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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson could not resist poking fun of the media as he opened the G-7 summit, the first major meeting of foreign leaders as the world slowly reopens after the coronavirus pandemic.

Johnson, the summit's host, concluded his remarks by asking reporters, TV crews, and photographers to leave the room so the leaders could start their closed-door discussions.

"This is meant to be a fireside chat between the great democracies of the world," a tousled-haired Johnson said Friday in Cornwall, England. "It's turned into a gigantic media circus in which we have to greet each other several times."

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Johnson's comments prompted aides to usher media representatives from the workspace, complete with a round G-7 logo emblazoned table. Most of the world leaders travel with a group of journalists from their home countries, and each typically gets a chance inside the meeting room to photograph and film the G-7 members getting down to work. Reporters often shout questions.

The events became a spectacle under former President Donald Trump, who would insist on five or more of the "pool sprays" during a single summit day, often sending shock waves around the world with his every utterance. White House aides privately acknowledged that the 45th U.S. president loved the attention. "What do you think?" one frustrated aide once said as he and other White House aides who remained stateside during one trip scrambled to clarify something Trump had said overseas about whether the former reality television host liked messing with reporters during the sprays.

President Joe Biden does answer some questions during the brief media events, but he holds far fewer than Trump.

Johnson also repeatedly referenced Biden's 2020 campaign slogan, "Build Back Better." The Republican National Committee contended that it was Johnson's slogan before it was used by the Biden camp.

Serial plagiarist Joe Biden strikes again.

This time plagiarizing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “Build Back Better” slogan. pic.twitter.com/LJvZHSu1R4

— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) June 10, 2021

It was "vital" that foreign leaders learn from the 2008 Great Recession by managing economic recoveries that are "uniform across all parts of society," he said.

"That is what other people of our countries now want us to focus on," he said. "They want us to be sure that we're beating the pandemic together and discussing how we'll never have a repeat that we've seen, but also that we're building back better together and building back greener and building back fairer and building back more equal and ... in a more gender-neutral and perhaps like more feminine way."

The first round of talks followed the traditional "family photo" in which the leaders from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States posed on a nearby beach socially distanced, despite their COVID-19 vaccination statuses.

"Everybody in the water,” Biden joked to the gathering, embracing French President Emmanuel Macron as they walked off together.

“Everybody in the water,” Biden joked to his fellow leaders at the G7 family photo on the oceanfront in Carbis Bay, England.

Macron and Biden walked shoulder to shoulder, chatting, an arm draped around each other’s back. pic.twitter.com/CTpwa8gCjU

— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) June 11, 2021

Earlier, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approached the makeshift stage maskless before covering his face to bump elbows with Johnson and his new wife, Carrie. He then took his mask off again for a photo with the pair.

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Biden and Johnson met prior to the G-7 and agreed to an updated Atlantic Charter. The revised framework focuses on democracy and human rights, defense and security, science and innovation, and economic prosperity, as well as climate change, biodiversity loss, and emerging health threats.

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US military leaders weigh in on plan to overhaul military justice system

Seven top U.S. military leaders have issued letters weighing in on the Military Justice Improvement and Increasing Prevention Act of 2021. 

The proposed legislation, which has received bipartisan support, would move the decision on whether to prosecute serious crimes to independent, trained, and professional military prosecutors while leaving misdemeanors and uniquely military crimes within the chain of command.

It would also:

  • Ensure the Department of Defense helps criminal investigators and military prosecutors develop the necessary skills needed to properly handle investigations and cases related to sexual assault and domestic violence.
  • Require the Secretary of Defense to survey and improve the physical security of military installations to increase safety in lodging and living spaces for service members.
  • Increase and improve training and education on military sexual assault throughout the armed services.

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While chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark A Milley, said he remains "open-minded to all solutions," he believes the decision to remove commanders from prosecution decisions and processes may have "an adverse effect on readiness, mission accomplishment, good order and discipline, justice, unit cohesion, trust, and loyalty between commanders and those they lead."

"I urge caution to ensure any changes to commander authority to enforce discipline be rigorously analyzed, evidence-based, and narrow in scope, limited only to sexual assault and related offenses, Milley added. "It is my belief we have not made sufficient progress in recent years to eliminate sexual assault, and we have consequently lost the trust and confidence of many Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Guardians in the chain of command’s ability to adjudicate these serious crimes."

Army Chief of Staff General James McConville said the move would be "detrimental to the good order and discipline required for effective warfighting." He recommended that if Congress decides to proceed with the bill, it should only apply to rape and sexual assault offenses and that any changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) be implemented on a trial basis of three years.

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Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gildray said the proposal "erodes the ability of commanders to create and maintain the environment necessary to effectively exercise mission command." He also expressed concern that if the bill goes into effect without careful implementation, there is a "significant risk that cases may be delayed during trial or overturned on appeal."

"This, in turn, would erode confidence in the system and re-victimize victims," Gildray added. "Quite frankly, we will not prosecute our way to fewer cases. Rather, our efforts must begin far to the left of the crime and involve cultural transformation, education, and leadership, and accountability."

Commandant of the Marine Corps, General David Berger, said he would be forced to "reduce funding and structure elsewhere in our military legal system" if the bill is approved and argued the legislation "would seem to lengthen the process, limit flexibility, and potentially reduce confidence among victims."

"It is unclear to me whether or not the bill would promote the interests of justice by increasing accountability for perpetrators of sexual assault," Berger said. "The bill would challenge the timely administration of military justice in combat and forward-deployed environments by creating delays and procedural uncertainty, distracting commanders from their combat mission. We should guard against that outcome."

He believes the 180-day implementation timeline is insufficient to reconfigure the military justice system. 

"No matter what changes are made, commanders must remain connected to the military justice process," Berger added.

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Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown said he was unsure if removing commanders' authority to act on certain offenses will impact the occurrence of sexual assault "to the degree we all desire and need"

"Removing elements of authority will likely create some risk, particularly if poorly scoped, communicated, or implemented," Brown said. "That does not mean we should not try new measures if we believe they will increase accountability and reduce sexual assaults. However, supporting analysis associated with any proposed changes would be beneficial in determining the best approaches and the way forward on implementation…Implementation should reinforce commander’s responsibilities in the process, not relieve them from it."

Chief of Space Operations General John Raymond argued that removing the ability to enforce discipline in sexual assault and harassment cases would risk commanders' focus on prevention efforts.  

"If the MJIIPA were enacted as written, covering a broad range of offenses, it would have the potential to adversely affect good order and discipline and weaken the readiness of our forces," Raymond said. "Any changes such as those proposed in the MJIIPA must be properly resourced and implemented on a timeline that ensures trusted and effective administration of justice from the start."

National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Daniel Hokanson said the legislative changes to the UCMJ would "make the federal military justice practice more complex and specialized, further increasing the distinctions between the federalized and non-federalized processes."

"I am concerned that the scope of the proposed changes in the legislation goes beyond the military commander’s authority to address military sexual assaults to a much broader set of offenses," Hokanson said. "Such a significant change could have serious adverse impacts on the commander’s authority to execute the military justice responsibilities inherent in military command." 

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Three- and four-star military officials are required following confirmation in the Senate to commit to providing their personal views on matters when asked, even if they differ from the opinion of the presidential administration. 

"I’m grateful to General Milley, General McConville, Admiral Gilday, General Berger, General Brown, General Raymond, and General Hokanson for their candor, Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe said in a statement. "Like all of us, they want to create a military environment where every service member can flourish, safe in the knowledge that their teammates have their backs. I know I can count on each of these officers to keep working with me and the rest of the Armed Services Committee to see that through."

In fiscal year 2020, the Department of Defense received 7,816 reports of sexual assault involving service members, nine less than the 7,825 reports received the prior fiscal year. The decrease was due to fewer reports from civilians against Service members as alleged offenders and fewer reports from Service members about pre-service incidents. Roughly 6,290 of the incidents occurred during military service, a 54% increase compared to the fiscal year 2019 total of 6,236. The Department received an additional 912 reports from United States civilians and foreign nationals who alleged a sexual assault by a service member, and 614 reports from service members who sought assistance for a sexual assault that occurred before military service.

In February, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin directed new initiatives to counter sexual assault and harassment in the military, including establishing a 90-day Independent Review Commission (IRC) to improve how the Department addresses sexual assault and sexual harassment, assessing compliance with sexual assault and harassment policies and prevention efforts, conducting evaluations at high-risk installations, and establishing a violence prevention workforce.

Other recommendations implemented include drafting proposed executive orders establishing a specific crime of sexual harassment and expanding judicial authorities to adjudicate pre-referral matters, issuing guidance for commanders to keep victims informed of the status of their cases, developing and enhancing training and education of sexual assault initial disposition authorities, extending the Defense Advisory Committee on the Investigation, Prosecution and Defense of Sexual Assault in the Armed Forces for an additional 5-year term, and protecting confidentially provided information about alleged offenders and incidents through its CATCH program.

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