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Japanese plaintiffs hold placards reading "A step towards Marriage Equality" outside the court after hearing the ruling on same-sex marriage in Tokyo.

REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

What We're Watching: US-Japan send mixed LGBTQ signals, China + Russia rattle South Korea, Congress hits diversity milestone, baguettes get UNESCO nod

US & Japan make same-sex marriage waves

As the US steps forward (a bit) in protecting LGBTQ rights, Japan digs in its heels on the same issue — with a silver lining. On Tuesday night, a filibuster-proof majority of American senators passed a bill to enshrine the right to same-sex marriage in federal law. It repeals the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which allowed US states not to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, although states will not be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Just hours later, a Tokyo court upheld Japan's ban on gay marriages by ruling against four couples who sued for discrimination. But there's a caveat: the same court admitted that the ban is a violation of human rights. What do these two developments mean on opposite sides of the world? In the US, passing the bill — which still needs a House vote, likely next week — was a rare show of bipartisanship in a culture-war issue like same-sex marriage, which many fear is the Supreme Court's next target after ending the federal right to an abortion. In Japan, the ruling might put pressure on Japanese lawmakers to finally give in and legalize same-sex marriages in the only G-7 country where it's still verboten. That would be a big shift for conservative Asia, where same-sex marriages are only legal in progressive Taiwan.

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Ian Bremmer: Russia Is a Rogue State | Global Stage | GZERO Media

Ian Bremmer: Russia is a rogue state

Does Vladimir Putin have any real friends left?

In a Global Stage livestream conversation, Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer says that the Russian president is losing China and India, who are telling him they're worried about the war in Ukraine dragging on. Not even the Kazakhs (!) are on his side anymore.

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Participants of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit.


From talk shop to regional bloc: What to make of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization

As the Shanghai Cooperation Organization met last week in Uzbekistan, observers braced for impact. Would China’s Xi Jinping meet India’s Narendra Modi? (No). Would Modi meet Pakistan’s PM Shehbaz Sharif? (Also, no). Would anybody put Vladimir Putin in his place? (Modi sort of did). Would China get real with Russia over Ukraine? (Not really, though Putin did emerge as the obvious junior partner to Xi in the huddle). Amid the fanfare and the photo-ops, these developments posed larger questions: Is the SCO relevant? Does it have ‘bloc potential?’ Is it a threat to the West?

The Big Brother club? Given the exception of India, the SCO is often thought of as a talking shop of autocratic regimes. But between its eight members – China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – it represents 3.1 billion people, spans most of Eurasia, and boasts a quarter of the world’s GDP, thanks to some of the world’s biggest energy reserves. Moreover, it’s still getting bigger. Iran just acceded as a full member; Belarus is hoping to be next; and Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Maldives, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Turkey have also taken the first step towards membership by signing on as dialogue partners. The SCO is also expanding to the Middle East, as Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar as well as Saudi Arabia have become partners.

What does the SCO really do?

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Supporters of Iraqi leader Moqtada al-Sadr swim as they protest inside the Republican Palace in the Green Zone, in Baghdad.

REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

What We're Watching: Deadly clashes in Iraq, China-Russia military drills, Colombia-Venezuela restore ties

Iraq’s deepening political crisis

Hundreds of Iraqi protesters stormed the government palace and took to the streets Monday after popular Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose bloc won the most seats in parliamentary elections last fall, announced he was stepping back from politics. At least 30 people were killed and more than 380 were injured in clashes between al-Sadr supporters, Iran-aligned groups, and Iraqi security forces. Moreover, al-Sadr announced he was starting a hunger strike until the violence stops. It's the the worst violence Baghdad has seen in years, most of which is concentrated around the heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses foreign embassies and government buildings. For almost a year, Iran-aligned parties have prevented al-Sadr from forming a new government, prompting his 73 lawmakers to resign en masse this summer in protest, which in turn led to sectarian clashes. Al-Sadr — who has long railed against Iran’s influence over Iraqi social and political life— retains widespread influence over some institutions and has proved adept at whipping his supporters into a frenzy. (Last month, hundreds of his supporters breached Baghdad’s Green Zone and occupied parliament.) The Supreme Court will decide on Tuesday whether parliament will be dissolved and new elections called – though the constitution says the legislature must agree to dissolve itself. That’s unlikely given that parliament is now dominated by a pro-Iran bloc, which became the biggest parliamentary faction by default after al-Sadr withdrew. Iraq’s military announced a nationwide curfew as the situation continues to deteriorate.

Updated on Aug. 30.

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Contradictions in Coverage: Chinese Media & The Ukraine War | GZERO World

Contradictions in coverage: Chinese media & the Ukraine war

Many Chinese media outlets have “an outstanding capability to maintain a state of denial, to say things that are clearly not true” — but not all have spread propaganda about Russia's invasion of Ukraine, says Melinda Liu, Newsweek's bureau chief in Beijing.

State-run media are trying to show some of what's going on in Ukraine, and (part of) Chinese social media is showing sympathy for Ukrainians, Liu tells Ian Bremmer in a GZERO World interview. Still, much of the focus remains on Russian casualties.

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Ian Explains: Limits of the China-Russia Friendship | GZERO World

The limits of the China-Russia friendship

CIA Director Bill Burns once called Vladimir Putin an “apostle of payback.” But what about Putin's fellow autocrat wingman, Xi Jinping?

Xi and China are now in an awkward spot, Ian Bremmer explains on GZERO World. The Chinese are trying to condemn the invasion of Ukraine without condemning Russia, the invader.

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Xi Jinping & Vladimir Putin: No Trust Among Autocrats | GZERO World

Xi Jinping & Vladimir Putin: No trust among autocrats

Melinda Liu describes the current relationship between authoritarian buddies Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin as a "marriage of convenience."

"They've known each other a long time, so it's not entirely awkward, but it's not entirely comfortable either. There's ... not a lot of trust," says Newsweek's Beijing bureau chief in an interview with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World. "Each of them probably know[s] that down the road, a number of years from now, the tables will be turned and one of them will be aligned with America against the other ... It's always been like that, and it always will be like that."

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China’s Discontent & the Russia Distraction | Beijing Bureau Chief Melinda Liu | GZERO World

China’s discontent & the Russia distraction: Beijing bureau chief Melinda Liu

The relationship between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping is a "marriage of convenience," Newsweek's Beijing bureau chief Melinda Liu tells Ian Bremmer in a GZERO World interview. "They've known each other a long time, so it's not entirely awkward, but it's not entirely comfortable either. There's ... not a lot of trust."

But according to Liu, Xi's biggest problem right now is not Putin, but China’s zero-COVID policy - which now has 26 million people under lockdown in Shanghai. China is facing a challenge they never saw coming — and that "hits right to the soul."

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