What We're Watching

Chinese planes over Taiwan – On Sunday, two Chinese warplanes flying above the Taiwan Strait crossed into what Taiwan considers to be its airspace. In response, Taiwan scrambled warplanes to push the Chinese out. On Monday, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen warned that further Chinese provocations would be met with force. On Tuesday, US National Security Advisor John Bolton tweeted a condemnation of China's action and a pledge of US "commitment" to Taiwan's security. Nobody wants a war, but accidents happen and can create dangerous confrontations from which all sides are reluctant to back down.

Theresa May's Brexit U-Turn – Sick of Brexit yet? Well, we've got news for you: embattled UK Prime Minister Theresa May said yesterday she planned to scrap her current Brexit proposal and work with the opposition Labor Party to forge a compromise. To broach such a grand bargain, though, she says the UK will need more time beyond the current April 12 deadline. So it looks like we could now be in for a few extra weeks of Brexit pain. This announcement is a big U-turn for Ms. May, who previously ruled out working with the opposition, and it means that a plan which can gain the support of a majority of parliamentarians may eventually emerge – if the EU agrees to an extension.

What We're Ignoring

Another Central Asian name-change? – Emilbek Kaptagayev, a Kyrgyz official, says Kyrgyzstan should change the name of its capital from Bishkek to Manas, the main character in a centuries-old epic poem. The purpose, according to Kaptagayev, is to prevent a future egocentric political strongman from naming it after himself. This is clearly a dig at Kazakhstan, where the capital city will soon change its name from Astana to Nursultan, in honor of retiring President Nursultan Nazarbayev. We're ignoring this story because Kyrgyz critics of the idea have rightly noted that their country has bigger problems to solve—and because common sense says changing the name once won't keep someone from changing it again.

The dark side of cryptocurrencies – Everyone knows Bitcoin and its ilk have been going through a rough patch – government crackdowns, a deflating investment bubble, and concerns about fraud have all contributed to a price crash and declining investor interest since late 2017. Now it turns out that even terrorists may have reason to be skeptical of the electronic money, which boosters claim will overthrow central banks and free people to transact with each other without government interference. A new report from the RAND think tank found terror groups were likely to prefer cash when buying weapons, because cryptocurrencies are harder to use and less secure than good old fashioned Benjamins.

Brazil's governors take on Bolsonaro: We've previously written about the tensions between local and national governments over coronavirus response, but few places have had it as bad as Brazil. As COVID-19 infections surged in Brazil, the country's governors quickly mobilized – often with scarce resources – to enforce citywide lockdowns. Brazil's gangs have even risen to the occasion, enforcing strict curfews to limit the virus' spread in Rio de Janeiro. But Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, has mocked the seriousness of the disease and urged states to loosen quarantines in order to get the economy up and running again. "Put the people to work," he said this week, "Preserve the elderly; preserve those who have health problems. But nothing more than that." In response, governors around the country – including some of his allies – issued a joint letter to the president, begging him to listen to health experts and help states contain the virus. The governor of Sao Paulo, Brazil's economic powerhouse, has even threatened to sue the federal government if Bolsonaro continues to undermine his efforts to combat the virus' spread.

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The major outbreaks of coronavirus in China, Europe, and the United States have garnered the most Western media attention in recent weeks. Yesterday, we went behind the headlines to see how Mexico and Russia are faring. Today, we'll look at three other potential hotspots where authorities and citizens are now contending with the worst global pandemic in a century.

Start with India. For weeks, coronavirus questions hovered above that other country with a billion-plus people, a famously chaotic democracy where the central government can't simply order a Chinese-scale public lockdown with confidence that it will be respected. It's a country where 90 percent of people work off the books— without a minimum wage, a pension, a strong national healthcare system, or a way to work from home.

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In the end, it took the coronavirus to break the year-long deadlock in Israeli politics. Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu will still face corruption charges, but he has yet another new lease on political life, as he and political rival Benny Gantz cut a deal yesterday: Bibi will continue as prime minister, with Gantz serving as Speaker of the Knesset, Israel's parliament. After 18 months, Gantz will take over as prime minister, but many doubt that will ever happen.

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With large parts of the American economy shuttered because of coronavirus-related lockdowns, the number of people filing jobless claims in the US last week exceeded 3.2 million, by far the highest number on record. Here's a look at the historical context. The surge in jobless claims, which may be an undercount, is sure to cause a spike in the unemployment rate (which tells you the percent of work-ready people who are looking for a job). At last reading in February, unemployment was at a 50-year low of 3.5 percent. Economists warn that it could reach 5.5 percent in the near term. Even that would be far lower than the jobless rates recorded during previous economic crises such as the Great Depression or the Great Recession. Have a look.