What We’re Watching: Brazilian women footballers get equal pay, WHO probes itself, US cuts Ethiopia aid

The Brazilian women's national football team during a friendly game with England in Middlesbrough, UK.

Equal pay for Brazilian women footballers: In a major step towards greater gender equality in sport, Brazil's football association announced that women playing for the national football team will get paid the same as the members of the men's squad. Brazil — where football is a national religion and whose male team has won the World Cup five times, more than any other nation — follows women's national football team players winning the right to equal pay with their male counterparts in Australia, Norway, New Zealand and the UK. Last May, a federal judge in the US dismissed a lawsuit brought by the women's national soccer team demanding equal pay for their squad, but its members — led by star player and Donald Trump nemesis Megan Rapinoe — have vowed to go all the way to the Supreme Court. The fight continues despite the fact that the US women's team is way more successful than the men's squad, and won the 2019 World Cup.


Probing WHO's COVID response: After months of finger-pointing, an independent panel has finally been put into motion to investigate the World Health Organization's response to the coronavirus pandemic. The panel will be led by former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark. The two women tapped the other members of the 11-person panel, which includes Britain's former foreign secretary David Miliband and Zhong Nanshan, a Chinese doctor who was the first to publicly confirm human-to-human transmission of COVID-19. The panel, financed by the WHO, will reportedly have access to all of its internal communications, and will seek to unpack how the WHO went about coordinating a global response to COVID-19. Many heads of state — chief among them US President Donald Trump — have strongly criticized the WHO for its crisis response, particularly being too deferential to China when the virus first emerged late last year (the WHO chief praised Beijing in public even when proof of a Chinese government cover-up was fast emerging). The panel will present its findings to the WHO's executive board in October 2021.

Trump cuts off Ethiopia over dam: The US has suspended millions of dollars in financial aid to Ethiopia after Addis Ababa decided to start filling the controversial Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Upper Nile river without first reaching an agreement with Egypt and Sudan. The US State Department said the decision was based on "guidance" from President Donald Trump, who may have been inclined to place punitive measures on Addis Ababa because of his close ties to Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt's strongman leader. Talks between the three countries over the dam have stalled because of enduring disagreements: Ethiopia says it needs the dam to generate electricity, but Egypt and Sudan claim it is illegal under colonial-era water sharing agreements and warn it will dry up the Nile for Egyptian and Sudanese farmers. Earlier US mediation efforts failed after Addis Ababa blasted the Trump administration for siding with its ally in Cairo.

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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.

A few weeks ago, a Signal reader emailed me to ask why so much of our coverage of the world is so damn dark. Aren't there any good news stories out there?

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

Why can't President Biden order a vaccine mandate for all Americans?

Well, the reason is it's out of his powers. The one of the fundamental challenges in the pandemic is that the federal government has actually been fairly limited in the steps they can take to stop the spread of the virus. So, that's why you've seen President Biden order masks on transit, mass transit, airplanes, and the like. But he can't order masks in workplaces because that's not within his power. That power lies within state governments. State governments and other entities, like employers, can require vaccinations before you come into their buildings, or you come back to school, or you go to work in your office. But the federal government can't do that. What Biden is doing is, allegedly, supposedly going to announce a mandate for federal workers to get vaccinated.

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American gymnast Sunisa "Suni" Lee, 18, stunned spectators around the world with her breathtaking performance in Tokyo Thursday that earned her the gold.

Here are some interesting facts about Suni Lee, the gymnast queen:

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"Super Mario" takes his chances: Less than five months after becoming Italy's consensus prime minister, Mario Draghi's coalition government is on shaky ground over Draghi's proposed judicial reforms. "Super Mario" — as he's known for saving the Eurozone as European Central Bank chief during the financial crisis — wants to dramatically speed up Italy's famously slow courts. But his push to reduce judicial backlogs is opposed both by the populist 5-Star Movement, the coalition government's biggest party, and by prosecutors because many cases could be scrapped before reaching a verdict. Draghi, upset that this resistance is stalling his other initiatives to cut Italian red tape, has decided to roll the dice anyway: he'll put his plan to overhaul the courts to a no-confidence vote in parliament. If Draghi wins, he gets the reforms passed without debate; if he loses, the PM technically has to resign, but he'll keep his job because he has enough votes even if the 5-Star Movement bows out of the coalition.

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700: Roughly 700 people arrested for joining the unprecedented July 11 anti-government protests in Cuba are still being held by the regime. They may now face mass show trials as Havana continues to crack down on dissent following the biggest challenge to its power in decades.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What is going on in Bosnia with Bosnian Serbs boycotting all major institutions?

Well, it's a reaction against a decision that was taken by the outgoing high representative during his very last days, after 12 years of having done very little in this respect, to have a law banning any denial of Srebrenica and other genocides. But this issue goes to very many other aspects of the Bosnian situation. So, it has created a political crisis that will be somewhat difficult to resolve.

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