What We're Watching: Poland sets election date, Duterte drops his US threat, UK welcomes Hong Kongers

What We're Watching: Poland sets election date, Duterte drops his US threat, UK welcomes Hong Kongers

Poland's election set: After a grueling political fight between the far-right Law and Justice Party, which heads the government, and opposition parties on how and when to hold a presidential election during a global pandemic, Poland says the ballot will now go ahead on June 28. For the incumbent government, led by President Andrzej Duda, the election is a chance to further solidify its agenda of social conservatism and an alarming reworking of the country's democratic institutions. While April polls strongly favored Duda, the pandemic-induced economic crisis has dented his ratings in recent weeks, giving centrist candidates a slightly better chance to take the nation's top job. Indeed, in last year's election, the Law and Justice party won only a very shaky parliamentary majority and needs Duda to stay at the helm, not least in order to pass controversial judicial reforms that the EU has long-deemed as undemocratic.


Duterte backs down: After threatening in February to withdraw from a long-term military agreement with the United States, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte reversed course this week. Duterte had wanted to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement, which allows US forces to train in the Philippines, after Washington refused to grant a visa to a hardline Philippines politician (and Duterte ally) who orchestrated that country's draconian anti-drug campaign, which most of the international community deemed a human rights violation. But Duterte has turned tail now, likely for two reasons: First, with its economy battered by the pandemic, the Philippines will have less money to spend on defense, making Washington a critical partner in the near-term maintenance and development of its armed forces. Second, analysts say that Duterte has grown warier of China's increasing military assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea and sees the military pact with Washington as a buffer against Beijing.

Boris Johnson invites Hong Kongers over: Amid growing tensions between China and the West over the political future of Hong Kong, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he'll offer up to 3 million Hong Kongers the right to move to the UK. The move comes in response to Beijing's recent decision to impose a draconian new security law on the city, which was a British colonial possession until 1997. Under the terms of the treaty that handed Hong Kong back to Chinese control, both sides agreed to a "one country, two systems" model, where Hong Kong would retain certain freedoms even after it became part of China. London and the US say that China's new security law violates that agreement. Beijing shot back at Johnson's proposal with a warning to "step back from the brink."

"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.

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.

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.

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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?

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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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Next week, Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner who is ideologically and personally close to Iran's 82 year-old supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will be inaugurated as Iran's president. This power transition comes as the country experiences a fresh wave of protests that started in Iran's southwest over water shortages earlier this month and has since spilled over into dozens of provinces.

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