What We're Watching: Brazil's Dam Disaster

Brazil's dam disaster – Hundreds of people are still missing after a dam burst in the central Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, sparking an avalanche of mud and mining waste that killed and injured many. This is the second deadly dam accident for Brazilian mining giant Vale in just three years, and it could prove politically damaging for Brazil's recently inaugurated president, Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro ran as a pro-business and anti-regulation conservative, pledging to cut onerous environmental regulations. We'll be watching to see how he responds to growing pressure to crack down on one of Brazil's most important industries.


A breakthrough in Afghan peace talks? – US and Taliban negotiators have reportedly agreed in principle to a framework deal to bring about an end to America's longest war. Under the agreement, the US would commit to the eventual withdrawal of its 14,000 troops in return for a Taliban-backed ceasefire and peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government. To date, the Taliban has refused to talk to the central government in Kabul, whose authority it views as illegitimate. On Monday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani delivered a nationally televised address in which he applauded the agreement and called on Taliban to embrace direct talks. We're watching to see if the latest development represents a real step toward peace or is instead an effort by the Trump administration to dress up a predetermined decision to leave Afghanistan.

What We're Ignoring:

The United Arab Emirates' gender inclusiveness awards UAE Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum handed out awards for "best government entity supporting gender balance," "best federal authority supporting gender balance," and "best gender balance initiative" at a ceremony on Sunday celebrating progress toward greater gender inclusion within Emirati government agencies. There was just one problem: the recipients were all men. The optics are terrible, and we're ignoring these awards. But, to be fair, the UAE does boast the best gender equality record in the Arab world, according to a UN study. It also recently doubled paid leave for new mothers to 90 days, unlike the US, which doesn't have a nationwide paid maternity leave policy.

"Red scarves" protests in France – It's been more than 11 weeks since tens of thousands of gilets jaunes – or "Yellow Vest" – protesters began occupying intersections in cities and towns across France. Now the weekend protests, which have sparked France's worst street violence since the late 1960s, have spawned a counter-movement. Enter the "red scarves," who turned out in the thousands over the weekend to denounce the "insurrectional climate" created by the rowdy yellow vests. We're all for calm, civil debate here at Signal, but it's hard to see how a protest movement calling for moderation can sustain enough energy to make a difference. In protest against this sartorial tomfoolery, your Signal authors have decided to don white berets.

"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.

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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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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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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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How booze helps get diplomacy done

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