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Pompeo. Photo: Getty

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will visit the Vatican on Tuesday to protest the pending renewal of a controversial deal with China.

Behind the scenes: Pope Francis has reportedly declined to meet with Pompeo, citing the imminent U.S. election.

The big picture: The terms of the deal with Beijing are secret, but it reportedly gives the Vatican a say in the appointment of bishops in the government-sanctioned Church in China.

It's controversial for multiple reasons.

  1. Some critics argued that cutting a deal with the Chinese government meant selling out the many Chinese Catholics who take the risk of worshipping in non-sanctioned churches.
  2. Others including Pompeo contend that in order to facilitate stronger ties with China, the Church has declined to take a strong stand against China's human rights abuses.
  • "The Vatican endangers its moral authority, should it renew the deal," Pompeo tweeted earlier this month.

Between the lines: It's highly unusual for a senior U.S. official to criticize the pope so forcefully.

Worth noting: Francis already has plenty on his plate. He removed a senior cardinal who had been viewed as a potential future pope last week over claims he embezzled Church funds, per AP.

Go deeper

Scoop: Trump administration declassifies unconfirmed intel on Chinese bounties

Trump speaks during a press conference on China in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 29. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration is declassifying as-yet uncorroborated intelligence, recently briefed to President Trump, that indicates China offered to pay non-state actors in Afghanistan to attack American soldiers, two senior administration officials tell Axios.

The big picture: The disclosure of this unconfirmed intelligence comes 21 days before the end of Trump's presidency, after he has vowed to ratchet up pressure on China, and months after news reports indicated that the Russians had secretly offered bounties for Taliban militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 6 hours ago - Technology

A dark view of the future of autonomous weapons

A still from the video "If Human: Kill ( )." Image: Future of Life Institute

A new short film warns of the coming risks posed by the development and proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Why it matters: Drones with the ability to autonomously target and kill without the assistance of a human operator are reportedly already being used on battlefields, and time is running out to craft a global ban of what could be a destabilizing and terrifying new class of weapon.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine — Pfizer could have vaccine data for children under five by end of 2021, CEO says.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.