiere episode.

We've written recently about how the COVID-19 pandemic will hit poorer countries particularly hard. But the burden of the virus' spread also falls more heavily on working class people even in wealthy countries, particularly in Europe and the United States. This is exacerbating the divide between rich and poor that had already upended the political establishment in countries around the world even before anyone had heard of a "novel coronavirus."

Why?

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Meet Mark Wetton, a Kentucky-based businessman who owns a dust-collection factory in Wuhan. He has been there since the beginning of the outbreak, and describes the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak there, life in lockdown, and what things are like today as the city finally begins to reopen its borders and come back to life. He also shares some lessons learned that he hopes Americans will heed.

The coronavirus is likely to hit poorer countries particularly hard, but it is also laying a bigger burden on working class people even in wealthy ones. As less affluent people suffer disproportionately not only from the disease, but also from the economic costs of containing it, we can expect a worsening of income inequalities that have already upended global politics over the past few years. Here is a look at inequality in some of the countries hardest hit by COVID-19 so far.

500 million: The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic could plunge 500 million people into poverty, according to a new report released by Oxfam. As incomes and economies continue to contract, global poverty will increase for the first time in 30 years, the report predicts, undermining many of the gains of globalization that have pulled millions out of poverty in recent years.

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