Last week, a “jus soli”—meaning “right of the soil,” commonly referring to birthright citizenship—bill emerged on the agenda of the Italian Senate. Such a bill, should it pass, would allow all children born to foreign, non-EU parents who have have a valid residence permit for at least five years in Italy and can pass an Italian language test to become citizens. The law already passed in the Chamber of Deputies (the lower chamber) and has been sitting in the Senate for over a year. There are Senators pushing for a vote on citizenship reform by the end of March in the upcoming plenary session. MPs in the Senate were unable to reach any compromise while the legislative proposal was in the Constitutional Affairs Committee, and therefore want to bring it to a vote. Those in favor of the reform are the MPs from the PD, the Movimento Progressisti Democratici, the centrists and the Italian left. They believe they have the numbers to pass the bill regardless of the number of undecided voters and 5-Star voters who may abstain from voting (which, in the Senate, equates to a “no” vote). Read more
The Trump administration continues to be mired in scandal. On Monday, President Trump signed his second sweeping immigration Executive Order, now barring entry to the United States to citizens from six predominantly Muslim countries. Meanwhile, Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions officially recused himself from the Russia inquiry and any further investigation into potential Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Trump has been busy trying to refute alleged ties to Russia by creating allegations against House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). He resurfaced old pictures of the two meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and Russian President Vladimir Putin respectively, and is calling for an investigation into the Democrats for their ties to Russia. He then accused former President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower in the months leading up to the election without offering any evidence. Read more
Day 39 — President Trump took the first steps to radically shifting the allocation of the federal budget Monday, calling for a $54 billion increase in defense and security spending. Trump’s proposal will focus national security spending on boosts to the military, local law enforcement, and Border Patrol. To balance out these increases, he plans to cut spending on virtually every federal agency, as well as on foreign aid. His plan will not cut spending to Medicare or Social Security. The President announced that “this budget follows through on my promise of keeping America safe, keeping out terrorists, keeping out criminals and putting violent offenders behind bars or removing them from our country all together.” While the White House has yet to define the extent of cuts to various programs, it is expected to gut the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that currently has an $8.1 billion budget. Throughout Trump’s campaign, he promised to “get rid of it [meaning the EPA] in almost every form.” His proposed cuts to foreign spending are also justified by an Office of Budget and Management official, saying that “this budget expects the rest of the world to step up in some of the programs this country has been so generous in funding in the past.” One such program is NATO, and this sentiment follows up on Defense Secretary Mattis’ recent ultimatum to NATO. Trump has also pledged to increase infrastructure spending on roads, bridges and tunnels across the nation.
Last weekend finds Trump’s administration facing fierce criticism as its first full month in office draws to a close. Trump’s policies on immigration come under fire while he continues to deny allegations of Russian involvement in the election.
On Saturday, The Washington Post reported events that transpired on Wednesday at Houston International Airport when Henry Rousso, “an Egyptian-born French citizen” and a leading Holocaust scholar was detained and almost deported. It was thanks to the quick actions of Texas A&M University that the situation was diffused. Richard Golsan, director of the Glasscock Center for Humanities Research at Texas A&M, explained that “Rousso was ‘mistakenly detained’ by U.S. immigration authorities” in an article in The Washington Post.” Rousso tweeted “the officer who arrested me was ‘inexperienced.’” Issues with Rousso’s treatment are further compounded by the fact that France is “a beneficiary of the U.S. visa waiver program, which permits French citizens to enter the United States without a visa,” as well as the fact that Egypt was never included in the seven countries in the travel ban. Rousso’s lecture was on the Vichy Regime in unoccupied France in WWII and its collaboration with Nazi Germany, where tens of thousands of Jews were deported to concentration camps. The irony was not lost on fellow historians, as Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a professor of Italian history with New York University, called out the irony in her tweet, calling “his work on cost of forgetting past (Vichy) so relevant.” Ruth Ben-Ghiat also drew a parallel between Donald Trump and Mussolini’s authoritarian traits in this article from The New Yorker. Read more
Day 36 — Last Friday the President’s criticism of the media reached its peak. He took to Twitter to blast the New York Times and CNN, stating that “FAKE NEWS media knowingly doesn’t tell the truth. A great danger to our country.” He then escalated his assault on the media by banning reporters from the NYT, CNN, and other news organizations from attending Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s Friday press briefing. This decision demonstrates the administration’s use of presidential authority to undermine those who may check Trump’s decisions, while awarding sources it deems “friendly.” Dan Baquet, executive director of the NYT, expressed his dismay over the decision, saying “free media access to a transparent government is obviously of crucial national interest.” Ironically, it was Mr. Spicer who two months ago advocated for open access for the media, saying that it is “what makes a democracy a democracy versus a dictatorship” and who now seems to follow the President’s directives.
Schemers in the Capitol
This past Thursday, February 23, Day 35 of the Trump administration, was less a day of legislation and political action, and more a day of Machiavellian scheming in smoke-filled backrooms. To begin with, the FBI refused to deny or publicly dismiss claims that Trump’s associates were in contact with Russian officials during the election. This followed accusations over the past few months of the Trump campaign’s collusion with the Russian government to influence the election in return for the easement of sanctions once the Trump campaign won the election. There were also reports that Paul Manafort, one of Trump’s campaign managers during his run for the presidency, was blackmailed by a Ukrainian parliamentarian during the campaign. Manafort was noted for his work as a political advisor to the Yanukovych administration from 2004 to 2010 in Ukraine and close ties to the current Russian politburo before coming to work for the Trump campaign, and his dismissal during the campaign came as a surprise to many observers. Read more
Join us for Dialogues by Anthony Appiah, Deborah Willis and Jack Halberstam challenging our assumptions about identity and the consequences of these for society and politics.
Video created by NYU Florence student Arthur de Oliveira.
March 13 6:00pm Mistaken Identities: Culture, Color, Country, Creed – Anthony Appiah
March 14 6:00pm Posing Beauty – Deborah Willis
March 15 6:00pm Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Guide to Gender Variance – Jack Halberstam
RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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ABC News – Inside Controversial President of the Philippines’ Bloody Drug War
BBC News – Mo Asumang: Confronting Racism Face to Face
BBC News – Donald Trump Swearing-in Ceremony
The anthem for the European Union has no words. It’s an empty, wordless, instrumental hymn, a blank canvas upon which each nation and each ethnicity can paint their own words in their own language. The actual tune is “Ode to Joy,” by Beethoven, a symbol of pan-Europeanism, but the anthem does not have any official lyrics, which means each country can add its own. To call the European Union a multi-colored patchwork of cultures would be to understate exactly how much of it is essentially a cultural Frankenstein’s monster. The EU has 24 official languages, 5 semi-official languages, 42 minority languages and another 8 main immigrant languages. It’s not exactly a single, unified entity, and yet it exists. There is a European Union, where representatives from 28 countries will come together to hammer out deals involving one of the largest common markets in the world, with 500 million people accessible in one go. Read more
The immediate future is uncertain for Italy’s Democratic Party. Matteo Renzi formally stepped down as head of the party Sunday, February 19. This decision comes as a consequence of Renzi’s weakening power, starting with the Italian public’s rejection of his proposals in the recent Constitutional Reform referendum. Following the results of the referendum, Renzi resigned as Prime Minister. His defeat strengthened the minority within the PD and pressure on him mounted until he stepped down this week, opening the door to a party leadership battle, which may exacerbate divides within the PD. The party, while enjoying its current parliamentary control in the lower chamber, is increasingly vulnerable to the rising 5-Star Movement. With the next General Election taking place by 2018 at the latest, the PD cannot afford a party schism. Read more