What We're Watching: Europe's migrant crisis, Bibi's win, and Russians standing their ground

A fresh humanitarian crisis on Europe's doorstep: A dramatic surge of migrants has arrived on Greek shores in recent days, after Turkey abandoned a 2016 deal with the EU under which it has housed some 3.7 million Syrian refugees in exchange for billions of euros in aid. Ankara took this step after a dangerous flare up last week in Syria, where Turkish troops are trying to halt a Syrian assault on Idlib province that's driving more refugees across the Turkish border. Some 10,000 migrants have since tried to breach the Greek border in recent days, leading Greek police to use tear gas and other riot control methods. One child died after a makeshift boat capsized off the Greek island of Lesbos, a main destination for migrants. Meanwhile, Greece's prime minister announced Tuesday that all asylum applications would be frozen while Athens deals with the emergency. Brussels has pledged emergency aid.


Netanyahu wins, but how big? With about 90 percent of votes in from Israel's parliamentary election, its third in less than a year, incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party came out victorious, winning four more seats than its rival Blue and White party. At the time of this writing, Netanyahu is still two seats short of a 61-seat parliamentary majority. If Netanyahu, who is set to face a corruption trial on March 17, gets to 61 seats by merging with his allies on the right, he could seek parliamentary immunity from graft charges. But if the tally is a 60-60 split with the opposition, Netanyahu might need to entertain some sort of unity government with Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz. While much will be determined in the days ahead, one thing is clear: Netanyahu has won an election that was essentially a referendum on whether his legal troubles ought to disqualify him from leadership.

Putin isn't giving up any ground, literally: Russian President Vladimir Putin has submitted a flurry of proposed constitutional amendments, including measures that would effectively ban same sex marriage, criminalize blasphemy, and prevent Russia from giving any part of its territory to a foreign power. That last measure will directly affect two major territorial disputes: one with Japan over the fate of islands occupied by Soviet forces during World War Two, and another with Ukraine over the fate of Crimea, which Moscow has politically and economically integrated into Russia since illegally annexing the peninsula in 2014. It seems that even for the country with the largest land territory on earth, every hectare counts.

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.