What is holding up the coronavirus relief package in Congress?

Ben White, Chief Economic Correspondent for Politico, provides his perspective on the news in US politics:

What is holding up the coronavirus relief package in Congress and how would it help Americans?

The biggest holdup is Democrats are not comfortable with the $500 billion fund to bail out certain industries like the airlines. They think there are not enough strings attached, not enough limits on executive pay or stock buybacks. They also want more unemployment insurance, extensions, and other efforts to aid individuals. But overall, it would send checks to a lot of Americans, earning under $100,000 or $75,000. It would do a lot to help bail out small businesses. So, a lot of good stuff in there and I think they'll make a deal.


Is the coronavirus epidemic bringing our politicians closer together or further apart?

Well, right now, they're pretty far apart. I think more economic damage, further drops in the stock market, will start to bring them together. We'll get one big package done and then they'll have to come back and do a lot more, I think.

Why has Joe Biden been so invisible in recent days?

Well, this has been really puzzling to me. He was pretty much dark for a long period of time. That's starting to change. He did a briefing today on camera. He did some stuff yesterday. I think he's starting to come out and push back on how President Trump has handled this crisis. I think we'll see a lot more from Joe Biden in the coming days.

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.