Economic impact of COVID-19 — Another 4.4 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in the week ending April 18, bringing the total figure since March 14 to an astounding 26.5 million. Many economists think the unemployment rate for April will be somewhere between 10% and 15%, though some say the real unemployment rate — a different way of measuring the data — could be above 20%. Of course, the coronavirus and the resultant national economic lockdown caused this downturn. And now some governors want to begin to reopen their states’ economies to stop the bleeding, with Georgia leading the way. To help combat the economic fallout from the virus, the House overwhelmingly passed a $484 billion spending package on Thursday that the Senate previously approved by unanimous consent. The package includes $310 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provides forgivable loans to small businesses to help them cover their payrolls and retain employees. The bill also includes $60 billion for a separate small-business emergency loan and grant program, $75 billion for hospitals and health-care providers, and $25 billion for a new coronavirus testing program. As of this writing, President Trump is expected to sign the bill on Friday afternoon. We’ll see next week how this package begins to affect the economy (especially the PPP), whether states continue to push to lift their lockdowns, and whether unemployment filings drop or remain about the same. US funding to World Health Organization — The acting head of the US Agency for International Development said Wednesday that the US will assess whether the World Health Organization (WHO) is being run properly after President Trump paused American funding to the global body last week. In the meantime, Washington is shifting its contributions to other health-focused groups, while China pledged an additional $30 million in funding to the WHO. The US suspended its funding because of the WHO’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and apparent deference to China. Some American lawmakers have even called for the head of the WHO to resign. We’ll see next week whether the US comes to any conclusions about the state of, and funding to, the WHO in its assessment. Kim Jong Un’s health — Some media outlets reported this week that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be gravely ill following surgery. So far, North Korea has said nothing about the reports, but South Korean officials are saying that Kim is not seriously ill and that “no unusual signs have been identified inside North Korea.” The Daily NK, a news outlet based in South Korea, reported Monday that Kim was recovering after undergoing a cardiovascular procedure. Maybe we’ll learn more next week; perhaps Kim will make a public appearance. We’ll have to wait and see. If Kim were to die or be unfit to rule for health reasons, that would be a massive story with potentially serious implications. Or, business would continue as usual in North Korea. Either way, Pyongyang remains a serious threat. But, given that South Korea is our most reliable source of intelligence into North Korea, it seems most likely at this point that Kim is fine. Time will tell. Escalating military tensions with Iran — President Trump said Wednesday that he directed the US Navy to “shoot down and destroy” Iranian gunboats that harass American ships. The warning to Iran came a week after the US military said 11 small vessels belonging to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps conducted “dangerous and harassing approaches” toward American ships. Officials at the Pentagon and other American military personnel described the president’s message as a warning but said the rules of engagement have not changed — ships have the right to defend themselves and respond to hostile acts. Iranian officials responded to President Trump’s warning by calling on the US to withdraw its military forces from the Middle East and saying they would target American ships that threaten Iran. We’ll have to see whether Iran respects President Trump’s warning, and whether the US is willing to sink Iranian boats if Tehran doesn’t listen. Wednesday was an eventful day for US-Iran relations. Beyond the naval warning, Iran successfully launched its first military satellite into orbit, according to Iranian officials. Iranian Gen. Hossein Salami said the launch “creates powerful grounds for us in intelligence warfare.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo castigated the launch and said he thinks it defies a United Nations Security Council resolution. The US may try to condemn the launch at the UN next week or move to sanction entities related to Iran’s satellite program, among other measures. SCOTUS expands conditions for deporting lawful immigrants with criminal records — On Thursday, the US Supreme Court widened the grounds for deporting lawful immigrants with criminal records, giving the government a win in a case with important implications. The court ruled 5-4 in interpreting a 1996 law that lays out the conditions for deportation. The ruling means that Andre Barton, a lawful immigrant who has lived in the US since childhood but committed multiple crimes, faces mandatory removal to his native Jamaica. As the Wall Street Journal reports: “Federal law authorizes deportation of noncitizens, including those with green cards, who have committed specified crimes, but grants immigration judges discretion to cancel removal under some conditions: The individual had been admitted for permanent residence for at least five years, resided in the US continuously for at least seven years, and not been convicted of any aggravated felony.” Barton had previously been charged with multiple crimes, including aggravated assault, and committed drug-related offenses. Barton argued, however, that he met the conditions to remain in the US. The government disagreed. Again, the Journal: “The crimes weren’t on the list requiring deportation of a lawful resident who has been in the US more than seven years. But they could have been sufficient to deny admission to the country in the first place. Because they occurred before Mr. Barton had been present for seven years, the government argued he must be deported.” The court ruled that an “inadmissible” alien, to quote the term from the statute in question, remains inadmissible even if they already live in the US, not just if they are seeking admission to the US. Expect Democrats and progressive groups to condemn this decision right away and look for legislative measures to reverse its effects.