October 15, 2020
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“We become wiser by adversity; prosperity destroys our appreciation of the right.” — Lucius Annaeus Seneca
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” — Nelson Mandela
The Global Bounceback
(Que Hure via Getty Images)
On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund gave us its first bit of good news since COVID-19 pitched the world into economic freefall. In their latest World Economic Outlook, they indicated that the global economy is beginning to rebound from the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. Crediting extreme adaptations to monetary policy and the easing of lockdown restrictions, the report predicts that the global economy would only contract by 4.4% in 2020. This is a noticeable improvement from their midyear projections, where they warned that global growth could shrink by more than 5%. Despite this sign that the worst of our economic woes have come and gone, officials still caution that the road to recovery is long without a proven vaccine.
“This crisis is, however, far from over,” said the IMF’s chief economist Gita Gopinath in a note accompanying “The ascent out of this calamity is likely to be long, uneven, and highly uncertain.”
In other words, while COVID-19 brought all nations down together, only those who can corral the virus and apply aggressive monetary policy can begin their ascent out of financial despair. Case in point: take a look at China. Buoyed by draconian lockdowns and stable export sales — the IMF predicts their economy will actually grow by 1.9% in 2020.
In contrast, the United States’ economy is expected to shrink by 4.3% while Eurozone nations are staring at a staggering 8.3% contraction rate. It is worth noting that the IMF has much rosier predictions for the global economy in the upcoming years: 5.2% growth in 2021 and 3.5% in 2022. When you compare these figures with the group’s pre-pandemic projections, however, these predictions represent a $28 trillion loss in total output through 2025.
The divergent trends between Western nations like the US and the UK and Asian countries like China demonstrate how certain economies are better suited to thrive during a shutdown. Export-heavy nations, if able to get their workers back into production lines, are able to brush off pandemic downturns and return to economic normalcy the fastest. But for those of us who rely on demand for domestic services or the sale of transportation-based goods like oil, eradicating the virus is the only true panacea for developmental woes.
Waking Up The Sleeping Giant
- During a visit to a Chinese military base, President Xi Jinping told troops they must “put all their [their] minds and energy on preparing for war.” This grim proclamation comes just days after the White House agreed to sell three advanced weapons systems to Taiwan, a deal that has elevated already-high tensions between the US and China. Xi Jinping’s military has also engaged in skirmishes with neighboring superpower India on the Himalayan border.
- Disputes with the second and third largest countries in the world underscore Xi’s calls for increased military might. The stoic leader told soldiers to “maintain a state of high alert” and called on them to be “absolutely loyal, absolutely pure, and absolutely reliable” during his visit to Guangdong to honor the 40th anniversary of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone.
- As Xi called on his own troops to prepare for the unthinkable, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian demanded that Washington “immediately cancel any arms sales plans to Taiwan” and dissolve all “US-Taiwan military ties.” Taiwan has long maintained a democratic independence from Beijing — despite Xi’s insistence that the self-governing island is an integral part of the Chinese state. Recently, Xi has suggested the possibility of retaking the island by force if necessary.
- As China’s rhetoric grows more and more aggressive, American officials have attempted to downplay their true military threat. In a recent speech, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper claimed that China “cannot match the United States” in naval power, instead characterizing Beijing as a “malign influence.” (CNN)
A Vaccine Vacancy
- Despite their recent recalcitrance when it comes to military affairs, China has made steps to join the global COVID-19 effort. Last week, they announced they would join UN-backed COVAX, an international initiative against “vaccine nationalism.” COVAX aims to pool resources amongst international players and distribute over 2 billion doses of vaccine by the end of 2021.
- China’s entry means that almost the entire world has signed on to the collaborative plan — except for two prominent world powers: the United States and Russia. With 183 countries, or more than 93% of the world’s population, committed to a joint vaccine solution, the US vacancy from the World Health Organization’s program points to Trump’s peculiar handling of this global pandemic. Nations like Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan have also opted out of the collaborative effort — but China’s late decision to join COVAX reveals their attempt to distance themselves from the United States and their pandemic approach.
- “We are taking this concrete step to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, especially to developing countries, and hope more-capable countries will also join and support COVAX,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced on Friday. Recent polls have shown that Beijing’s trustworthiness numbers have plummeted in recent months, but a major contribution to the international vaccine response could help their public image.
- President Donald Trump rejected the COVAX initiative, citing “the corrupt World Health Organization and China” as reasons for the United States’ notable absence from the global stage. (Axios)
Additional World News
- How to Avoid a War Between America and China (Foreign Affairs)
- You can’t block Bangkok: Thai Leader Declares ‘Severe’ State of Emergency in Bangkok as Anti-Government Protests Continue (Time)
- Ways to defuse currency wars (Reuters)
- G-20 suspends poor nations’ debt payments for 6 more months (AP)
- Two priests accused in Vatican’s first sexual abuse trial (BBC)
- Cardinal sins: Vatican Financial Scandal Takes New Twist With Arrest Of Associate Of Cardinal (NPR)
- Students to replace older teachers in Moscow (Guardian)
- In Mexico, Cross-Border Fight Over Water Erupts (NYT, $)
- Dramatic increase expected in fierce storms and wildfires, U.N. agencies say (CBS)
- The globe’s been passing gas: The number of global methane hot spots has soared this year despite the economic slowdown (WaPo, $)
- Covid-19 herd immunity, backed by White House, is a ‘dangerous fallacy,’ scientists warn (NBC)
- Blood type could be linked to Covid-19 risk and severity, new research suggests (CNN)
- Europe, Which Thought It Had Coronavirus Tamed, Faces Second Wave (NYT, $)
- How is Germany doing with Covid-19? Better than its European neighbors so far. (Vox)
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Grin and Barrett
(Andrew Caballero-Reynolds via Getty Images)
- In a 1995 law review article, Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan said that the “safest and surest way to the prize” of being confirmed as a Justice in the Senate is to “lay in alternating platitudinous statement and judicious silence.” That’s a pretty good summation of what we’ve gotten from Amy Coney Barrett as congressional Democrats attempt to poke holes in her conservative record. There haven’t been many jaw-dropping moments of revelation, but here’s what we’ve learned about ACB during her time on the stand.
- When asked about her views on social issues, Barrett offered this platitude: “Judges can’t just wake up one day and say, ‘I have an agenda, I like guns, I hate guns, I like abortion, I hate abortion,’ and walk in like a royal queen and impose their will on the world.” Instead, she asserted that she was “100 percent committed to judicial independence from political pressure.”
- Despite these claims, 12 hours of testimony did give away some of ACB’s partisan inclinations. She refused to recuse herself from any SCOTUS cases involving the upcoming election and revealed she does not view Roe v. Wade as a “super-precedent.” For context, landmark cases like Brown v. Board of Education are often considered super-precedent, in that they are essentially irreversible.
- But these are small potatoes for any skeptics looking for a smoking gun that proves that ACB is some radical ideologue looking to forever tarnish the court. That just hasn’t appeared to be the case. Barrett herself addressed these concerns and promised the Congress that she was “not here on a mission to destroy” Obamacare and refused “to be used as a pawn to decide this election for the American people.” (WaPo)
Additional USA News
- Barrett emerges as the anti-Kavanaugh (Politico)
- Tally-no! The Census, the Supreme Court and Why the Count Is Stopping Early (NYT, $)
- America Disrupted: Troubles cleave a nation, and a city (AP)
- Squashing a scandal? Facebook And Twitter Limit Sharing New York Post Story About Joe Biden (NPR)
- 5.2 million people can’t vote due to their felony record, according to a new report (Vox)
- As Virus Spread Early On, Reports of Trump Administration Briefings Fueled Sell-Off (NYT, $)
- Build community, or walls: His Private Border Wall Enraged Neighbors. Then He Landed $2B To Build Walls For Trump (NPR)
- New Eyewitness Accounts: Feds Didn’t Identify Themselves Before Opening Fire on Portland Antifa Suspect (ProPublica)
Cutting The Cord
- If you missed yesterday’s new iPhone announcement, you really didn’t miss much. Just run-of-the-mill ultra sleek videos fetishizing the metal curves of yet another glossy piece of tech. However, one announcement made by the tech giant is worth plugging into. Apple announced that — in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint — phones would no longer come with charging cables and earbuds.
- Lisa Jackson, Apple’s VP of environment, policy, and social initiatives hit perturbed tech pundits with a sensible explanation: “Customers already have over 700 million Lightning headphones, and many customers have moved to a wireless experience. There are also over 2 billion Apple power adapters out there in the world, and that’s not counting the billions of third-party adapters. We’re removing these items from the iPhone box, which reduces carbon emissions and avoids the mining and use of precious materials.”
- So is she right? Will incurring a minor nuisance on customers really save the environment? Jackson claimed that by slimming down on packaging and products, the move will “cut over 2 million metric tons of carbon annually; it’s like removing 450,000 cars from roads every year.” However, some sustainability skeptics claim Apple isn’t doing as much good as they think they are.
- “The percentage of chargers coming from tablets, smartphones, et cetera is 0.1 percent of the total e-waste increase,” he said. “This makes up roughly 54,000 metric tons of e-waste generated,” said Ruediger Kuehr, head of the Sustainable Cycles Programme hosted by the United Nations University. “If you consider only Apple’s portion, it’s probably half or less. At the maximum, you could probably say it’s 25,000 metric tons, or 0.05 percent of the total e-waste increase annually.”
- Kuehr suggested that the material used making the iPhone’s themselves is much more harmful when one considers the scale at which e-waste is produced by companies like Apple. “One should be a little bit careful in claiming too much for only taking away chargers from the parcel, because there’s a lot more to be done by a large company,” he concluded. (Wired)
- My Mustache, My Self (NYT, $)
- Winter is coming: Pandemic winter dread is real. Here’s how to conquer it. (Vox)
- Mary Cappello’s ‘Lecture’ Sees Distraction as Valuable (Atlantic, $)
- A low Mark: Why Facebook Can’t Fix Itself (New Yorker, $)
- Why the Plastic Packaging You Hate So Much Is Still Here (Vice). A lot to unpack here.
- Machu Picchu reopened for lone tourist who was stranded in Peru because of COVID-19 (CBS)
- China insists Genghis Khan exhibit not use words ‘Genghis Khan’ (Guardian)
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