Apr 22, 2020

Axios PM

Good afternoon: Today's PM — edited by Justin Green — is 449 words, a 2-minute read.

TOMORROW: Axios will host two live conversations on coronavirus’ impact on our world.

  • 12:30pm ET: Education and closing the homework gap. Register.
  • 4:30pm ET: What’s coming for small business owners. Register.

👀 🐈 Situational awareness: The CDC has confirmed that two pet cats living in separate New York state homes have tested positive for the coronavirus.

⚡️ Breaking: Rick Bright, one of the doctors leading the federal government's vaccine effort, says he believes he was removed from his role this week over his attempts to limit the use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus. Go deeper.

1 big thing: The world won't stop for COVID-19

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The world is facing its gravest challenge in decades, but President Trump issued a reminder today that geopolitical tensions won’t wait until it’s over, Axios' Dave Lawler reports.

The big picture: Trump’s threat to “destroy” Iranian boats that harass U.S. ships comes amid rumors about North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's health, arrests of leading pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, and clashes in Afghanistan that could undermine the peace process.

What to watch: Rob Malley, CEO of the International Crisis Group, tells Axios he has two main concerns:

  1. "Countries could decide that now is a good time to act precisely because the world is distracted, and they think they can get away with it” with limited international pushback.
  2. Leaders who are under pressure over their handling of the coronavirus and its economic ramifications might try to create a “diversion” in hopes the country will “rally around the flag.”

Between the lines: Malley notes that both Trump and Iran's leaders have been under intense scrutiny during the pandemic.

  • “It's worth pondering whether in this case or in others we're going to see leaders trying to change the subject,” he says.
  • Trump’s threat came after Iran announced its first military satellite launch and the Pentagon accused the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of “dangerous” maneuvers near U.S. naval vessels in the Persian Gulf.

Where things stand: U.S.-Iran tensions aren't the only holdover.

  • Libya’s civil war continues, and attacks from jihadi groups including Boko Haram have intensified in Africa’s Sahel region.
  • Countries like Venezuela that were already contending with political and economic crises now face a pandemic.

The bottom line: The pandemic also presents opportunities to reduce tensions or end conflicts, as is being attempted in Yemen (with inconclusive results so far) and through the UN’s call for a global ceasefire.

Bonus: Pic du jour
Photo: Jess Taylor/House of Commons

The British House of Commons installed a socially distanced system in place for the Prime Minister's Questions, which are usually packed with feisty debate.

2. Catch up quick
  1. U.S. latest: Harvard won't take bailout cash — Las Vegas mayor calls for city to reopen — Cuomo says Bloomberg volunteered to help develop "tracing army" — Budget desperation deepens for local governments.
  2. World latest: What we know about the Chinese lab at the center of the coronavirus controversy.
  3. Business latest: Tyson Meats closes another pork plant — Theater owners say big movies aren't coming back soon — Virtual reality startup Magic Leap cutting large portion of staff.
  4. Bonus: 🎧 Instagram co-founder tracks coronavirus.
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