What We’re Watching: Tories Transformed

What We’re Watching: Tories Transformed

New Conservatives – Following a dramatic few days of parliamentary combat over Brexit, Prime Minister Boris Johnson no longer leads the same Conservative Party he inherited just six weeks ago. Gone are 21 members, some of them with decades of service to the party, who were expelled for voting with the opposition to strip Johnson of control of Brexit negotiations with the EU. Gone too is Boris' younger brother Jo, who, according to wags on Twitter, quit the party on Thursday to "spend less time with his family." The prime minister can now encourage party members to select Brexit hardliners and Johnson loyalists for the Tory electoral list, reshaping the party in his own image. British voters will then decide, once the opposition agrees to elections, where that party will go.


Italy's new interior minister – Matteo Salvini built his case to lead the Italian government on a reputation for furious opposition to would-be migrants. (As interior minister, he closed Italian ports to asylum seekers.) Now that a spectacular political miscalculation has left him outside government, a change made official when members of the Five Star Movement voted to approve its party's coalition with the center-left Democratic Party, Salvini has been replaced as interior minister by Luciana Lamorgese, an official recently in charge of planning refugee and migrant reception centers in northern Italy. This move represents a sharp shift in Italy's immigration policies and a big political opportunity for Salvini, now in opposition.

China vs Foreign Retailers – On Monday, as students in Hong Kong skipped the first day of class to join pro-democracy protests, Spanish clothing retailer Zara temporarily closed four of its 14 stores across the city. A local newspaper then published an article speculating on whether the stores were closed in support of the protests. When the story hit social media giant Weibo inside China, many angry Chinese called for a boycott of the store. The store's parent company then issued a statement that stores were closed only because protests delayed the commute of its employees and expressed support for the principle that Hong Kong is part of China. Weibo users said an explanation is not enough and demanded an explicit apology. Zara isn't the first, and won't be the last, Western company caught in the crossfire of controversy inside China.

What We're Ignoring

Russia's Versailles academy – Russian businessman Andrey Simanovsky has a lot of money and very bad taste. Don't take the Signal team's word for that. Check out these photos from a suburb of the Siberian city of Yekaterinburg of the public school he just had remodeled with chandeliers, marble floors, gold-trim, and ceiling paintings of angels. What sort of food can students expect from the lunchroom? Let them eat cake.

"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.

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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It's easy to judge the Pompeiians for building a city on the foothills of a volcano, but are we really any smarter today? If you live along the San Andreas fault in San Francisco or Los Angeles, geologists are pretty confident you're going to experience a magnitude 8 (or larger) earthquake in the next 25 years—that's about the same size as the 1906 San Francisco quake that killed an estimated 3,000 people and destroyed nearly 30,000 buildings. Or if you're one of the 9.6 million residents of Jakarta, Indonesia, you might have noticed that parts of the ground are sinking by as much as ten inches a year, with about 40 percent of the city now below sea level.

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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.

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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.

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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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How booze helps get diplomacy done

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