Caption contest: This picture of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and French President Emmanuel Macron is … quite something.
WTO GETS IT DONE: Earlier this morning in Geneva, the 164 members of the World Trade Organization proved skeptics wrong and ended a yearslong negotiating slump.
Ministerial negotiators had to repeatedly extend the conference, and overcome a long list of Indian objections, but managed to land deals on Covid vaccine IP waivers (to authorize generic versions of the vaccines), World Food Programme exemption from food export restrictions, fishing subsidies and extending a moratorium on digital tariffs.
“The WTO is in fact capable of responding to emergencies of our time,” Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said in her closing remarks to the conference.
WAVE OF SUPPORT FOR UKRAINE EU MEMBERSHIP: “Ukraine belongs to the European family” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during his first trip to Kyiv during the current war, where the three biggest EU nations backed Ukraine joining the bloc. The European Commission followed suit Friday morning local time, to Zelenskyy’s joy.
What this means: The biggest obstacle to Ukraine obtaining EU candidate status is removed. But nothing changes about the timeline. It will likely take Ukraine five to 10 years to complete the membership process, if the candidacy is formalized Thursday at the next EU leaders summit.
BIDEN HOSTS MAJOR ECONOMIES ON ENERGY AND CLIMATE:The virtual summit will tackle the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the world’s collective failure to stick to emissions targets.
DEMOCRACY — HALF OF AMERICAN ADULTS THINK IT’S ENDING: Half of American adults now believe it is “likely” that America will “cease to be a democracy in the future” — including 55 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of Republicans. Just 25 percent consider the end of U.S. democracy unlikely, per a new Yahoo/YouGov poll.
Case studies:Jim Marchant, a QAnon-linked candidate who supports overturning election results, is the Republican nominee to be Nevada’s top election official. He’s one of the more than 100 Republicans who embrace former President Donald Trump’s evidence-free claims of widespread election fraud.
On the Democratic side, poll workers are being turned into pawns: You get the job based on your party machine connections.
Meanwhile, a county-level clash in New Mexico is serving as a precedent for nationwide efforts to refuse to certify county-level election results, reports Sam Levine.
INTERVIEW — ANTONY BLINKEN, ON LGBTQI RIGHTS
Secretary of State Antony Blinken discusses LGBTQI rights with his Saudi counterpart “invariably, in every conversation,” but defended President Joe Biden’s planned July visit to the kingdom — which punishes homosexual acts with the death penalty — because “there are a lot of different things” that constitute America’s interests in the country.
Speaking at the State Department’s first-ever briefing for LGBTQI reporters, Blinken told Global Insider that “we have real engagement” with Saudi officials when he raises his LGBTQI-themed complaints. But he said human rights are only one part of America’s foreign policy and “everything has to be reflected in what we do.”
Overall, Blinken painted a picture of a world polarizing on LGBTQI rights, and called 2022 “a deadly serious time” for those communities.
Flipping narratives: Whereas Western governments once treated LGBTQI rights as lower-order priorities in foreign policy — if they considered them at all — Blinken is flipping that traditional role, framing attacks on LGBTQI people as a “canary in the coal mine” for broader human rights and democratic freedoms.
Context: This pro-LGBTQI administration is engaged in a permanent juggling act.
Read how Biden came around to MBS’ plan for a new U.S.-Saudi partnership, ultimately deciding the kingdom was too valuable to keep at arm’s length. At the same time, the State Department says it has provided financial assistance to around 10,000 LGBTQI human rights defenders via its Global Equality Fund.
Autocrats and far-right unite: Blinken and U.S. LGBTQI envoy Jessica Stern warn that autocratic governments are copying anti-LGBTQI legislation from each other, and anti-gender movements are gaining strength — funded by more than $1 billion in American private donations in recent years.
“The anti-gender movement is growing in strength. It’s well networked, and it’s well resourced,” Stern told POLITICO. “Bad ideas are copied. And we’re seeing copycat legislation and a new crop of criminalizing laws that target LGBTQI activists around the world.”
First do no harm: They also feel duty-bound to pursue a “first do no harm” approach to attacks on LGBTQI communities, the administration is also vulnerable to criticism that it isn’t acting quick enough to defend those under siege.
Who’s the next Hungary? Russia’s Vladimir Putin provides extreme examples of the use of anti-gay ideology — but privately, U.S. diplomats point to Hungary, Poland, Guatemala and Indonesia as examples of less extreme governments promulgating backlash. Blinken remains reluctant to name and shame.
“The last thing we want to do is actually make things worse,” he told Global Insider, arguing that “we have to do it on a case-by-case basis, because every country has a different situation.” The decision on whether to go public with criticism depends on feedback from local activists and an early warning system from American diplomats, Blinken said.
Where are the LGBTQI envoys? Blinken prefers to coordinate with allies “coming together can make a big difference: The country in question will take it more seriously,” but only three of them — the U.K., Italy and Argentina — provide a direct counterpart for Stern.
“When you say a law criminalizes me for who I am, it violates my rights. But if you argue for equal protection under the law, you’re attacked as an activist. There’s never a way forward,” Stern lamented.
Homework in State Department backyard: Promising to “make sure that this institution (State Department) actually reflects the full country that we represent,” Blinken described Stern’s role as being able to “walk into my office and walk into any office 24/7,” and “give us that intense focus that we need.”
It’s not all bad news: While one in three countries criminalize homosexuality, there is occasional real progress: “Pride in Lithuania: 17,000 people, that’s remarkable!” he noted, speaking of a recent Baltic Pride parade in Vilnius, and highlighting a successful yearslong push to decriminalize homosexuality in Botswana that was supported by the United States.
Blinken also pointed to the first-ever U.N. consensus vote to affirm a right for LGBTQI people — the protection of the right to vote — as “one of the least understood but most important work” his teams do, “because norms, standards, rules, get set at these international organizations. The language gets infused in other places.”
Worried but upbeat: Blinken believes that the backlash experienced by some LGBTQI communities is because of the broad success they have had in speaking out and securing both legal rights and cultural affirmation. “The planet as a whole” he said, “has never been more tolerant by lots of measures. In every corner of darkness, we also find some places of light,” he said.
BY THE NUMBERS — U.S. MILITARY SUPPORT TO SAUDI ARABIA AND UKRAINE
Did you know? U.S. government military assistance flowed to Saudi Arabia at nearly six times the rate to Ukraine during Russia’s eight-year occupation of parts of Ukraine.
The Government Accountability Office published a report outlining that the Department of Defense administered around $44.6 billion of military support to Saudi Arabia from 2015 through 2021. Much of that amount is in arms sales rather than donations.
INSIDE ‘THE ATTIC’: The cloak-and-dagger unit getting Western military aid into Ukraine.
MUCH-NEEDED AID: The European Investment Bank on Wednesday approved a $2.1 billion credit line to improve public services for Ukrainian refugees in Poland. The new financing will be used to pay for key infrastructure, including new housing, schools and hospitals. More from Zosia Wanat on challenges faced by Polish cities here.
U.S. PROPS UP VPN SERVICES: Global Insider last week asked “where are the Web 3.0 versions of Radio Free Europe?” The answer, partially, lies in the U.S. government funding VPN services: to help Russian and other internet users evade censorship.
COMMONWEALTH — THE BIZARRE TRAJECTORY OF BRITISH EMPIRE REMNANTS
Gabon is set to follow Rwanda and Mozambique to become the third country to join the Commonwealth without having ever been a British colony. A decision will be taken at the next Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting starting Monday in Kigali.
What is the point, and what is the process? The basis for Commonwealth membership is implementation of democracy, fundamental human rights and the rule of law, as set in a 1991 declaration. Yet the Human Rights Foundation described Gabon as a “feudal state” whose vast natural resources are looted to fund the extravagant tastes of the ruling Bongo family, which has been in charge for more than 50 years.
At Gabon’s end, the move appears motivated by a desire to stick it to French condescension (Gabon was a former French colony). In London, it’s rationalized on the basis of Gabon adoption of a series of deep green policies supported by Prince Charles, but really it’s more of a desperate plank in “Global Britain,” the country’s post-Brexit influence strategy.
All of that begs the question: Why would Canada, Australia and New Zealand go along with it?
CHINA — IS THE U.S. UNDERESTIMATING BEIJING’S MILITARY MIGHT? The U.S. overestimated Russia’s military might, so it’s not inconceivable to be wrong in the other direction. “American spy agencies are reexamining how they assess foreign militaries,” and concern about underestimating China is a key driver of a number of ongoing classified reviews, report Nahal Toosi and Lara Seligman. One thing is certain: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) agrees there is underestimation.
TECH — FRANCES HAUGEN’S GAME PLAN FOR SOCIAL MEDIA
Frances Haugen, the Facebook project manager-turned-whistleblower, whose leak of internal documents showed how engineers and senior management knew the global platform promoted hate speech and targeted teens with harmful material but did too little to stop it, is now starting a nonprofit organization called Beyond the Screen. The goal is raise $5 million to promote awareness of the ills of social media with a global staff. Today, it’s a three-person staff.
She told POLITICO’s Mark Scott: “We now know what’s going on beyond our own screens. It changed the calculations on how we all approach these companies.” That has pushed her to focus on three buckets of work:
— Supporting strategic litigation, including by offering a crash course in how tech companies operate so that litigation — and there’s a lot of it coming — maximizes impact.
— Rules for investors: Haugen told POLITICO her goal is some form of duty of care into the ESG metrics applied to social media companies, so that pension funds, institutional investors and others may judge safety levels on platforms. That would allow investors to decide and justify any action to pull out money. “Litigation is the stick, ESG is the carrot,” Haugen said.
— Social media test bed: Haugen wants to build a simulated social network so that regulators, academics and others can war-game potential scenarios and have the opportunity to get under the hood of how such platforms operate without having to beg, borrow and steal access from actual companies.
DID CHINA FIND SIGNS OF ALIEN LIFE? Chinese researchers at the country’s “Sky Eye” telescope found a signal that could be from alien civilizations, the country’s science ministry reported … but the report has disappeared from the internet, Bloomberg reported.
Researchers with Beijing Normal University this year found “several cases of possible technological traces and extraterrestrial civilizations from outside the earth,” according to a report published Tuesday in the official Science and Technology Daily.
THE POPE ISN’T GOOD AT MATH: Pope Francis is running a massive deficit. In an apparent move to build trust after a series of Vatican financial scandals, The Peter’s Pence fund — which is made up of income collected by Catholic dioceses around the world once a year, individual contributions and bequests — has published its first annual report.
Around $50 million was collected in 2021, but the Pope spent a little over $70 million: 40 percent more than he took in.
MURDER IN THE AMAZON: Brazilian police recovered two bodies in the search for missing Guardian journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, the BBC reported. Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira confessed to killing them and led police to the bodies. Phillips was reporting on a fishing mafia and its threats to the isolated indigenous people of the region.
Their deaths, if confirmed, will bring further attention to the growth in violence in Brazil’s Amazon during the term of President Jair Bolsonaro, who has done little to discourage illegal loggers, miners and agriculturalists from encroaching into indigenous lands and threatening a vital carbon sink.
SPYING IN THE HAGUE: “A Russian spy tried and failed to secure an internship at the International Criminal Court (ICC) using the false identity of a Brazilian citizen that he had built up over more than a decade, according to Dutch intelligence services.
KILL SWITCH:John Hinckley Jr., who made an assassination attempt against former President Ronald Reagan in 1981, is a free man after 41 years. But not free enough to complete his first acoustic solo gig at the Market Hotel in Bushwick, Brooklyn. The July 8 concert has been scrapped by the venue over safety concerns. You can catch him on YouTube instead. This is not a recommendation.
WATERGATE: “Fifty Years After Watergate, A Generation of Frightened Editors,” by John Harris
ENGAGING WITH THE ELDERLY: Social engagement is the central concept of the De Korenbloem residential care complex in Kortrijk, Belgium, a recent winner of the New European Bauhaus prize for sustainable community transformation. The center caters to people suffering from early onset dementia and stroke-related disabilities. Because both conditions are worsened by isolation, the nursing home includes a park that is open to the public and encourages people living nearby to volunteer at the facility so that residents feel part of a wider community.
HELL IN HAITI: Karla Zabludovsky reports for Buzzfeed on a U.S.-funded industrial park that, instead of helping communities affected by the devastating 2010 earthquake, mostly led to uncompensated evictions of 400 families. “A decade later, without money for education, many of those children now work at the park’s factories, making minimum wage in exhausting conditions” while their dreams fade away.
Also from Karla: Haitian children abandoned by U.N. peacekeeper fathers, and problems navigating an abusive orphanage system run by missionaries.
Thanks to editor John Yearwood, Aitor Hernández-Morales, Karl Mathiesen, David Herszenhorn and producer Hannah Farrow.
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