November 23, 2020

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NEED TO KNOW

WORLD

Sharing the Wealth

People around the world are afraid to leave home because of the coronavirus. The airline industry is on the brink of bankruptcy. Millions facing dire economic circumstances are cutting back on their spending, hurting businesses around the world.

It seems then like an inopportune time for the San Francisco-based home-sharing service Airbnb to go public. As the Associated Press reported, the company was already bleeding money when the pandemic struck. The first nine months of the year showed a drop in revenue of $1.2 billion even as it made a profit in the third quarter.

Yet Airbnb is pressing forward in hopes of taking advantage of what the Financial Times described as “pent-up demand” for travel. The Economist is even more optimistic. “The window for tech IPOs has not been open this wide since the dotcom bubble 20 years ago,” the magazine wrote.

Even so, not everything will be the same. As Bloomberg wrote, Airbnb recently said that “domestic travel, short-distance travel, travel outside of our top 20 cities, and long-term stays” would likely keep their business afloat until Americans and foreigners start re-booking private apartments in Manhattan and Paris.

Airbnb is betting on the post-pandemic future, Axios noted. One can’t help but ask the question “Who isn’t?” In fact, plenty of folks are debating what the world’s economy will look after we beat Covid-19.

Some argue that the pandemic will put the brakes on globalization, which might be described as the process of world markets and cultures growing closer and more intertwined, as the Brookings Institution discussed. But it is hard to determine whether Covid-19 or the US-China trade war, Brexit and other forms of burgeoning economic nationalism might be the main driver of businesses (like Airbnb) shifting to focus more on domestic demand.

Still, this Yahoo! Money video explained how workplace and lifestyle changes due to the pandemic as well as preexisting trends toward remote work would likely help Airbnb, for example.

Besides, the yearning to travel outside of one’s borders is only growing stronger among all generations but especially those under 40. Already, some fed up with the restrictions and feeling itchy have escaped to Mexico and other countries that allow people in with Covid-19 tests to work remotely, Yahoo! Finance reported.

Economist Wei Jianguo at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, a state-supported think tank, doesn’t foresee globalization waning. Nobody will be able to rebound from the coronavirus recession without help. Advancements like 5G networks and other technology are going to keep changing the world, too, he told Xinhua, a Chinese state-run news agency.

Even so, some cities such as Amsterdam, Berlin and Paris, fed up with losing their neighborhoods – and housing – to tourists, are thinking about ways to balance the negative impacts of tourism with its importance to their economies.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned against giving the so-called “invisible hand” of capitalism too much free reign in determining how the world reorders after this plague. He called for “concrete, radical” ideas to foster sustainable development that might counter the gap between rich and poor on the planet.

Globalization will continue but just be different, as Time wrote. It might be best to create criteria to help navigate the future, as the Harvard Business Review suggested.

Some say trying to predict the future at uncertain times reminds us that life can sometimes feel absurd. There is no hope, however, without thinking ahead.

WANT TO KNOW

GUATEMALA

Let Them Eat Cake

Guatemalan protesters set fire to their congress over the weekend due to outrage over a controversial budget bill passed last week, the New York Times reported.

On Wednesday, Guatemalan legislators passed a bill that would cut funding for education and health – in favor of increasing lawmakers’ meal stipends. The legislation would also slash funding for the judiciary and for combatting malnutrition.

Meanwhile, the country is reeling from back-to-back hurricanes that have displaced thousands of people, destroyed homes and ruined vital infrastructure.

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei denounced the arson but said he would examine possible changes to the budget.

Protesters are also furious over rampant corruption, claiming that “neither a president nor a Congress” are truly representing them. They called on all lawmakers to resign.

Last year, former President Jimmy Morales expelled a United Nations-backed commission that attempted to launch high-profile graft probes. He was criticized for attempting to protect officials charged with abusing their positions for personal enrichment.

WORLD

Promises, Promises

Leaders of the 20 largest economies vowed to do more to support the poorest countries hit hard by the pandemic while ensuring more cooperation in tackling the virus during the two-day virtual G20 summit held over the weekend, Reuters reported.

G20 leaders expressed concern that the pandemic might further deepen global divisions between the rich and the poor. The European Union urged leaders to direct more funding into a global project for vaccines, tests and treatment.

The bloc also proposed the creation of a treaty on pandemics to respond “more quickly and in a more coordinated manner” to future infections. Critics say the global pandemic response has been haphazard, opaque and nationalistic, and could have prevented the loss of many lives had it been more coordinated and transparent.

Meanwhile, China and Russia offered to provide their vaccines to other countries, adding that they are working on new ones.

Leaders also agreed to endorse a plan to extend a freeze on debt service payments in place for the poorest countries to mid-2021. Analysts say debt relief for Africa will be one of the main challenges for Italy, which will take over the G20 presidency from Saudi Arabia next month.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump emphasized the importance of the need to work together to restore economic growth during a brief appearance at the meeting. He made no mention of the US joining any global vaccine distribution effort.

RUSSIA

Going It Alone

Russia condemned the United States’ formal withdrawal on Sunday from the Open Skies Treaty, a devastating blow to the system of international arms control, Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty reported.

The 18-year-old treaty has allowed its 35 members to conduct short-notice, unarmed observation and surveillance flights over one another’s territories, to collect data on military forces and activities.

So far, more than 1,500 flights have taken place.

Supporters say that the treaty helps build confidence and allows transparency among members but President Donald Trump has accused Russia of repeatedly violating the treaty.

In May, the US gave notice of its intention to withdraw from the treaty.

The Trump administration has targeted other international treaties over the past four years including the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty: The US has accused Russia of secretly designing and deploying treaty-violating missiles, leading to the agreement’s collapse after Washington withdrew last year.

DISCOVERIES

A Richness Measured

The mountain ranges in Australia’s east coast are populated by the greater glider, a possum-sized marsupial with big ears and a long tail that glides from tree to tree.

For decades, scientists believed that it was only a single species but a new genetic study has confirmed that it’s not gliding alone, CNN reported.

A research team found two new marsupial species after conducting DNA analysis to determine the gliders’ genetic makeup. Originally, they had suspected that the other two creatures were just subspecies but the new findings note that there are actually three different species.

“Australia’s biodiversity just got a lot richer,” said co-author Andrew Krockenberger. “It’s not every day that new mammals are confirmed, let alone two new mammals.”

Researchers believe the study will help assist conservationists in their efforts to protect the gliders, which are currently labeled as “vulnerable,” according to the IUCN Red List.

The gliders feed primarily on eucalyptus leaves – like koalas – and their numbers have been declining due to habitat loss and fragmentation.

The 2019-2020 bushfires in Australia, which killed millions of animals and threatened the habitat of numerous species, particularly has intensified conservation efforts to help the species.

“There’s been an increased focus on understanding genetic diversity and structure of species to protect resilience in the face of climate change,” said Kara Youngentob, another author of the study.

Correction: In Friday’s WANT TO KNOW section, we said in our “Domino Effect” item that former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin was ousted in 1986. He was ousted in 1979. We apologize for the error. 

COVID-19 Global Update

More than 180 nations worldwide have confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The following have the highest numbers worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*:

  1. US: 12,247,488 (+1.30%)
  2. India: 9,139,865 (+0.48%)
  3. Brazil: 6,071,401 (+0.31%)
  4. France: 2,191,180 (+0.60%)
  5. Russia: 2,096,749 (+1.20%)
  6. Spain: 1,556,730 (+0.00%)**
  7. UK: 1,515,802 (+1.25%)
  8. Italy: 1,408,868 (+2.05%)
  9. Argentina: 1,370,366 (+0.31%)
  10. Colombia: 1,248,417 (+0.64%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours

**Numbers have been adjusted by affected country