Non-coronavirus news: Israel’s deadlock, Sanders' future, and Putin's forever plan

Israel's deepening political woes: A week after Israel's parliamentary election – its third in less than a year – neither the incumbent prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, nor his rival Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party, appear well positioned to form a coalition government. Earlier this week, it seemed that Gantz might just be able to form a minority government backed by the Joint List of Arab parties, but this plan fell through when two Blue and White members refused to sit in a government backed by Arabs. Israel's deepening political instability comes just as Netanyahu is set to appear in a Jerusalem court to face three corruption charges on March 17. A series of elections and a caretaker government have meant that for more than a year there's been no economic policy in place to stem the country's growing budget deficit. Now, as the coronavirus outbreak presents major challenges for Israel's economy, the political wrangling is delaying the passage of a much-needed state budget.

Is it over for Bernie Sanders? Bernie Sanders entered yesterday's primary elections in Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Washington, Idaho, and North Dakota fully aware that he needed a good result in most of these states in order to keep his presidential campaign alive. That's because his rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, has built a fairly strong delegate lead and the older and more heavily African-American demographics of the states that appear next on the primary calendar favor Biden. Sanders came up short. When the votes from yesterday's contests are fully counted and the delegates allotted, it will be clear that Biden has become the overwhelming favorite to capture the Democratic Party's presidential nomination and to face off with Donald Trump in the November election. Sanders may remain in the race a few more weeks, but this contest is effectively over.


Putin's forever plan: After 20 years in power, Russian President Vladimir Putin just can't get enough. Last month, he proposed constitutional amendments that would create various indirect ways for him to remain Russian-in-Chief even after term limits kick in at the end of his current term in 2024. But yesterday he pulled out all the stops: After a little-known lawmaker proposed resetting the clock on those limits, beginning in 2024, Putin theatrically swept into the chamber to deliver a speech in which he graciously accepted the possibility of serving two more six-year terms (until 2036), pending approval from the constitutional court. Spoiler: the constitutional court will approve. Credible polls tell us that Putin is genuinely popular, and many Russians, particularly businesspeople and politicians, prefer the imperfect system they know to the prospect of a struggle for power when Putin leaves the scene. But there's a big difference between "approval of Putin" and "approval of 16 more years of Putin." And the last time he found a gimmicky way to return to power (from 2008-2012 he served as prime minister to evade presidential term limits) it provoked massive street protests.

What We're Ignoring

A 2032 Olympics bid for an imaginary city: Indonesian President Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi, wants his country to host the summer Olympics in a dozen years' time. After filing an initial bid last month to host the summer games in Jakarta, Jokowi is reportedly considering changing the venue to Indonesia's new, high-tech capital city on the island of Borneo. There is a slight catch: the city doesn't exist yet. Construction won't begin until next year. We feel comfortable ignoring this story until the city at least has a name.

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.