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What's next for America; protests & pandemic; Hong Kong autonomy

On the latest edition of World In 60 Seconds, Ian Bremmer brings an extra-long analysis to pressing issues:

Pandemic, economic depression and now mass protests. What's next for America?

I'm not surprised by this level of dissent publicly, given how long social inequality has persisted and how much worse it's being made by coronavirus. You're going to see a lot of people on the streets because we've got 25% unemployment right now. A lot of people are going to go back to work, but a lot aren't. It's heading towards the summer, people are soon coming out of lockdown and may feel safer in terms of the pandemic, especially in NY and in LA where the caseload has gone down. We also have very deep divisions.


Trump was at 42% approval when we had lowest unemployment. He's at 42% approval now when we have global depression. This says a lot about how divided the country is. This has been on the back of the African-American community. Blacks have been hardest hit in the United States in terms of inequality and now in terms of coronavirus too. How many are dying, how many can't socially distance, how many have jobs that have gone away or require work in unhealthy situations? The Blue Lives Matter contingent, the working class white folk, also feel disenfranchised, their wages are flat and they don't feel secure. This is a massively polarized group and there is less space in their center than before.

With election coming right now in the US, you're probably going to see violent protests for longer. Keep in mind that the media focuses on the violence and riots. If you watched last night, the peaceful protests didn't make news. Instead, it's who broke windows, hit police, got arrested. It's the minority of people out there, but it's what the news and social media cover. With all of this and with a president who understands that the way he wins is not by reaching out to black Americans, but by ensuring that his base shows up in larger numbers, implies much greater division at a time of great economic disarray and dislocation. The next few months are going to be really ugly in the US.

With inequality protests going global, where does that leave coronavirus and social distancing?

I'd say be less oriented towards panic around this. The super spreader incidents we've seen in a nightclub in South Korea, a bunch of churches, and a chorus group in Seattle, all have a commonality: people are singing. In Wisconsin, they found one outdoor demonstration that led to fifteen people being found positive. That's a lot less than the 50% outside of Seattle, Washington, who were socially distanced, but inside a room singing for three hours. Here in NYC, I saw a large-scale demonstration, about 70% to 80% were wearing masks. There was a decent amount of social distancing, nothing like what we saw at the Ozarks. Most people that are demonstrating about Black Lives Matter and police brutality don't have a thing about wearing mask. Most people that were demonstrating the lockdowns, there is a political statement in not wearing a mask. My hope, based on some science, is that relatively short-term protests outdoors with many people wearing masks, probably won't get you the super spreader incidents that we have seen.

Having said that, the protests grow, and you get a lot of people protesting in close quarters and going up against the police. The police weren't any better at wearing masks last night than the protesters were in terms of numbers. You'd be more concerned about that.

Hong Kong banned the Tiananmen Square vigil for the first time, coming up on June 4th. What does that say for its autonomy?

They're saying they banned it because of concerns of coronavirus in Hong Kong, one of the most effective paces in the world at containing the virus. Doesn't seem to be the priority for the legislature. They've been trying to work on making it illegal for people to speak badly of the Chinese mainland. I think it's a bit of misdirection. It's about wanting to assert more authority over Hong Kong. It probably says that Macao and Hong Kong are not, not going to be allowed to protest Tiananmen Square going forward. Let's see what happens with Macao going forward. The United States has put the Chinese and Hong Kong on notice, but the level of sanction is less than it could be and not close to removing special trade status.

Meet Ian Martin, an English Professor from Glasgow who is now head of Communications for Eni's International Resources. Approaching his work in the same way he used to hold his lectures, Ian is dedicated to listening and making people around him comfortable. Having working in both Milan and London, Ian utilizes his ability to communicate in different languages and cultures to prepare Eni's global messaging strategy. "Communication is a transfer of humanity," he says, and his job is as much centered around people as it as around language.

Watch Ian's human approach to communications on the most recent episode of Faces of Eni.

How to capture the essence of this incredible, terrible year in a few short words and without using profanity? It's not easy.

Thankfully, the dictionary website Merriam-Webster.com has released its list of most heavily searched words of 2020, and they tell the story of an historic year in US politics and the life of our planet. Here's a sample.

The top word, unsurprisingly, was "Pandemic," a disease outbreak that covers a wide area and afflicts lots of people. In 2020, the coronavirus crisis hit every region of the world, triggering a public health, economic, and political emergency on a geographic scale our planet has never experienced. Differing responses to that problem defined the politics (and geopolitics) of 2020.

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While recent news from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca on the efficacy of their respective COVID vaccines is encouraging, it has also given rise to bidding wars between wealthy countries trying to secure the largest supply of the new drugs for their citizens. Meanwhile, many governments in emerging market economies, where healthcare infrastructure is generally weaker, are worried they'll be kicked to the back of the line in the global distribution process. Indeed, history bears out their concerns: while a lifesaving HIV treatment hit shelves in the West in the mid-1990s, for example, it took years to become widely in Africa, which saw some of the worst HIV outbreaks in the world. But here's the catch: even if wealthy countries manage to obtain large supplies of vaccines to immunize their populations, the interconnected nature of the global economy means that no one will really be out of the woods until we all are. Here's a snapshot of how many COVID vaccines select countries have already purchased.

Afghanistan's small breakthrough: For months, disagreements over a range of political issues have hamstrung the intra-Afghan peace talks brokered by the Trump administration that aim to bridge the years-long conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban. But this week, a significant breakthrough was made on the principles and procedures governing the talks, that, experts say, will help push negotiations to the next phase. One key advance is agreement on the official name of the Afghan government, an issue that stalled talks earlier this year. Still, progress is fragile. Taliban violence and efforts to seize territory have only increased since the militants and the US reached a deal in February on a blueprint for an American troop withdrawal. And the Trump administration says it aims to pull out all but 2,500 US troops by mid-January, whether the Taliban have kept their end of the deal or not. What's more, while this week's development puts the parties one step closer to an eventual power-sharing agreement, it's unclear whether the incoming Biden administration will even honor the Trump administration's deal with the Taliban.

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Two weeks ago, Russia secured a deal to build a naval base in Sudan, its first new military facility in Africa since the end of the Cold War. The accord is a major milestone in Moscow's wider push to regain influence, and income, on a continent where the Kremlin was once a major player.

But with the ideological and military contests of the Cold War long over, what is Moscow doing in Africa today?

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Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year. Watch on Friday. Dec 4 2020 12 noon - 1 pm ET

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