DAILY BRIEF

UN General Assembly guide, Sept. 21: Witch hunts, blockchains for breakfast, and polished put-downs

By Quartz

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Good morning, UNGA aficionados!

Has it only been two days since Trump spoke? It feels like a week already.

Welcome to the third of Quartz’s daily guides to the 72nd UN general assembly. For all your friends who are still missing out on their morning dose of UNGA goodness, here’s the first and second issues.

Today’s weather will be much like yesterday’s: hot and cloudy (82°F/28°C), with scattered security checkpoints and a rumble of geopolitical thunder in the morning.

What to watch for today

Mystery guests at the general assembly. Bring popcorn: Germany, Russia, and China are speaking in succession at the end of the general debate’s morning session, and given Donald Trump’s fiery rhetoric about Iran and North Korea, what they say will be closely followed. But as of early today, there was still no word about who would represent each country. (All we know is it won’t be Merkel, Putin, and Xi.)

The UN launches a witch hunt. Literally. The Experts’ Workshop on Witchcraft and Human Rights—said to be the “first-ever… at the UN or international level”—will discuss the harms done to thousands of people a year by practitioners of the occult, including “beatings, banishment, cutting of body parts, and amputation of limbs, torture and murder.”

Blockchains for breakfast. Blockchain tech has become the trendy solution for everything from startup fundraising to identity fraud, and now it’s reached international development: At 8:30am the Blockchain for Social Impact Coalition is holding a breakfast meetup and panel discussion at the SDG media zone, which is that tent thing just outside the main UN building. No word yet on whether the menu will include hash browns. (Sorry, that’s a really bad blockchain joke.)

Sustainability superstar déjà vu. If some of the speakers at today’s We The Future: Accelerating Sustainable Development Solutions look familiar, it’s probably because you also saw them on the roster for the Bloomberg business forum, the Gates Goalkeepers, WE Day, or any of this week’s other high-octane gatherings. As we mentioned yesterday, there’s been an explosion of UNGA side events, and apparently there aren’t quite enough celebrity thought leaders to distribute them evenly. The ubiquitous Justin Trudeau, in case you’re wondering, will be speaking at the UNGA itself this morning.

High-level jargon interlude. Today’s UN Journal (pdf) lists a “high-level event” on fighting AIDS, a “high-level briefing” on African women leaders, and a “high-level launch” of an initiative against violent conflict, among others. Now, in UN-speak (pdf, §4.4), a “high-level meeting” isn’t just any collection of bigwigs, but specifically of those senior enough to speak at the UNGA—i.e., heads of state or government, or their ministers. It’s so high-level that only the UNGA itself can convene one, which it does by (how else?) passing a resolution. If a gathering is billed as a “briefing” or “panel” or “event” rather than a “meeting,” it’s not the same level of high-level.

What everyone is talking about

Donald Trump, still. Leaders have scrambled to position themselves as the anti-Trump since his fiery speech on Tuesday; yesterday it was EU foreign-affairs chief Federica Mogherini expounding on how European values differ from Trumpian values, and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani using poetry as a soft-power weapon. Also: Trump mispronounced Namibia as “Nambia,” and internet scolds can’t get enough of it.

Whither the Iran nuclear deal? Rouhani’s lyrical blandishments notwithstanding, Trump hinted strongly that he’s decided to pull the US out of the multilateral 2015 deal that ended sanctions on Iran. If he does, Boeing and Airbus could be forced to cancel $32 billion in orders to Iranian airlines looking to modernize their creaky fleets.

EQ, IQ, and LQ. At the Bloomberg forum, Alibaba founder Jack Ma had management advice that doubled as reassurance that robots won’t replace us: A good manager needs regular intelligence (IQ), emotional intelligence (EQ), and “The quotient of love, which machines never have” (LQ). You say that now…

Who’s up, who’s down? If you haven’t already, weigh in on UNGA power politics by ranking a dozen world leaders on their effectiveness with our interactive game.

Quotes of the day

Obvious statement of the day: “Everyone here’s going to buy an [iPhone] X.” Mike Bloomberg to Apple CEO Tim Cook at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum.

Impassioned plea of the day: “Climate change is not a fiction! It is not the invention of a few extremists.” David Granger, president of Guyana, in his UNGA speech.

Outraged squeak of the day: “I can’t believe it. I’m working to help improve relations between countries and you’re not helping.” Armenian government minister to a New York cop who blocked his way during a security lockdown.

Sniffy complaint of the day: “Why don’t they have a plan?” David Mahlobo, South Africa’s minister for state security, pointing at cops during the same lockdown.

Political putdown of the day: “Rogue newcomers to the world of politics.” Hassan Rouhani’s veiled reference to Trump, who had called Iran a “rogue nation” the day before. The “newcomer” jibe carries a double bite: Iran was one of the five countries for which the Clinton administration coined the term “rogue states” more than two decades ago (pdf).

Polite shaming of the day: “One of our biggest problems is food waste. I have noticed some of you have started digging into your lunch, but I would encourage the rest of you to do the same.” The Danish host of a lunch meeting on sustainability. (People in the front ostentatiously turned towards their salads.)

Harried question of the day: “Are you gonna eat and file or you gonna file and eat?” One press photographer to another in the UN cafeteria.

Political advice of the day: “She should come to Africa. We have better lawyers there.” An African business executive on Hillary Clinton, after she wistfully compared the latest US presidential election with Kenya’s, where the supreme court annulled the result on suspicions of hacking.

Humblebrag of the day: “I feel like I’m secretary of state with all the big meetings I’ve had this week.” An attendee at the Bloomberg forum, to a Quartz reporter.

(Thank you to Quartz’s Devjyot Ghoshal, Max de Haldevang, Zöe Schlanger and Yinka Adegoke for these gems.)

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, tips, high-level intel, and leftovers from lunch to hi@qz.com. To get future editions of the Quartz UNGA Daily Brief in your inbox, sign up here.