Hard Numbers

410,000: The online shop of the French presidential residence sold around $410,000 worth of memorabilia, including mugs decorated with President Emmanuel Macron’s face, in just three days. Unfortunately, much coveted kitsch will do little to alleviate Macron’s woeful polling numbers, which recently hit a record low.


150: More than 150 new embassies have been established in sub-Saharan Africa since 2010, according to the University of Denver’s Diplomatic Project. While the US still leads the pack with embassies in 48 African nations, Turkey opened up 16 new diplomatic posts and Qatar 12 there in the past eight years.

95: Oil exports from the southern Iraqi city of Basra account for 95 percent of the country’s state revenues, and yet more than a quarter of young people in the area are jobless, higher than the national average of 20 percent. Such disparities have contributed to long simmering anti-government protests there that have turned violent in recent days.

80: Around 80 percent of Yemen’s people need some sort of humanitarian aid, according to the UN. The world’s worst humanitarian crisis continues to deepen, with around 8 million at risk of famine, including many children.

5: The reimposition of US sanctions on Iran has caused a drought of dollars in the Islamic Republic but proven a godsend for currency traders in neighboring Afghanistan. Every day, according to a Bloomberg report, they smuggle some $5 million into Iran, sell the greenbacks in exchange for Iranian rials at a huge markup on the black market, and then take those Iranian rials back home to Afghanistan where they fetch another premium of 30 percent.

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.