WATCHING/IGNORING

What We're Watching

Orban vs Soros in Hungary – Hungary's nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban seems to have won his ongoing fight to shut down Central European University.


CEU, an institution founded by his Hungarian-born critic George Soros, has announced it is relocating most of its operations to Vienna. Orban's government says CEU violated the law by issuing US degrees without having a US campus. But CEU is affiliated with Bard College in New York, where it offers courses. CEU and its defenders say Orban wants to quash critics and academic freedom as part of his broader "illiberal" agenda. CEU's departure marks the first time a university has been forced to leave an EU country.

The Climate in Katowice – The problem of climate change can't be addressed without shared sacrifice among nations, a hard political sell even in the most harmonious times. But President Trump's assault on the 2015 Paris Agreement has inspired others—like Brazil's newly-elected president—to throw cold water on efforts to jointly combat global warming. This week, delegates to a UN climate change conference in Katowice, Poland will try to define workable carbon emission targets for the Paris signatories. If they can't make progress, will it fall to regions, cities, or even companies to set their own goals?

WHAT WE'RE IGNORING

Angela Merkel's cheat sheet – German Chancellor Angela Merkel was caught taking a cheat sheet into her entering meeting with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison this weekend. The document explains who he is and what he looks like. As a number of Australians have pointed out, it's only fair: Mr. Morrison is the sixth different Australian prime minister to hold office since Merkel became Germany's chancellor in 2005.

Nigeria's Clone President – The often-ill Muhammadu Buhari, currently running for reelection as Nigeria's president, insists he has not died and been replaced by a body double. "It's the real me, I assure you," said Buhari, or maybe his clone. We're ignoring this for two reasons: We're 98 percent sure that's really Buhari and, if he is a clone, the clone Buhari would have a clear incentive to lie about it.

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.