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.

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.

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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"Neither America first, which is ultimately America alone, nor America the world's policeman," Sen. Chris Coons told Ian Bremmer in describing VP Joe Biden's approach to foreign policy should he win the presidential election in November. In the latest episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer, Sen. Coons provides details of how U.S. relationships with foreign governments and multilateral alliances could change in a Biden presidency. He also defended President Obama's track record, saying "I think it is a mischaracterization of the Obama-Biden foreign policy for President Trump to say that we were picking up the tab and fighting the world's wars and that we were disrespected." Coons stated that Biden would work to restore U.S. involvement in alliances like NATO, and shore up global support to pressure China on labor and environmental standards. The exchange is part of a broad conversation with the Senator about COVID response and economic relief, Russian interference in elections, and the 2020 presidential race. The episode begins airing nationally in the U.S. on Friday, July 10. Check local listings.

Jon Lieber, managing director for the United States at Eurasia Group, shares his insights on US politics:

How is coronavirus jeopardizing the legitimacy of a 2020 presidential election?

Well, what coronavirus is doing is a lot of states are worrying about people who aren't going to want to come to the polling places in the fall, and they're worried about a shortage of polling workers who are going to want to come out and volunteer to get sick by interacting with a bunch people in person. So, what they're doing is they're looking at making a shift to vote-by-mail. Most states allow some form of absentee balloting today. Five states just automatically mail you a ballot and they don't do any in-person voting. But the challenge here is that a lot of states are unprepared for the sharp increase that's expected. In the last election, 25% of ballots were cast by mail. You may see 50, 60 or even more percent of ballots cast by mail this time, which could overwhelm election administration, which happens at the state level.

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The United States and the European Union have comparable population sizes, but their COVID-19 death toll trajectories have diverged. As of July 8, the average number of new deaths every three days in the EU had fallen 97 percent since peaking at the beginning of April. The US number, however, has fallen only 67 percent over the same period. That means that although both regions' death tolls peaked with only two weeks difference, the EU has flattened its COVID-19 fatality curve faster than America. Some experts attribute the difference to EU countries' more robust public health systems and better compliance with mask-wearing and other social distancing measures.