"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.
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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.
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.
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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!
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.
- Classmates of 17-year-old US swimmer Lydia Jacoby cheer her on from a watch party at Jacoby's high school in Alaska.
- Filipina weightlifter — and air force sergeant — Hidilyn Diaz is proud AF and salutes the flag after winning her country's first-ever gold.
- Pro-democracy Hong Kong fans drown out the Chinese national anthem after fencer Cheung Ka-long wins the territory's first gold since the 1997 British handover to China.
- Australian swim coach Dean Boxall goes fully David Lee Roth after Ariarne Titmus wins the 400-m freestyle.
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July 28, 2021
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.
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Hard Numbers: Earth is dying, Obiang’s frozen riches, COVID soars in Israel, Indonesian police brutality
July 28, 2021
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.
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