Non-coronavirus news: Israel, US-Iran skirmishes, and a Sanders surprise?

Non-coronavirus news: Israel, US-Iran skirmishes, and a Sanders surprise?

Gantz tapped to form a government in Israel: Israel's president has tapped the Blue and White party's Benny Gantz to form a government after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing bloc failed to secure a parliamentary majority. Gantz has 28 days to wrangle the 61 seats needed to form a unity government. One noteworthy change in the status quo: Avigdor Lieberman, the political kingmaker whose support both leaders need to form a coalition, has broken with Netanyahu and tipped the scales in Blue and White's favor. Meanwhile, at the behest of the president, Netanyahu and Gantz met Sunday to discuss the option of forming an "immediate joint government" to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. A state of emergency in the court system has also delayed Netanyahu's long-awaited corruption trial, slated to begin on March 17, until May 24. The ball is now firmly in Gantz's court.


Will coronavirus help Bernie Sanders? To win the Democratic Party's nomination, Bernie Sanders needs something big and completely unexpected to happen. On Tuesday, three delegate-rich states — Arizona, Illinois, and Florida — go to the polls. Under ordinary circumstances, polls show Biden would be the clear favorite to win all three. But coronavirus ensures the turnout will be very low. What if Sanders voters show up, and Biden voters don't? A long shot? Probably. But remember that Biden voters tend to be much older (and apparently more vulnerable to COVID-19) than Sanders voters. An upset by Sanders in most or all these states could upend the delegate race and the entire election.

Iran-US tit-for-tat continues: An Iraqi military base housing US troops was hit by a fresh wave of rockets over the weekend, wounding three Americans and two Iraqis. This comes just a week after three coalition members were killed when their military camp near Baghdad was hit by rocket fire attributed to the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia, prompting retaliatory US airstrikes on that group. The Pentagon has increased its military presence in the Middle East over the past year in response to the perceived increased threat posed by Iran. Tehran now seems willing to up the ante. But as it grapples with one of the world's worst coronavirus outbreaks (it has the third largest death toll behind China and Italy) maybe this isn't the best time to provoke Washington?

UPDATE: the piece has been updated to reflect the postponement of the Ohio primary.

What We're Ignoring

Those who ignore the experts: The warnings from public health officials are stark. To ensure that the global coronavirus pandemic doesn't overwhelm healthcare systems, everyone needs to do their part: Wash your hands. Avoid large gatherings. Work from home if you can. And yet, an Arkansas clergyman quoted in the Washington Post says a colleague recently told him that "half of his church is ready to lick the floor, to prove there's no actual virus." Meanwhile, this weekend nightlife was bumping in big cities like Nashville and New York. France's health ministry is clarifying to the public that snorting cocaine does not, in fact, slow the bug's spread. And here is a group of Thai bat guano collectors continuing to ply their trade despite concerns that coronaviruses may be incubated in bat colonies before making their way to humans. We're not just ignoring these stories; we're washing our hands of them.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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