The graphic above details who stands to lose and gain, as global trade flows are redirected away from Europe, if the UK sticks with its current plan.
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The graphic above details who stands to lose and gain, as global trade flows are redirected away from Europe, if the UK sticks with its current plan.
"I knew that history was my life's calling."
On Bank of America's That Made All the Difference podcast, Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch shares his journey and present-day work creating exhibits that inspire visitors to help our country live up to its ideals.
Viktor Orbán, Hungary's far-right populist prime minister, likes to shock people. It's part of his political appeal. Orbán has proudly proclaimed that he is an "illiberal" leader" creating a frenzy in Brussels because Hungary is a member of the European Union.
It's been over a decade since the 58-year old whom some have dubbed "the Trump before Trump" became prime minister. In that time he has, critics say, hollowed out Hungary's governing institutions and eroded the state's democratic characteristics.
But now for the first time since then, Orbán faces a real challenge to his power. Six ideologically-diverse opposition parties have joined forces to unseat him. But even if the opposition bloc wins elections next spring, a hard feat given Orbán's popular appeal, what would it even mean to "liberalize" Hungary again?
Orbán: Liked but not loved. Early in his political career, Orbán learnt that popular resentment could be harnessed as a political weapon. After the collapse of Hungary's communist regime, Orbán, a student who grew up in the countryside without running water, became a founding member of Fidesz (then called "Alliance of Young Democrats"), an anti-communism youth party. Under his influence, in particular his close alliance with Hungary's influential churches, the party took on a strongly socially conservative bent as well as a resentment of so-called "urban elites."
Since then, Orbán has fashioned himself as a bulwark against a corrupt political elite detached from salt-of-the-earth Hungarians who are tired of being pushed around by liberal elites and global heavyweights. In recent years, he has appealed in particular to Hungarians' strong sense of nationalism to rally against the progressive and migrant-friendly policies of the European Union.
Still, while Orban's anti-EU, anti-immigrant sentiment has struck a chord with many Hungarians — particularly during Europe's migrant crisis in 2015 — he has not personally endeared himself to constituents like, say, Donald Trump or Israel's Bibi Netanyahu. (No one, for example, is getting Orbán's initials inked across their chest.) Analysts say that the absence of cult-like infatuation surrounding the PM could indeed bode well for those vying to unseat him.
A ragtag opposition makes common cause. Last December, opposition parties put aside their political differences and teamed up to oust Orbán. Undoubtedly, this unsettled Orbán, who had long exploited discord within the opposition to tighten his grip on power. Tellingly, the opposition bloc — which spans the political spectrum and includes the progressive Democratic Coalition and the right-wing Jobbik party — has vowed to run unity candidates in all 106 legislative races. For now, the plan is working: Fidesz and the United Opposition are neck-and-neck in the polls.
Meanwhile, Budapest's liberal mayor Gergely Karácsony — formerly a member of the Green Politics Can be Different Party who won the mayoral race in a massive upset in 2019, defeating the Fidesz-aligned incumbent — is considered the frontrunner to head the opposition after leadership primaries take place in September. Karácsony is also a former political pollster, which is sure to come in handy on the campaign trail. Still, an upset in relatively liberal Budapest is one thing — replicating that at the national level will require winning over millions of more conservative rural voters.
What's actually at stake? Well, democracy. Hungary has taken an authoritarian turn under Orbán, who has cracked down on the independent media and restructured the electoral map to benefit Fidesz (Hungarian gerrymandering, if you will). Crucially, he has also gutted the judiciary, stacking the Constitutional Court with loyalists. And in some instances, the government has simply scoffed at court rulings. (Last year, Orbán said he would ignore a court ruling ordering the government to compensate Roma families for school segregation policies.) The EU, for its part, has condemned the erosion of the rule of law in the country, though Brussels has never been able to dish out anything more punitive than a wrist slap.
More recently, Orbán, like his ideological compatriots in Poland, has taken up the third rail issue of LGBT rights, vowing to soon hold a referendum on banning LGBT content from school curriculums. (Opposition figures said the move aimed to deflect attention from recent allegations that Orbán's government spied on journalists and activists.)
Even if the opposition wins next spring, reversing Orbán's political legacies — dilution of the independent judiciary, increased corruption and cronyism — will be extremely challenging. That's because Orbán's reforms are now entrenched in many of Hungary's institutions: for example, parliament recently appointed an Orbán ally to head the Supreme Court for nine years. Additionally, overriding big legislation requires a two-thirds majority in parliament, a pipe dream for the fragmented opposition. And even if Fidesz loses, the group will still remain immensely popular for some time.
The (potential) de-Orbanization of Hungary. Winning the election next year is only half the battle for Hungary's fired-up opposition. Reversing the political legacy of an illiberal stalwart like Viktor Orbán could take many, many years.
In countries with access to COVID vaccines, the main challenge now is to convince those hesitant about the jab to roll up their sleeves, and this has become even more urgent given the spread of the more contagious delta variant. So, where are there more vaccine skeptics, and how do they compare to total COVID deaths per million in each nation? We take a look at a group of large economies where jabs are available, yet (in some cases) not everyone wants one.
Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:
QR codes are everywhere. Are they also tracking my personal data?
Well, a QR code is like a complex barcode that may be on a printed ad or product package for you to scan and access more information. For example, to look at a menu without health risk or for two-factor verification of a bank payment. And now also as an integral part of covid and vaccine registration. QR codes can lead to tracking metadata or personal data. And when your phone scans and takes you to a website, certainly the tracking starts there. Now, one big trap is that people may not distinguish one kind of use of QR codes from another and that they cannot be aware of the risks of sharing their data.
Is smart phone tracking avoidable?
Well, in theory yes, but in practice it's difficult. Recently, a Catholic newsletter called The Pillar used cell phone metadata to out a priest as gay for having used the app Grindr online. And without data protection safeguards, people can be tracked and traced in ways that they are not aware of, but that do certainly infringe upon their rights and civil liberties.
Now that the Tokyo Olympics are finally underway, your Signal crew will be bringing you some intriguing, uplifting, and quirky bits of color from a Games like no other…
Today we've got— the best freakout celebrations!
Winning an Olympic gold is surely an excuse to go nuts. For athletes, it's the ultimate prize for years of rigorous training. For their families, friends, and fellow citizens, it's a once-in-a-lifetime moment of feeling on top of the world — especially in countries where an Olympic gold literally comes once in a lifetime (if ever.)
In just a few days, Tokyo 2020 has already offered a few explosions of joy. Here are four that stood out for us.
Tanzania reverses course on COVID: Just four months ago, the Tanzanian government was completely denying the existence of the pandemic. Then-President John Magufuli insisted Tanzania was COVID-free thanks to peoples' prayers, and refused to try to get vaccines. But Magufuli died suddenly in March — perhaps of COVID. His successor, current President Samia Suluhu, has acknowledged the presence of the virus in Tanzania, and although she was initially lukewarm on mask-wearing and vaccines, Suluhu has recently changed her tune, first joining the global COVAX facility and now getting vaccinated herself to kick off the country's inoculation drive. Well done Tanzania, because if there's one thing we've all learned over the past 18 months, it's that nowhere — not even North Korea, whatever Pyongyang says — is safe from the coronavirus.
US-Russia talk nukes: US and Russian officials met in Vienna on Wednesday to chart a fresh path forward on arms control. In January, they agreed to extend their last remaining bilateral arms control deal, the New START treaty. But other key agreements have fallen apart in recent years, including one that governed intermediate-range nukes and another that permitted each side to conduct unarmed surveillance flights over the other's territory. The talks in Vienna were constructive, and Americans and Russians plan to meet again in September. Given that these two countries alone own more than 90 percent of the world's nuclear warheads, that's good — but one big outstanding question is if and how to work China's rapidly growing arsenal into a 21st-century arms control framework.China's nuclear silos: While the US and Russia build nuclear trust, China is quietly building new storage facilities for its own atomic arsenal. A report by US scientists claims that Beijing is digging an entire field of silos in the Xinjiang region, where China has long conducted atomic tests, and last month US defense officials spotted another network of underground bunkers in neighboring Gansu province. What's more, less than a year ago the Pentagon warned that the Chinese are working to double their stockpile of nuclear weapons. While China only has about 200 nukes — way less than Russia and the US — Beijing's apparent bid to build more of the most lethal weapons on Earth comes right as US-China relations are at their frostiest point in decades.
16: A new study tracking Earth's "vital signs" has found that 16 out of 31 indicators of planetary health are getting worse due to climate change. Last year's pandemic-induced shutdown did little to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions, stop the oceans from warming, or slow the shrinking of polar ice caps.
150 million: Teodorín Obiang, son of the longtime dictator of Equatorial Guinea, lost his appeal against a conviction for embezzlement in a French court. The ruling could pave the way for up to 150 million euros ($176.8 million) in Obiang's seized assets — including a 101-room mansion in the center of Paris — to someday be returned to the people of his oil-rich West African homeland.
2,000: Israel has reported more than 2,000 daily COVID infections for the second day in a row, likely as a result of the more contagious delta variant. The country has fully vaccinated almost 59 percent of its population, and is now considering giving booster shots.2: The Indonesian government issued a rare apology after two military officers were caught on video kneeling on the head of a deaf, indigenous Papuan man. Some ethnic Papuans — who have long complained of abuse and discrimination by Indonesians — have compared the act with the US murder of George Floyd, which sparked global protests against racism and police brutality in the summer of 2020.
Next week, Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner who is ideologically and personally close to Iran's 82 year-old supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will be inaugurated as Iran's president. This power transition comes as the country experiences a fresh wave of protests that started in Iran's southwest over water shortages earlier this month and has since spilled over into dozens of provinces.
Some close observers of Iranian society and politics say that popular discontent there is now more widespread than it has been in years, making the Iranian regime more vulnerable than ever.
To unpack recent events, GZERO Media interviewed Ali Safavi, a longtime member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran — the main political opposition group to Iran's theocracy — whose leaders have lived in exile for decades. Safavi has taught at several American universities and has been an analyst for Western media outlets. He was also involved in the campaign to remove the Mujahedin-e Khalq movement — which the NCRI is closely linked to — from the lists of terrorist groups in the US (2012) and Europe (2009).
The MEK was formed in the 1960s by leftist-student groups to overthrow the American-backed Shah. While its supporters view it as a freedom movement advocating democratic reform in Iran, its detractors condemn the MEK's militaristic past. Indeed, many Iranians shunned the group for joining forces with Saddam Hussein against Tehran during the brutal Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988). (Meanwhile, accusations of cult-like tendencies plague the group today.)
This conversation with Ali Safavi has been edited for length and clarity.
GD: What do you make of the latest protests in Iran and what, if anything, makes them different from previous mass demonstrations?
AS: I think the recent protests have to be seen in the context of the developments of the past few months in Iran. Obviously what has happened is the continuation of four nationwide uprisings that erupted in Iran since 2017. And if anything, it goes to show that despite all the repressive measures that the regime has put in place, particularly since November 2019, that it cannot extinguish the flames of resistance and opposition to the regime.
Over the past year and a half, the most effective and closest ally of the Iranian regime has been the coronavirus. The regime has basically invested in the strategy of mass casualties — it is not providing the necessary assistance to the people. It seems that the Iranian people are emerging from the burden of the coronavirus and expressing their pent up anger and their demands for freedom and liberty.
The scope of the uprising this time is also different. Already there have been protests in 14 different provinces. And the interesting feature of all of these protests is the unanimity in the slogans that people express: "down with the dictator," "down with absolute rule of the clergy," and "down with Khamenei."
GD: Are those slogans new? Have they not been used before?
AS: Yes they have. But I think what is important is that, ostensibly, the protest in Khuzestan was over water shortage, but it quickly became political. The protest yesterday in Tehran was because of electricity cuts. So yes, people have different and specific grievances, but at the end of the day, the root cause of all of these calamities is the regime in Tehran. Today is the 13th or the 14th day of what began in Khuzestan in early July. And so it goes to show that the regime clearly cannot contain the protests; the regime is at its weakest and most fragile state in its 40-year history.
GD: Realistically, what role can the NCRI play in affecting change considering that your group is not actually in the country?
AS: While of course it is true that the leadership of the NCRI has been in exile, that is not to say that its network has been absent within the country. In every city that you see protests now, there have been hundreds of MEK members or sympathizers who have been executed by this regime in the past. And of course these people have families and many of them have children who are now grown up. And so the people that you see out in the streets, the fact that they repeat the very slogans that the MEK or the NCRI have been promoting for years goes to show the effectiveness of our movement.
GD: What do you think the Biden administration should be doing now vis-à-vis Iran policy?
AS: The Democratic Party and President Biden's platform during the election was that human rights and democracy will be front and center [in his administration]. He [Biden] should remain true to that pledge. And I think, for example, what happened in Khuzestan with eight people being killed, according to Amnesty International, required a decisive condemnation on the part of the administration. But what do we see? They are observing. Observation is not enough. You have to condemn Iran. Iranian people need to know that the Western world and particularly the United States stands with them in the real struggle for emancipation and freedom.
This whole JCPOA discussion is fruitless and helpless and is to the detriment of the Iranian people. Are they really going to lift the sanctions against Khamenei, the man who is responsible for, among other things, the 1988 massacre?
GD: What about the argument that these economic sanctions hurt ordinary Iranians?
AS: I think this is a false narrative that the pro-Iran lobby propagates in Western capitals. Remember, during Ahmadinejad's presidency Iran had $600 billion worth of oil revenues. Where did that money go? Why are 12 million Iranians hungry every night? Iran is a country with the second largest gas reserves in the world. Giving concessions to this regime has not improved the lives of average Iranians, and giving concession to this regime has not empowered the so-called moderates within this region.
GD: What's your response to detractors who say the NCRI, formerly designated a terror group by the US State Department, has a violent past, and that there isn't a constituency today in Iran that supports the group?
AS: When [former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini declared a reign of terror in June 1981, basically eliminating the last vestiges of peaceful political activity, the MEK had no choice, but to defend itself. And of course, that right is recognized even by the Catholic Church, that whenever you have no other means of defending yourself, you can use whatever means are necessary. Nobody welcomes violence, but it is not we that dictate the form of this struggle. It is the enemy that does that.
We have always said to all of those who say we don't have any semblance of support inside Iran: Okay. Let's have a free election and see who the people of Iran will vote for. If they vote for us, fine. If they don't, that's also fine. We have been an opposition movement for 56 years. We're perfectly willing to be an opposition movement for another 56 years.