Hard Numbers: Biden’s UN envoy, Syrian war crimes conviction, US asylum seekers in limbo, Hungarians vs Sinopharm

Hard Numbers: Hard Numbers: Biden’s UN envoy, Syrian war crimes conviction, US asylum seekers in limbo, Hungarians vs Sinopharm

78: Linda Thomas-Greenfield was sworn in on Wednesday as US ambassador to the United Nations, after being confirmed by the US Senate with 78 votes in favor and 20 against. During her confirmation hearing, Thomas-Greenfield — a veteran diplomat and the second Black woman to represent the United States at the UN after Susan Rice — was grilled by some Republicans, who questioned a 2019 in speech in which she praised China's activities in Africa.


4.5: A former member of Syria's intelligence service was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison by a German judge for aiding and abetting crimes against humanity by the al-Assad regime. It's the first time a court outside Syria ruled on such offenses in the country, which human rights campaigners hope will set a precedent for future cases. The defendant was initially accepted by Germany as a legitimate refugee in 2018, but recognized by some of his victims a year later.

12,000: The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has registered roughly 12,000 asylum seekers currently stranded in Mexico for US immigration authorities to process their applications. The Biden administration recently reversed former president Trump's policy to deter asylum seekers from crossing the border by making them wait in Mexico to review their claims.

27: Hungary has become the first EU country to start administering China's Sinopharm COVID vaccine — partly in response to the bloc's own bungled vaccine rollout. But a recent poll shows that only 27 percent of Hungarians plan to roll up their arms for the Chinese jab, compared to the 43 percent who trust Russia's Sputnik V shot, and the 84 percent willing to take the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

"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.

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Why do (most) world leaders drink together? It can get them to agree on stuff they wouldn't while sober. Booze "helps people get cooperation off the ground, especially in situations where cooperation is challenging," says University of British Colombia professor Edward Slingerland. Alcohol, he explains, allows you to "see commonalities rather than just pursuing your own interest," which may put teetotaler politicians — like Donald Trump — at a disadvantage. Watch his interview on the next episode of GZERO World. Check local listings to watch on US public television.

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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How booze helps get diplomacy done

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