What We Are Watching & What We Are Ignoring

WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

Brazil's president-elect vs a jaguar – Just three weeks before he takes office, Jair Bolsonaro is facing a corruption scandal. It seems that while his son Flavio Bolsonaro was a state lawmaker, his personal driver's bank account swelled into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. What's more, the driver evidently made a transfer directly to Jair Bolsonaro's wife.


The senior Bolsonaro says the payments discovered by a local Rio anti-corruption investigation amazingly named "The Jaguar's Cave" – was simply repayment for a loan. Whether there is more to the story remains to be seen, but even a whiff of corruption is a bad vibe for Bolsonaro. Back in October, millions of Brazilians were willing to overlook his (extremely) divisive rhetoric because they saw him as a fitting rebuke to a corrupted political elite. As he prepares to take power, can he and his sons – all of whom are politicians as well – walk the walk?

Migrant crisis in Bosnia – A generation ago, more than half a million people in Bosnia and Herzegovina fled their homes amid the Yugoslav civil wars. Today, the small and politically precarious Balkan country is struggling with its own influx of people in need. More than 20,000 migrants and asylum seekers from the Middle East and South Asia have officially entered Bosnia this year, hoping to make a clandestine crossing into Croatia, an EU member state. Last year the number was below 1,000, but since other routes into Europe – in particular via Serbia into Hungary – have been closed off, migrants have focused on Bosnia. Absorbing refugees can be an economic and political challenge even for the wealthiest countries, but Bosnia is already one of the poorest and most politically precarious countries in Europe. Aid from the EUand Turkey is helping, but as winter approaches, the UN has warned that a full blown humanitarian crisis could soon emerge.

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

The Trump/Pelosi/Schumer meeting – Later today, President Trump, incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will meet to discuss a potential deal to avert a partial government shutdown before Christmas. In the past, Democrats offered $25 billion for the president's border wall in exchange for protection for 1.7 million young undocumented immigrants who face deportation. Trump agreed, then changed his mind. With Democrats now set to control the House, and Democratic voters who don't want any compromise with Trump, Pelosi and Schumer have much less reason to meet Trump halfway. We'd ignore this meeting and focus on the likelihood of a shutdown – if you want to visit a US national park with the family this holiday season, do it now!

The forced exile of 5,000 Spanish pigeons Officials in the Andalusian port city of Cadiz are preparing to trap and relocate some 5,000 pigeons whose appetites and droppings are, local hoteliers say, scaring off tourists. The great pigeon deportation, which is to take place next year, is a more humane way to deal with the birds than poisoning them, for sure. And the hope is that they'll happily adapt to their new homes somewhere in eastern Spain. We are ignoring this because we think the birds are smart enough to find their way back to their seaside haunts in Cadiz. After all, Spain has a long and illustrious history with homing pigeons.

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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Governments of the developed world are finally responding with due sense of urgency, individually in 3 different ways.

1st, stand health care systems up so they won't get overwhelmed (late responses). The private & public sector together, building additional ICU beds, supply capacity and production of medical equipment and surge medical personnel in the US, Canada, across Europe & the UK. Unclear if we avoid a Northern Italy scenario. A couple days ago, Dr. Fauci from the NIH said he was hopeful. Epidemiologists and critical care doctors don't feel comfortable. Not in New York, Chicago, LA, Boston, Philadelphia, New Orleans. In Europe, particularly London, Madrid, Catalonia, Barcelona, might be significantly short.

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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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