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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.

Wales, early 19th century: During breaks from his law studies, William Robert Grove indulges in his passion for science to become an inventor. On his honeymoon in Europe, he learns about the new energy source everyone's talking about: electricity. After learning that electricity allows water to be broken down into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen, his intuition leads him to an idea that ends up making him a pioneer of sustainable energy production.

Watch the story of William Robert Grove in Eni's MINDS series, where we travel through time seeking scientists.

El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele is an unusual politician. The 39-year old political outsider boasts of his political triumphs on TikTok, dons a suave casual uniform (backwards-facing cap; leather jacket; tieless ), and refuses to abide by Supreme Court rulings.

Bukele also enjoys one of the world's highest approval ratings, and that's what helped his New Ideas party clinch a decisive victory in legislative elections on February 28, securing a close to two-third's supermajority (75 percent of the vote had been counted at the time of this writing).

His triumph will resonate far beyond the borders of El Salvador, Central America's smallest country, home to 6.5 million people. Now that Bukele has consolidated power in a big way, here are a few key developments to keep an eye on.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and as we head into the weekend, a Quick Take on, well, the first bombing campaign of the new Biden administration. You kind of knew it was going to happen. Against some Iranian-backed militias in Syria, looks like a couple of dozen, perhaps more killed, and some militia-connected military facilities destroyed. I think there are a few ways to look at this, maybe three different lenses.

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Iran rules out nuclear talks… for now: Iran has reportedly rejected an offer to join direct talks with the US and EU over its nuclear program, saying it won't start the conversation until sanctions on Iran's economy are eased. To be clear, this does NOT mean that prospects for reviving the Iran nuclear deal are dead. Europeans and the Biden administration want a return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, and Iran certainly needs the economic boost that would come from a removal of sanctions. But Tehran is going to try to maximize its leverage before any talks begin, especially since this is a sensitive election year in in the country. Iran's leaders are going to play hard to get for a while longer before edging their way back to the bargaining table. Still, it's high stakes diplomacy here between parties that have almost no mutual trust — and one misstep could throw things off track quickly.

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18: A week after threatening protesters with a severe crackdown, Myanmar's ruling junta killed at least 18 people across the country in the bloodiest day of clashes since the generals staged a coup last month.
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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.


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Biden strikes Syria. Now what?

Quick Take